New Roots is a partnership of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and Cultivate KC

Seasons Cycle: A Year in New Roots

Many of you who follow us know that New Roots is a four-year training program for refugees and immigrants who want to start small farm businesses in the Kansas City metro. But what does a year in New Roots look like? 

Let’s walk through it together.  

Fall: Meetings and Greetings 

While fall is the end of the growing season at Juniper Gardens Training Farm, it is also when new farmers are recruited into the program, and their journey with New Roots begins. Usually this takes place by September, before October’s Harvest Potluck so the new recruits can come to the farm and celebrate graduating farmers with staff and other growers at Juniper Gardens.  

At that time, Catholic Charities staff conduct a pre-assessment for English language proficiency. This meeting serves as a formal introduction to instructors as well as some of the other services offered by the agency. 

Early Winter: Building Relationships 

Their next interaction with the program comes in the form of English for Farming classes which begin in early November. Staff work with farmers to schedule classes that suit the individual’s work schedule, and English Language proficiency.  

The goal of this class is to provide vocabulary and conversation skills that might be useful around the farm and interacting with customers. English for Farming is also when participants start building relationships with staff and others in the program.  

Learning Together 

English for Farming Classes continue through November, December, and January. During this time, staff are also helping farmers get signed up for markets, and conducting program evaluations with returning farmers-in-training to get a bead on what went well the previous year, and what needs tweaking. These evaluations help staff understand what they can do in the coming year to better support participants.  

Looking Towards the Growing Season 

Juniper Gardens Training Farm is closed for the winter after November, but everyone by then everyone is already hard at work getting ready for spring. While English classes are underway, so too is production planning. Cultivate KC staff meet with farmers to lay out what crop varieties grow, when, why, and how to plant them in the upcoming season to ensure a steady flow of produce from May through October.  

Considering our region’s short growing season (compared to more tropical climates) planning ensures farmers-in-training start off the growing season on the right foot and maximize their harvest. 

Late Winter: Preparation and Learning 

When English for Farming classes end in early February, Farm Classes follow soon after. The Farm Class series is where New Roots farmers learn the nuts and bolts of growing in the Midwest. Everything from how to get plants started in the greenhouse (which opens at this time) to soil preparation, pest management, selling in the US… you get the idea.  

New Roots education staff try to incorporate as much experiential learning into the Farm Class curriculum as they can. That means whether the class is about getting plants started in the greenhouse or packing produce, farmers have the opportunity to bring classroom lessons out onto the training farm. By spring, pest management, planting and harvesting become more than conceptual exercises.  

At the end of Farm Classes in April, a grower’s full attention shifts to managing their plot. Instruction fully transitions from the classroom to one-on-one interaction with Cultivate KC’s farmer trainer in the field.  

Spring and Summer: Work and Celebration 

From April through the end of October, Juniper Gardens Training farm is abuzz with activity. Farmers are planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, storing, preparing for market, putting together the CSA and wholesale orders, and walking their plot with the farmer-trainer, over and over again. The washstand becomes the center of life— not just washing and packing produce, but it’s where meetings, meals, and socializing occurs. 

The growing season is full of events on the farm where New Roots volunteers, customers, and community members can get involved. The Transplant Sale in May welcomes the public onto Juniper Gardens for food, music, and plant starts for their home gardens.  

The Homegrown Happy Hour in late summer marks the height of harvest season, and supporters come to share a meal at Juniper Gardens. We thank volunteers, Farm Share members, and gear up for the home stretch.  

Finally, the annual cycle culminates in the Harvest Potluck, when New Roots staff and farmers welcome all those who supported us through the year back to the farm. That’s when we toast the closing of another season and celebrate the graduating farmers.   

Where Do You Fit In? 

New Roots has plenty of ways for community members to engage throughout the year. 
 

  1. Sign up for a Farm Share subscription. It’s a great way to support New Roots farmers, AND stock your fridge with fresh, local veggies through the growing season.  
  1. Volunteer at a Farm Share location, Farmers Market, or as a Farm Friend at Juniper Gardens. New Roots’ success depends on folks like you lending a hand. 
  1. Come to our annual events, like the Transplant Sale, Homegrown Happy Hour, or Harvest Potluck. Keep an eye on our social media for details on when these happen.  

If you want to learn more about New Roots and Juniper Gardens Training Farm, drop us a line at [email protected]. We’d love to meet you! 

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Read more stories about New Roots for Refugees, a ministry of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and Cultivate KC on the New Roots blog.

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