Jillian Munro Robinson introduces us to a new kind of urban farmer.
Now that the weather has turned and it is getting colder, we have been spending less time at the NYU Urban Farm Lab and have instead turned our attention to the many research papers piling up in conjunction with the close of the fall semester. The research paper I chose to write for our Urban Agriculture class, which corresponds with our work on the urban farm, contemplated the emergence of a new type of urban farmer across the United States, the refugee or the asylum seeker.
Many refugees arriving in the United States have faced extreme hardships, often forced to leave their homes and families due to violent conflict, natural disasters or political persecution. Learning a new language, adapting to the customs and cultures of a new community, and eating unfamiliar foods are just a few of the challenges refugees face everyday. Acknowledging these difficulties, a number of innovative programs in agriculture were created in partnership with non-profit organizations, research universities, and the U.S. government.
The goal of programs like the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots or Tufts University’s New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is to connect refugee farmers from countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to the soil in their new communities. In these urban spaces, refugees are able to, once again, connect to the earth and grow fresh fruits and vegetables as they did in their homeland. There is an immense sense of pride and comfort in having the access and ability to grow your own food. Urban farms allow refugees to reconstruct social networks in their new homes and connect with other refugees as well as the people in their communities.
As the NYU Urban Farm Lab realizes its role in educating students and its place in the community, I would hope that we could generate a partnership with one of these refugee farming programs in the future. The possibilities of connecting students and refugees in addition to community members are endless. A partnership has the potential to facilitate the cross-cultural exchange of farming techniques, the discovery of foods from around the world and a gathering place for people of many different backgrounds.
Check out this video about the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots urban farm in the Bronx: