Putting Down Roots: Farm Worker Training
A new partnership between Local Food Hub and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is helping some of Charlottesville’s newest citizens put down roots in the community.
The Farm Worker Training program, a pilot project in its first season of operation, provides recent refugees with a job, a steady paycheck, access to fresh food, and hands-on agricultural training. At the same time, the program is helping to build a skilled farm labor workforce in our region – something local farmers say is severely lacking. All of this is taking place at Local Food Hub’s Educational Farm just outside of Scottsville, VA.
Easing the Transition
This year, three refugees from Bhutan — a landlocked nation in South Asia bordered by India and China – have found employment through the program, thanks to placement by the IRC. Many of those helped by the IRC come from agricultural backgrounds, but the climate and farming techniques from their home countries are often quite different, and not always transferable to Virginia’s red clay and dry, hot summers. In addition, language and cultural hurdles can make obtaining land, financing, and eventual farm ownership difficult if not impossible for many new refugees in America.
Local Food Hub’s Farm Worker training program helps to ease this transition by providing refugees paid work opportunities coupled with intensive hands-on farm training and education. Five days a week, Sha Tamang, Tul Tamang, and Kedar Paudel work alongside Local Food Hub’s farm manager, learning production, harvest, and processing methods for a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. And we learn from them, too: with a deep and intuitive understanding about the lifecycle of plants, Sha, Tul and Kedar are helping us produce high quality crops with low input techniques, and even have suggestions for new crops to add (fresh ginger, anyone?).
Developing these skills now can prepare refugees for employment at a range of area farms in coming years – and could even help them develop and build their own farm businesses in the future.
Growing Food & Farmers
The program has already had a major impact at Local Food Hub’s Educational Farm – food production is at an all time high thanks to the efforts of our new team. And all of this bounty is headed directly back into the community – Local Food Hub ensures the organically grown fruits and vegetables find their way to public schools, hospitals, small businesses, and food banks in the Charlottesville area.
So, where will this program go in the future? With proper funding and support from the community, Local Food Hub’s Farm Worker Training program has the potential to be something big. We see opportunities for incubator plots, business development, partnerships with local farmers, and eventually, a new generation of organic farmers right here in Central Virginia.
Interested in helping this program grow? Shoot us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.