ND Community Garden Gets Growing for Refugees
Thursday, August 3, 2023
As the summer season continues, refugees who have resettled in the Fargo area are watching their vegetables and fruit grow in a new community garden.
Organizers say it helps New Americans establish self-sufficiency as they carve out a new future.
The one-acre community garden, which opened this spring, replaced an old hockey rink at Fargo's Village West Park.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service of North Dakota is spearheading the project, and the Coordinator of the organization's Refugee Agriculture Partnership - Eric Hegg - said New Americans often face culture shock and language barriers when trying to get settled and gather basic necessities.
"Navigating shopping at a grocery store - as well as just figuring out what foods, how to cook them," said Hegg, "because everything is so completely different."
He said while a lot of refugees and asylum seekers have farming experience, many also spent years in refugee camps where they were reliant on others for food.
Operators with the garden teach these individuals fruit and vegetable growing, soil health, harvesting techniques and other methods.
Hegg noted that participants have opportunities to grow varieties that meet their cultural needs.
And Hegg said the project also gives New Americans a chance to channel their entrepreneurial spirit by selling the food they grow at places such as farmers markets. He said that gives them extra income to cover needs in other areas.
"Get a little more money to buy school supplies for the upcoming start of school," said Hegg, "or buy bikes for their kids so they can ride bikes with the other kids that have been here."
The organization says all of these benefits help New Americans build better relationships with their new communities, as well as the food they consume.
Data gathered by the American Immigration Council show that refugees get initial assistance upon arrival to the U.S. - but eventually make contributions through steady incomes they earn while also paying taxes.
Meanwhile, Hegg said the garden is being accessed by New Americans from places like Sudan, Iraq and Southeast Asia.
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