Across from White Rock Lake in East Dallas on early Saturday mornings, local vendors are busy setting up stalls at Good Local Market. Among the rows of fresh baked pastries, artisan foods, and handmade art and jewelry, refugee growers with the IRC in Dallas New Roots Program fill their stall with fresh produce from community gardens.
New Roots came to Dallas in 2010 after caseworkers noticed a need to employ Bhutanese women with specialized agricultural skills; today, clients at five garden partnerships harvest approximately $70,000 worth of produce each year. Through Dallas-specific sustainable agriculture methods and empowerment programs, Yui Iwase helps nearly 70 newly-resettled families grow a community with a taste of home.
Yui joined the IRC in Dallas as the New Roots Program Specialist after working on community development, sustainable agriculture, and group savings projects with local farmers in Cambodia. After returning to Dallas, Yui discovered the same programs could promote positive outcomes in small-scale gardening cohorts. Through the application of the growers’ highly developed skills, education on regional agricultural techniques, and a focus on community, Yui has helped the small gardens flourish in a short period of time.
New Roots has three specialized programs that work to ensure no one is left behind, with a particular focus on women and the elderly. The Micro-Producer Academy and Community Garden Cohorts aim to provide economic empowerment for refugees who have well-honed agricultural skills and through community engagement, can feel a sense of belonging in the garden. With an important focus on economic independence and entrepreneurship, New Roots growers are encouraged to sell their produce at local farmers’ markets and participate in small business ventures.
The local farmers’ market also serves as a platform for students in the Youth Food Justice Internship to practice job readiness skills as a part of their summer internship, as they gain skills and knowledge from local restaurants and businesses.
The farm-to-table movement in the United States is a testament to home-grown empowerment. By using organic, sustainable methods, refugee growers are able to provide their families with healthy, fresh produce that is not always affordable or accessible.
You can see Yui and support our refugee growers at the Good Local Market’s White Rock Market at 9150 Garland Road, on Saturday Mornings.
Story By: Sarah Shaikh