Planting New Roots In The Bronx
With the arrival of Spring, the IRC in New York’s partnership with Drew Gardens – a two-acre community garden in the South Bronx – is in full swing. Every Thursday afternoon, refugees and asylees from such diverse countries as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Cameroon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone eagerly make their way to East Tremont Avenue to learn a new approach to farming.
Prior to being displaced by conflict, many refugees were farmers or owned small businesses that featured fresh produce. By being part of a community garden such as Drew Gardens, newly arrived refugees are now able to share their unique agricultural and eating traditions with the local community as well as learn new urban gardening techniques.
On one recent Thursday, the IRC gardeners were introduced to the method of square foot gardening in a raised bed, a system which Angele, an asylee from Cameroon, found to be “a great idea because you can plant so many different things at one time.” Equipped with string, wooden stakes and seeds, Angele and her fellow gardeners, Bindya from Bhutan and Nene from Mali, carefully divided one of the raised beds into several square-foot sections and diligently planted and watered strawberries, carrots, Swiss chard, radishes and lettuce. While these seeds were being sowed, Mariama from Guinea and Pasi and Pasang Puti, two sisters from Nepal, were learning about the benefits of composting as they shoveled and sifted soil, systematically removing worms, grubs and snails, and delicately returning to the compost bins. At the other end of the garden, Sorie and Yakuba, two teenage boys from Sierra Leone, helped load wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch to spread along the garden walkways, creating more distinct paths with better footing for all future visitors to the garden.
Click here to view pictures of the IRC in New York’s community gardening initiative.