Farming refugees’ family grows

? New Farms for New Americans (NFNA), a program assisting refugees in Vermont, will expand this summer to support a rising influx of new Americans. ? NFNA has existed since 2008, providing refugees with farm space to grow their own produce that is then sold to the local community. ? After a successful launching, NFNA has expanded the number of Community Supported Agriculture members from 15 to 50 this summer, program specialist Josie Weldon said. ? “We will see how it goes; 50 is a good number,” Weldon said. ? Last year, NFNA worked with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) to introduce a new program focusing on community-supported agriculture. ? The AALV’s goals are to promote equal opportunity, dignity and self-sufficiency of refugee and immigrant individuals and families in Vermont, the AALV website stated. ? This program services refugees hailing from 35 different countries, according to the website. ? While the AALV provides social outlets for refugees, the New Farms for New Americans program helps refugees provide food for their families and preserve their agricultural heritage. ? “People do it for many reasons: the fresh food, to be with each other, to be productive and active, exercise, mental health and as a means to stay connected with their culture,” Weldon said. ? Weldon insists that this program gives back to the Vermont community, bringing rich culinary culture from all regions of the world and continuing the Vermont tradition of providing fresh food and farming. ? “Refugee immigrants come from well-developed agricultural backgrounds and we don’t want them to lose the gifts and expertise of their people,” she said. ? Farmed goods are also sold to local restaurants and stores such as City Market, which allows students and community members to be impacted by the program. ? “I’ve only heard of this recently, but I think it’s a great idea and I’d imagine there would be a lot of support for this kind of program in Vermont,” first-year Kristen Parece said. ? The prepared food program starts in late June and will continue into early October. Upon membership, customers will be able to purchase the food grown on these refugee farms at certain locations in Burlington and Winooski. ? There are summer internships available for UVM students in the NFNA programs, primarily in helping to organize and run these farmer’s market food pickups.   ? “I think it’d be a great opportunity for students who are interested in agriculture and life sciences,” first-year Erin Noury said. ? To get involved and learn about summer internships students can visit www.africansinvermont.org, or contact [email protected]