LSI's Global Greens Supports Iowa's Newest Farmers
Lutheran Services in Iowa’s (LSI’s) Global Greens program is an incubator program that assists former refugee farmers in starting small fruit and vegetable businesses. Farm incubator projects connect multiple growers to land and technical assistance they need to start farm businesses. Many former refugees who live in Greater Des Moines (DSM) were farmers in their own countries, and there is no better place than the fertile soils of Iowa for those decades of farming experience to be put to good use.
With spring finally here, Global Greens farmers are back in the fields planting vegetables to sell later this year. The changing of winter to spring and getting back to planting seeds in the ground bring a sense of normalcy to an otherwise abnormal year. For farmers, remote work is not an option and the work cannot wait.
Precautions During COVID-19
Farmers are implementing extra precaution and safety practices to address COVID-19, and the 2020 season is poised to be an important year for many Global Greens farmers. The winter of 2019-2020 was full of learning opportunities and workshops for participants in the program. Several farmers went to the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference in January, while others attended the Emerging Farmers Conference in St. Paul, MN. Back in the classroom at LSI, farmers participated in workshops ranging from financial record-keeping to food safety.
Global Greens farmers crowd around Dr. Anirudh Naig of Iowa State University as he uses a black light to show farmers how germs can stay on hands when they are not properly washed.
Global Greens Helps New Graduates Start Businesses
Marie Kashindi and her husband, Innocent Kabahizi, are one of two families who graduated from the Global Greens program at the end of 2019 and are renting their own farmland for the first time this season. The Global Greens program provides former refugees with the land, training and markets they need to establish small farming businesses in Iowa. Graduates of the program go on to rent or buy farms in the region, where they can expand their businesses beyond the resources Global Greens provides.
Kashindi and Kabahizi will be growing vegetables on about two acres of land in Pleasant Hill and broke ground just a few weeks ago. The two are both ethnically Burundian but grew up farming with their parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo because their parents fled Burundi prior to their births. They met and were married in Congo, and later moved to a refugee camp in Tanzania when war broke out in Congo.
In Tanzania, farming continued to play an important part of their lives as they grew crops outside of the refugee camp to supplement the rations that were provided by the United Nations. Having their own farm has been something the two have dreamed of for many years. After going through the refugee resettlement process and moving to Iowa from Tanzania in 2008, they joined Global Greens in 2013. With seven growing seasons under their belt, they are confident they have the skills and experience they need to expand their business.
Innocent Kabahizi (right) and his son, Vital, pose prior to breaking ground on two acres of land in Pleasant Hill. The family is farming in Pleasant Hill for the first time this year and will be converting land that was formerly farmed conventionally to vegetable production using organic practices.
Global Greens Farmers’ Market
Meanwhile back at the Global Greens farm, program participants are getting ready to sell their fresh produce at the Global Greens Farmers’ Market later this summer and through the Global Greens Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Customers can pre-order their own weekly share of vegetables directly from the farmers through the Global Greens CSA, which will provide curbside pickup and home delivery options to customers this season as an extra safety precaution to protect against COVID-19. The Global Greens Farmers’ Market will be produce-only and have additional space between vendor stalls, as well as between vendors and customers to limit the spread of COVID-19. The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays June-October at the LSI office, located at 3200 University Avenue in Downtown DSM.
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Daniel Bowser is the food hub and markets supervisor with Lutheran Services in Iowa's Global Greens program. Global Greens supports former refugee farmers as they start their own small produce farming businesses in Greater Des Moines (DSM).