Garden Post from the Archives: July 21, 2010
ST. PAUL, MN
“The garden is good,” said Law Paw. “The garden gives us fun, it gives us a community, it gives us a relationship with others.”
Paw is one of 15 Karen refugee women who began growing vegetables this summer in her ‘own backyard’ at Rolling Hills Apartment complex. The garden is a project of the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), a refugee resettlement agency based in Minneapolis, who has teamed up with Rolling Hills property management to create a new vegetable garden for residents. Due to her English speaking ability, Paw has emerged as a garden leader and liaison with MCC and Rolling Hills property management.
“Before the garden, I never think we have an opportunity to plant (in America),” said Paw.
Law Paw is a leader at Fresh Start Garden.
The gardeners, mostly Karen refugees from Burma, have been meeting since February to organize the garden. The group decided on the name “Fresh Start Garden” because most participants are refugees who have recently resettled in St. Paul after years in refugee camps.
After living in Mae La refugee camp in Thailand for 14 years, Paw came to Minnesota three years ago looking for her own fresh start. When she was a child in Burma, Paw remembers that her family always grew their own food. In Mae La refugee camp, Paw said that she rented a small garden plot but only when she could afford the cost.
“Bah See Dah” is a plant from Thailand that refugees are growing at Fresh Start Garden.
When she first moved to St. Paul, Paw said that she would stay in her apartment all day and look after her daughter. Even though there were many Karen people in the apartment complex, Paw did not know them and felt isolated. According to Paw, the garden now is “like a family.” She said, “When we have the garden, we know many people.”
Every evening, the participants gather in the garden to water, weed, talk, and share food. Community members are given produce, which is too much for any one family to eat. Currently, the gardeners are harvesting basil, cucumbers, zucchini and two kinds of plant from Thailand called “ga soh sah” and “bah see dah.”
In Karen culture, according to Paw, the first harvest is always shared with the elders of the community. She brought the first cucumbers and zucchini to an elderly aunt who lives in the apartment complex. “She liked them,” said Paw. “The vegetables are very sweet, very fresh.”