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U.S. program turns refugees into farmers

Associated Press | 7/27/2010, 7:16 p.m.

“I wake up at 4 every morning and pay close attention to everything I grow,” Kim said. “They like what I give them.”

Lori Deliso, marketing manager for the Lexington Farmers Market in Lexington, Mass., said refugee farmers have introduced new foods to her market that proved popular, even if customers were a little apprehensive at first about buying “exotic” vegetables.

“They’ve been great to work with and they always bring different kinds of ethnic foods,” Deliso said. “They offer wonderful suggestions on recipes and are quick to show us how good everything tastes.”

The program has developed a reputation for teaching about locally grown food and is now attracting American-born would-be farmers, Hashley said. In three years, it has grown from 15 trainees a year to 30 — with more than half American-born.

Amanda Munsie, 34, of Wilmington, said she came from a family of Ohio farmers and wanted to get involved in the locally grown food movement. African and Asian refugees in the New Entry program introduced her to new foods.

“They farm so differently than the way we did back in Ohio,” said Munsie, a trainee who farms next to the Tsimbas. “Now, I want to grow some of (their) vegetables because they looked so colorful and tasty to eat.”

Proum, who recently lost his full-time job at a technology company, said farming his 3-acre lot gives him solace and keeps him busy. If he is idle, his mind drifts to painful memories of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war or losing his friend Ogonowski on Sept. 11, he said.

“I don’t like to think about all of that,” Proum said while looking over his Chinese long beans. “I want to think about these.”

Associated Press