Organic farms step up to the plate to give Afghan refugee families access to fresh produce

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 9:29 AM CDT
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ATHENS, Wis. (WSAW) - Two local organic farms are partnering with New Beginnings for Refugees. The new partnership will bring access to high-quality produce to Afghan refugee families. Cattail Organics and Red Door Family Farm are the two farms participating in the partnership.

Cattail Organics and Red Door Family Farm will support 10 families for 20 weeks to give them access to fresh, locally grown organic produce. Both farms are able to do this with the help of a matching grant from The FairShare CSA Coalition and fundraising. The total for the partnership is $8,000.

New Beginnings found that the benefits the families are using to buy groceries at stores are stretching to meet their needs. So, together the two farms sprung into action with the partnership.

“We have worked really hard to try to figure out what kind of foods that they’re comfortable with cooking with like culturally appropriate foods so that they sort of feel like this is a home for them. I think there’s nothing that says ‘home’ more than food. And it’s a way that maybe we can reach out and have an olive branch in that direction,” owner of Red Door Family Farm, Stacey Botsford said.

The farms’ goal is to bring produce as close to the families as possible since transportation is an issue. So, the farmers have offered home deliveries or to meet people in a common neighborhood.

The program coordinator for New Beginnings for Refugees, Margaret Pagoria, said the organization is always looking to strengthen community ties for the new families, and this partnership is another stride in building those relationships. She also said the partnership is being done in a way that is culturally appropriate, like making sure the families get produce they are used to cooking with back home.

“The culinary practices of these new families are very much like cooking from scratch and cooking the cuisine that is what they’re familiar with. And so, we don’t always have the ingredients here locally... But, you know, I think that we’ve been able to work and collaborate with restaurants and things in the area to do our best with it,” Pagoria explained.

She said the new families are at the point of becoming more settled and self-sufficient, so the focus is now on ways to allow the families to flourish here culturally.

“We’re going to be intentional about making sure that we’re providing the right things. But, I think for the families, then they’re getting access to super high-quality produce and exposure to this really kind of cool program that they may not otherwise have known about,” she said.

She explained that the organization was able to see how important food is in the families’ culture when they helped support the families for a Ramadan dinner.

" I feel like from a staff perspective, it was first of all, so incredibly heartwarming to see that some of the bonds and you know, just the collaboration that took place between the families... Beauty, I mean, everything’s made from scratch, including the naan bread, you know, just incredible, just wonderful food. And so it is a very big aspect of their culture,” she explained. “It’s not very surprising that actually, they use what we use, you know, and so I guess my goal would always be that maybe some of the things they’ll get may even be a little bit of comfort, like it feels familiar. And then some of the things that maybe we’re able to expose them to that are newer or not traditional within their food. You know, like that, that’s part of the process of, you know, adjusting to a new culture, and that we can assist them with that.”

Pagoria also mentioned that this partnership is just a stepping stone to more opportunities of strengthening the relationship between the community and the new families.

The deliveries will start taking place in June and last until October.

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