Private Grants & Contracts Funding | Agricultural Systems
Vermont | University of Vermont Extension | Northeast Region
Local foods expand to rice, spices and medicials courtesy of New Americans.
Vermont is experiencing a growing immigrant and refugee population who often has a strong history of growing their own food. Vermont's very different climate, cost of land, this populations ability to communicate outside of their community, knowledge of local crops and other issues are challenges. These challenges can threaten their food access, security and overall well being. Extension programs can bridge some of these barriers.
The New American Farmer program began in 2013 with programming continuing in 2014 to help resettled refugees meet their food production and processing needs. A survey was conducted to identify future needs for land and technical assistance. Interpreter and cultural liaison services were provided to improve communication and access to support. Through workshops and discussion group meetings best marketing strategies and niche market opportunities were identified.
As a result of programming >50 growers established productive farming plots demonstrating many best practices, 31 growers stated they saved money by growing their own food and used these savings for other household expenses. One participants said, "we can pick healthy vegetables instead of spending money. We definitely eat healthier..?" In addition to feeling connected to their culture and community, 10 growers obtained markets securing future income in addition to growing their own food. Efforts contributed to the establishment of multiple culturally important crop operations such as rice, spices and medicinals. In addition to improved access to culturally important food, business opportunities for their crop operations, they have brought a part of their culture to the growing local food movement.
New Americans have many challenges as they acclimate to their new homes. With them comes their culture, for some it is farming, producing their own fresh, familiar food. The New American Farmer program has helped these farmers adapt to Vermont's climate and access land. These new Americans have not only produced food for their own families but some have expanded new crops to small markets allowing us all to experience new types of local, fresh foods.