Garden Spotlight: Bringing Cultures Together in a Community Garden


By Dory Cooper and Jenna Banning  

The New Farms for New Americans (NFNA) project is one of Association for Africans Living in Vermont’s (AALV) workforce development programs, focusing on connecting the agricultural experience and knowledge of refugees and immigrants with opportunities here in Vermont. AALV has expanded since its founding to provide services to all refugee and immigrant groups by focusing on helping New Americans connect with their new homes while maintaining their culture.

The New Farms for New Americans program is popular as “participants and community gardeners arrive to the United States with extensive agriculture experience, practicing subsistence farming in their home countries,” said Alisha Laramee, NFNA Program Specialist for AALV.

In response, NFNA provides large swaths of land to households in an effort to help New Americans stay connected to their own culinary crops and traditions and grow sufficient quantities of food to help feed their families. The program also supports New Americans who want to start their own business by offering a social enterprise training program and partnering with restaurants and grocery stores.   Through NFNA, 90 households are provided with training, technical assistance, marketing opportunities, and 9 acres of farmland in Burlington’s Intervale Center and Winooski Valley Park District’s Ethan Allen Homestead.

NFNA also partners with Burlington’s Department of Parks Recreation and Waterfront to help New Americans access the city’s community garden sites. The department, through its Burlington Area Community Gardens program, provides targeted outreach with interpretation to serve New American gardeners.

NFNA also coordinates its own community garden site at Winooski Valley Park District’s Ethan Allen Homestead. Although running a community garden with more than 40 families from various cultures can be challenging at times, Alisha said that “there is an incredible amount of knowledge that exists, but far too often agencies come with the idea that teaching happens one way, thus failing to realize that New Americans have a lot to teach us about farming.”

NFNA partners heavily with the University of Vermont Extension Program. They received a grant a few years ago to receive 12 hours a week of technical assistance on the farm. The grant recently turned into a new market program for refugees, which began this fall. NFNA is also supported by the Intervale Center and the Winooski Valley Park District.

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