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Program Spotlight: New Roots

Last updated 
Azza with vegetables grown through the New Roots Program.

The IRC in Tucson’s New Roots Program enables refugees to attain food security, a higher level of self-sufficiency, and improved community integration. We empower refugees to gain access to the skills, resources, and knowledge to grow their own food for their families as well as the market.

Who We Serve

All refugees and asylees within five years from date of arrival (refugees) or granted asylum (asylees) who live in Tucson, regardless of resettlement agency. 

What We Do

The IRC’s New Roots program grows from the strong farming and food cultures of refugees -developing gardens, urban farms, and marketplaces that produce food, leaders, livelihoods, and connected, resilient communities. New Roots programs across the United States help refugees and other new Americans access land, tools and training to grow healthy food and nourish their families.

In Tucson, New Roots connects refugees and asylees interested in growing some of their own food to community gardens and provides regular training and technical assistance to ensure that they have the tools and knowledge needed to grow successfully in our unique Tucson climate. The gardens also provide a community gathering space where growers can make friends, pass on their cultural heritage, and learn new skills.

Growers interested in income generation can receive support and technical assistance through the New Roots Micro-Producer Academy (MPA) to improve their business skills and access to markets. Graduates of the Micro-Producer Academy now sell their produce through the Abundant Harvest Cooperative at the Santa Cruz River Farmer’s Market and to Pivot Produce, a local foods aggregator business that sells to local restaurants and runs a direct-to-consumer weekly produce share.

The Tucson New Roots program also supports new refugee and asylee arrivals to the US in navigating the US food system, through grocery store orientations and in-home nutrition education.

As fall approaches, New Roots farmers will be growing a variety of leafy greens including collards, mustard, chard, and kale, root vegetables like carrots, peas, and onions, and herbs. During the summer, common crops are amaranth greens, African eggplant varieties, okra, tomatoes, squash (often for the leaves instead of the fruit), and peppers.

Through the New Roots program in Tucson, refugees, asylees, and their families gain:

  • Fresh, nutritious, culturally-appropriate produce
  • Supplemental income, if graduates of the New Roots MPA
  • Community through the relationships built within the New Roots program
  • A safe place to be outdoors with family and friends
  • A place to share and exchange culture
  • New skills and knowledge
  • Nutrition education

Effects of COVID-19

COVID-19 has forced the New Roots program to get creative!

Instead of monthly garden meetings rotating between garden sites, New Roots staff record short interpreted videos each week with seasonally appropriate gardening and farming tips (and the occasional cooking demo!) to Youtube. The Youtube videos are then shared in garden WhatsApp groups so that growers can engage with the material together.

IRC in Tucson is checking in with growers more often with one-on-one phone calls since we no longer can see one another in person. And because it’s the fall planting, we’re mailing seeds instead of distributing them in person. Nutrition education is being conducted via phone or videoconference instead of in person, at the grocery store or in clients’ homes.

Check out the New Roots youtube channel!

How you can support New Roots

  • Sign up to volunteer once we can get back to regular in-person volunteer times or attend a one-time volunteer day
  • Donate from New Roots Amazon wishlist and email Julia.munson [at] rescue.org for more information
  • Purchase fresh produce from the Abundant Harvest Cooperative at the Santa Cruz River Farmer’s Market
  • Sign up for a share from Pivot Produce (slots are limited)