In addition to the recent interview with New Lands Farm staff, today I’m sharing the voices and experiences of a few of the refugee farmers who have found empowerment at the farm. Here are the thoughts of Suk, who came four years ago from Southern Bhutan. He is very interested in selling his crops at market, and he hopes to build on his farming endeavors in the United States.
The crops at the New Lands Farm are not your stereotypical New England fare. The farm boasts everything from Bhutanese hot peppers to the popular Tanzanian green mchicha. Newly resettled refugees, often with significant agricultural experience, come to the farm, a project of Lutheran Social Services – New England. The farmers come from across the Worcester, Massachusetts urban area to plant their crops and sell their produce to local farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) groups.
Suk’s beans and Chinese cabbage sell very well at the local farmer’s market. His potatoes are also quite successful, despite the difficulty of growing them in New England. His lifelong farming experience shows through in his dedication to the plot at the New Lands Farm.
What are your favorite crops to grow?
My favorite crops are the potatoes, beans, corns, and hot peppers. They sell well, and I also bring them home for my wife to cook for our family.
Do you work outside of the farm?
I work at FedEx from 10pm-2am every night, and spend every day that I can at the farm.
Can you tell us a little about your family?
My children live with me in Worcester and all work jobs whose schedules don’t allow them to farm with me. But they are all married and grown up. I even have some grandchildren! My wife and sisters help me with the farm.
What was farming like in Bhutan?
In Bhutan, we cleared the land using oxen and planted seeds all year round of different crops. I used to rear cattle, cows, pigs, and goats for their dairy: cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk. We would never kill the animals for their meat (we are vegetarian, and do not even eat eggs). I didn’t sell very many of my crops, but they sustained us throughout the year.
Do you have any dreams that you wish to accomplish in the United States?
If I can, I want to buy land to live off of. I would build my own house on a farm, raise cattle, and farm all the time to support my family.