New Roots for Refugees empowers families to start farm businesses growing produce according to organic standards.
For the past decade New Roots for Refugees has supported families from the refugee community in establishing their own farm businesses primarily selling through farmer’s markets, CSA (community supported agriculture), and wholesale to local restaurants. New Roots is a collaboration between Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and Cultivate Kansas City.
 
Farmers enter this four year program with agricultural expertise from their home country and New Roots staff help refine those skills to be best suitable for the Kansas City climate, and an American business model. Each family is given 1/4 acre plot to grow on. For four years, farmers are assisted in crop planning, farm troubleshooting, business finance record keeping, tracking, applying for markets, recruiting customers, and much more. Every year the program is designed to pass on more of the responsibilities of the business to each family in the program. New Roots for Refugees is designed to remove the initial barriers to starting a business- financial restraints, literacy, language proficiency, networking, etc. While in the program families take English classes, attend weekly workshops about owning a farm business in America, maintain their plot, sell at a farmer’s market, coordinate a CSA, learn equipment, and manage their business, financially and through keeping records. At the end of four years, families move onto their own piece of land and begin growing there. By the fourth year, farmers have taken on the totality of the business expenses and have practice maintaining their customer base. Every year more farms begin in Kansas City on new plots of land offering more local produce grown following organic practices, in communities across the metro.
 
What is a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who has fled his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is usually charged with responsibility for awarding legal refugee status. The Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration oversees this program. The State Department develops application criteria, refugee admission ceilings and presents eligible cases to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for adjudication. Refugees are legal, documented residents.

Where can I find New Roots?
The training farm is located at Juniper Gardens, a public housing site in Kansas City, Kansas, where many of the participating families live. New Roots for Refugees produce is available at farmers’ markets throughout the KC metro area and through our CSA subscription program. Check the Markets & CSA page for more information on where New Roots produce can be found.

“Who” is New Roots for Refugees?
There are currently 16 farmers growing at the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, each on his or her own ¼ acre plot of land.  All of the New Roots farmers are refugees, but they come from many countries. Since the program started several years ago, we’ve worked with refugees from Somalia, Burma, Burundi, Bhutan, and Sudan.  All of the farmers have arrived in the United States in the last 5 years or so. The New Roots for Refugees program provides an opportunity for farmers to build on their strengths and experience while learning English, growing vegetables, and earning income. In 2018 there will be 29 New Roots “graduates” growing on their own plots of land around Kansas City and 21 of those graduates are still selling their produce at market. 

Growing Practices
So far the literacy level of our participants has prevented us from keeping the records necessary for organic certification.  However, everything grown at the Juniper Gardens Training Farm abides by strict organic principles.  We are committed to creating a sustainable, healthy food system and never use genetically modified or treated seeds, synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, or anything else that is forbidden on certified organic farms.  Apart from annual tillage, and the use of small walk-behind tillers, New Roots farmers generally cultivate the earth relying primarily on their own physical strength rather than petroleum powered machinery.