Training Program Helps Refugees Become Farmers in Iowa

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Farmers are working in the fields getting crops ready for the season. One group already knew how to work the land. They needed a different type of training.

Jaqueline Ndabazaniye is getting her garden ready. “I try to make the soil good because I come to plant the peas,” she said. She’s been planting seeds for nearly a decade in Iowa. It’s grown into a business.

“Now, I need to become a businesswoman. I have almost 2 acres. It was nice, and I make good money,” said Jaqueline.

She’s part of Lutheran Services in Iowa’s Global Greens Farmer Training Program. “We work with folks who come as refugees to the Des Moines area and are starting small farming businesses in Iowa,” said Daniel Bowser, Food Hub Specialist for the LSI’s Global Greens Program.

About 25 farming families have plots of land. Four have graduated and are renting land throughout the metro. Congera Alex rents land to farm in Carlisle. “I farm and I try to save money to buy my own land,” he said.

The Global Greens farm is located on about eight acres of land in West Des Moines behind the Valley Community Center. You can get a taste of everything they grow there with their Community Supported Agriculture program.

“Where folks in the community can purchase vegetables at the beginning of the year, or pay for a subscription at the beginning of the year, and then we’ll provide vegetables all grown by our farmers who are in our program or have graduated from our program,” said Bowser.

The CSA runs 22 weeks from the end of May to the end of October. It costs $504 for the weekly box of vegetables, and you get recipes featuring vegetables popular from the farmers’ home countries.

“A lot of folks from Burundi like amaranth greens, African egg-plant. So, you’ll get a chance to try those. Folks from Bhutan enjoy eating mustard greens and some long beans,” said Bowser.

Jaqueline hopes you’ll try everything she grows. “Peas, beans, everything. Now a lot of people like a lot of people buy. Now, I say, thank you God.”

You can order your global greens CSA share on LSI’s website.

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