If you visit the IRC in Sacramento’s New Roots farm on a Saturday, the first thing you’ll find is Ram, the New Roots Marketing Specialist, standing behind two picnic tables covered in fresh produce. These picnic tables make up the New Roots pop-up market where refugees sell the crops they have left over after they’ve saved some for their family and friends.
Ram wears many hats within the New Roots program: acting as program manager, running the farm stand, and helping with the sale of farm produce to local businesses. Ram’s drive at work is reflective of his passion for creating healthy options for refugees and the larger community, where he says, “my interest in helping others is being fulfilled.”
Ram has a long history in farming. He was born in Bhutan where his family ran a 10 acre farm. At age 6, Ram was helping with the family cooking, by 7 he was responsible for milking his own cow, Molly, and by age 8 he was helping to plow the fields.
Yet his time on the farm would come to an abrupt end in 1991 when his family was forced to flee from their home, leaving behind beloved animals and belongings to settle in a refugee camp in Eastern Nepal.
Hard circumstances did not stop a young Ram from pursuing education. For six months he studied in the street until the community built a school out of bamboo in the camp. Eventually Ram succeeded in receiving a bachelor’s in Mathematics and English, going on to become a teacher in Nepal.
In 2009, Ram was offered the opportunity to resettle in the United States. Following an old friend, Ram moved to California, where the IRC in Sacramento helped him to begin his new life. He found a job in a local thrift shop, where he eventually worked his way up to a supervisor position. Eventually Ram got a position as a lab technician where he also thrived.
Despite his increased success, Ram felt frustrated with his life here. He noticed that he was constantly sick, and heard many similar complaints from other refugees. He began doing his own research, and decided that poor food options was the root of his and others’ suffering. Ram made a decision: that Sacramento needed a place where refugees could grow culturally relevant produce for their families and create healthier options at their tables. He worked with other community members to propose the farm to the IRC in Sacramento and in 2015 the New Roots Farm was opened.
Ram says that he truly enjoys his work at the IRC. He believes there is value in healthy eating and the physical work of farming. For the first time in the states, he feels that he is helping provide value in people’s lives.
“I don’t feel [like] I am working for someone else,” Ram says. “I am doing the work I am passionate about.”