In order to increase its ability to serve the growing refugee population from Burma and better meet the needs of families and children in Orange County, the Orange County Partnership for Young Children received a grant from the U.S. Department of Refugee Resettlement to expand our current Growing Healthy Kids project to include an Incubator Farm specifically to train refugees in sustainable agriculture.
The Partnership expanded this project with the refugee population because of the desire expressed from our current refugee families. One woman explained her family’s involvement in the community gardens as a continuation of past tradition. She said, “We like gardening because our lives all depended on gardening in Thailand and Burma before we moved to America.” Another man shared his enthusiasm to continue as a farmer when he said, “Our purpose is to get bigger land and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.”
The RAPP project now hosts 25 Karen and Burmese families who are growing a diversity of vegetables on 2.5 acres outside of Chapel Hill, NC. Many of these vegetables are well known to N.C. and many common to Burma and Thailand. The farm is located on a 269 acre former farm managed by the Triangle Land Conservancy. The site was donated in 2007 by the estate of Elinor Moore Irvin with the request that the farm continue to be used for educational farming activities.
Families participate in on site weekly agricultural workshops in everything from soil fertility and pest management to seed saving and food preservation. The project seeks to honor the agricultural traditions that the participating families developed in Burma as well as to supplement with sustainable agriculture techniques specific to N.C. At the farm families grow many of the crops native to Burma as well as just about every vegetable that can be grow under the N.C. sun! Gourds, turmeric, bitter melons, ginger, taro root and lemongrass mingle with heirloom tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, arugula, beets and radishes (to name a few).