Putting Down Roots
The International Institutes Global Farms Initiative expands its gardens, growing its impact on STLs agricultural community.
AFTER ESCAPING FALSE imprisonment for opposing the Sudanese government, political refugee Osman* left his native country for St. Louis and immediately joined the International Institute’s Global Farms Initiative. Through the program, he was able to make a living growing and selling produce to local markets. It was at one such market that Osman rediscovered his true calling— beekeeping. Having practiced beekeeping in Sudan, Osman was familiar with some of the skills, though he found that American methods varied slightly. He traveled across the city to learn about beekeeping the American way, and was awarded a generous grant from the International Institute to purchase his own hives and bees.
Osman is just one example of the impact the International Institute’s Global Farms Initiative has had on the St. Louis refugee community. And, with an expansion in the works for the North City garden location, that impact will only continue to grow in the coming months and years. The initiative provides refugee farmers with training in a variety of agricultural skills, including the types of food grown in the US and how to cultivate crops in the St. Louis climate. Additionally, farmers learn to log the weight and price of produce, and practice financial literacy through selling their produce at local markets.
What makes the Global Farms Initiative so unique compared to other agricultural programs in the area is its dedication to providing refugee farmers with access to culturally appropriate food. In addition to traditional American crops, farmers learn how to successfully plant and harvest fruits and vegetables from their home countries—many of which would not otherwise be available in stores and markets in St. Louis.
Produce grown by these farmers is available at Local Harvest and several markets throughout the city, but the group’s partnership with City Greens is by far one of its most valuable. The initiative’s mission is perfectly aligned with that of City Greens—to provide healthy food to people in low-income communities. In addition to being able to provide food for their own families, refugee farmers are able to earn a profit for their produce, while making that same nutritious food available to low- or moderate-income families.
To support farmers wishing to step up their involvement in the agriculture industry, the International Institute developed the small business loan program to provide assistance in obtaining specialty tools or even land leases. Farmers can request up to $35,000 to start their own agricultural businesses. For people like Osman, a small business loan represents the faith the International Institute has invested in him to establish roots in St. Louis—and continue to cultivate relationships in the agricultural community.
* Last name omitted to protect subject’s identity.
St. Louis’ Global Farms Initiative
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of the International Institute of St. Louis