Program teaches refugee farmers the craft behind running a farm in the US
From long beans to mint and everything in between, this space is designed to help beginners learn about agriculture and the industry and business behind it.
“We’re here on the Global Greens farm,” said Zachary Couture, the land and production supervisor for Lutheran Services in Iowa’s Global Greens program. “There are 20 newbie farmers here growing up, trying to start living farming in Iowa.”
It’s just part of the larger Global Greens program, a program through Iowa Lutheran Services that helps refer former refugee farmers with the land as they build their lives in the United States. .
“We have 300 community gardeners, 20 beginning farmers and 11 graduates and we support each of them in different capacities,” Couture said.
“I’m a farmer and I work at Walmart,” said Hakizimana François, a program participant. “This program means a lot to me.”
François and his wife are part of this program, learning new skills while he works at his current job.
“She’s a big help because right now she’s the one on this program and I’m helping her because I’m still keeping my job,” François said.
Farming is a skill they already have, but this program helps them learn more about running a farm in America.
“It’s not just language barriers and cultural barriers,” Couture said.
Couture and other team members also help with things like technology, tools, business plans and land rentals.
On a 12-acre leased lot on the road near Des Moines, Iowa, three program graduates grow a number of vegetables.
That day, Couture was verifying what they needed to be successful. One of his team members, also from Burundi, the East African country where the group originated, helped translate.
“These farmers are very happy because they have participated in the Global Greens program for, I think, three to five years,” said Firmin Ntakimazi. “They earn money to support the family.”
For them, land is synonymous with opportunity.
“When they start talking about their family, their connection to their ancestors, they remember being on a farm with their grandparents and parents before they had to flee the country,” Couture said.
Couture says it’s a win-win situation all around. The program provides more local food to communities, gives refugees the opportunity to use their farming skills and diversifies the types of vegetables grown.
“It’s about a million pounds of vegetables a year between community gardens and graduates and people here,” Couture said.
“Next step, I want to own big land so I can produce more food,” Francois said.