For those of you who haven’t heard about New Roots until the unseen forces of the internet drove you to this blog page, let’s do an introduction.
What is New Roots?
New Roots for Refugees is a four-year training program for refugees with farming backgrounds, who want to continue being farmers now that they’re here in the United States. Over the course of 4 years, each farmer-in-training is given a quarter acre plot at Juniper Gardens Training Farm located just outside downtown Kansas City, Kansas. On that plot, the farmers learn how to grow food in the Midwest according to organic principles, as well as how to build a business selling that food on American markets. The staff who operate the incubator program also work to connect farmers with sales channels that will help their young businesses turn a profit, primarily through farmers markets, our Farm Share subscription service, and wholesale to restaurants.
New Roots takes a stair step approach to self-sufficiency. This means that in year one, the program covers most, or all the expenses associated with starting a farm. Think water bills, seeds, compost, transportation to market— you name it. Gradually over the course of four years, the farmers take on more and more of that cost and responsibility until graduation time, at which point their businesses are off and running. There are about forty families who have gone through the program over the last sixteen seasons, and around thirty of them are still running small farms in the KC metro.
How do we do it?
You may be asking, “wow, that sounds really great, who runs this? How is it funded?”
Here’s the short answer: New Roots operates as a 50/50 partnership between Cultivate KC, a local urban agriculture non-profit, and Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. The Juniper Gardens Training Farm is funded primarily through grants from the federal government.
Farmers sell their produce through three channels:
- Farmers Markets: Have you been to a farmers market in the Kansas City metro? You’ve probably run into a New Roots farmer! Follow this link to find a market near you where you can support a graduate or farmer-in training.
- Farm Share CSA: A weekly subscription service where customers receive a weekly installation of whatever’s in the fields each week from May until mid-October. Follow this link to get on the list for Farm Share 2024.
- Wholesale and Online Orders: Whether you’re a restaurant owner looking source organically raised produce grown right here in downtown KCK, or a school administrator trying to find healthy ingredients for our school lunches, our wholesale program is for you. Follow this link to learn more! You can also reach out to our Sales Coordinator, Anna Arnot, directly at [email protected].
That might answer another question you probably have: “what happens to the money farmers make selling their crops?”
The farmers keep all the money they make to grow their businesses. For the rest we rely heavily on volunteer support (*cough* *cough* sign up today.)
Why do we do it?
We get asked a lot about mission and vision, and while a program that incubates refugee and immigrant run farm businesses seems specific, New Roots is driven by a swath of values: land access; language access; sustainability; social equity; and the hallucinatory idea that everyone deserves access to really good food.
What it all comes down to is this: supporting small farms, especially those run by marginalized populations, goes a long way towards building a safer, more just, and tastier world in which to live.
Stay tuned! We have lots of content in the pipeline— updates on program, classes, and a new greenhouse in the works. Feel free to drop us a line at [email protected] if you have any questions. Pre-registration for Farm Share 2024 is open, so sign up today! You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook @newrootskc.