Kyla Jaquish surveyed the work done by her team of refugees Thursday as the sun warmed beds of lettuce.
“I think it gives them an outlet where they can be creative and feel like they’re being productive and really give back to their community,” Jaquish said.
Journey’s End Refugee Services’ new agricultural program, “Green Shoots for New Americans,” hosted a party for the community on Brewster Street, where Journey’s End has a farm set up.
It was a time to display the refugees’ work, inform residents about the program and about Journey’s End, and have a little fun, too.
Journey’s End is a refugee resettlement agency that helps immigrants adjust to living in Buffalo. The group provides housing and all types of services for refugees, from picking them up at the airport when they first arrive in the United States to helping them find apartments and jobs.
Many refugees were farmers in their home countries. When they come here, it’s a dramatic change, said Megan Burley, farm business management educator for the Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“They are not able to use that skill that they have when they come here,” she said.
One of the gardeners sat a few feet away. He was a farmer in his home country of Bhutan, where he and his wife had a cow and five goats. They grew vegetables on the side, too, mostly for the family but also to share with the community.
Now, he is reunited with his passion.
Burley, who grew up on a 60-acre farm in Pennsylvania, led classroom sessions on farming in the states.
She emphasized topics unique to the area, such as frost, which many refugees have not experienced before.
The 10 refugees currently in the program have spent more than 50 hours learning. They’ve built a hoop house and planted and maintained everything in it – from zucchini and peppers to cucumbers and okra.
“After class and after we’ve worked outside for a few hours, you can just see how happy they are,” said Jaquish, the program coordinator.
This fall there will be business classes, in which the residents will learn how to write a plan and run a business.
“Hopefully they become sustainable on their own, so they can grow their product, sell their product, and the community is engaged as well,” Burley said.
Green Shoots for New Americans will sell vegetables at the Erie County Medical Center Farmer’s Market every Friday, starting next week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.