As an essential part of the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) broader resettlement efforts, the New Roots program gives refugees a way to celebrate their heritage, nourish themselves and their neighbors, and often earn extra income by putting down actual roots in their new communities.
A partnership between IRC, Salt Lake County, and the Utah Refugee Coalition, New Roots was developed to inspire and encourage the growth of small scale, urban farms and community gardens that increase food access for refugees in Salt Lake City.
This happens in a couple of ways.
Refugee growers involved in the New Roots Micro-Training Farm program have access to land, resources, training and technical assistance so they can grow and sell produce at the weekly Neighborhood Farm Stand and to local restaurants and grocery stores.
The Farm Stand improves food access and affordability through the Fresh Fund, which matches each dollar a customer spends in SNAP (food stamps) benefits at the Farm Stand up to $10 a week, allowing customers to purchase additional healthy, locally-grown produce. The Farm Stand is located at the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center.
In 2012, many farmers expanded sales beyond the farm stand to include local grocery stores and restaurants such as Southeast Asian Market and The Community Food Co-op.
Farmers also worked closely with local chefs to supply high quality, seasonal vegetables such as amaranth, long beans, rare varieties of eggplant, and okra.
At Caffé Niche, the 2012 summer menus often included dishes featuring okra grown by a New Roots farmer from the Darfur region of Sudan. At the Tin Angel, a stew featuring vegetables grown by Burundian farmers and inspired by Central African culinary traditions, made its way onto tables.
The Rose Establishment and Sea Salt both purchased spicy Thai chili peppers and featured them in their summer and fall menus. Ethan Lappe, the chef and owner of Café Niche was impressed by amaranth greens – a fast growing and highly nutritious plant with African origins – grown by New Roots farmers that he chose to cook them while a guest on a local morning TV show.
All of this interest and support for New Roots culminated in 2012 with growers earning roughly $4,000 through retail sales to grocery stores and local restaurants, and making an additional $12,000 in farm stand sales. For 2013, the farmers have set the bar higher.
Goals for 2013:
- Increase community gardening opportunities for refugee families, focusing on providing gardens to new arrivals.
-Increase productivity and income for refugee Micro Training Farm growers by helping them improve their production skills and access more local markets. In 2013, growers have identified a goal of $10,000 through retail sales at restaurants, and of reaching out and developing relationships with new restaurants during the 2013 season. In 2013 the growers have set a sales goal of $20,000.
-Pilot five new specialty ethnic crops, including: sweet potato vines, winter squash vines, fava beans, Aubergine de Burkina Faso eggplant, and green Thai eggplant
- Increase food access for refugee and immigrant community members by increasing the customer base at the market and increasing sales. In 2012, the Farm Stand opened in mid-July and 40-50 refugee families shopped at the Farm Stand each week. In 2013 New Roots hopes to open the Farm Stand on June 8th, provide healthy food for at least 60 families per week, and provide $5,000 in Fresh Fund dollars for low-income customers.
-New Roots is reaching out to Salt Lake City community members by offering volunteer and internship opportunities for individuals, groups, ongoing volunteers, and volunteer work days and events. We will also be hosting awareness events in the spring and fall in order to encourage community members to visit our Redwood Road farm site, meet New Roots growers, and get involved in the program.
If you would like to learn more, please contact:
Grace Henley, IRC Refugee Agriculture Coordinator, at Grace.Henley@Rescue.org
Supreet Gill, Salt Lake County New Roots Project Coordinator, at Skgill@Slco.org
You can also stay informed by visiting them online or “liking” New Roots on Facebook.