USDA grants support New Americans' community garden in Vermont

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 6:59 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new USDA grant will help New Americans grow their own food and maintain a connection to their homelands. They’re members of the New Farms for New Americans program run by the Association of Africans Living in Vermont.

A community farm at the Ethan Allen Homestead offers these New Americans a place to come together and grow together.

Man Maya Rai a farmer said: “We grow culture crop that we like to eat and bring to the table. And it saves money. And we distribute to other extended families also. So it’s fresh and organic, and we grow that kind of vegetables, and it... saves the money also in the summer season."

Rai moved here from Bhutan and the garden means a lot to her. It gives her a chance to continue to grow her own food for her family and others in her community. Now, a $300,000 USDA grant will help more than 60 families including Rai’s produce for themselves.

Congressman Peter Welch believes that this money couldn’t come at a better time.

”This is more important than ever," said Welch, D-Vermont.

Harkarai is another farmer who is also from Bhutan. As important it is to have a healthy food supply, he says this garden is more than a food source; it feeds his soul.

“It’s really important for us because it is like a home. This farm is like a home for us.” Harkarai said.

Harkarai has a full-time job outside of farming but he still makes time to work in these gardens because without them he would feel unsettled.

“So it will get nervous if there is no access to the farm, and then we might add a mental well-being, staying home, being isolated not being able to connect with the community,” he said.

Their garden provides food for 67 families, that’s more than 300 community members. And this grant ensures that new residents will be able to continue to grow their cultural seeds right here in Vermont.

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