Written By: New Roots Intern, Sophia Hammer
Introducing: New Roots Farmers
On many days, farmers Egide Gahungu and Anezi Kaneza can be found carefully tending to their crops at Las Milpitas Farms located on the edge of the Santa Cruz River in Tucson, Arizona.
“It’s really unpredictable, but you have to stay determined,” Anezi reflected when asked about her experiences with farming in Tucson.
The New Roots Program in Tucson works with refugee and migrant farmers and gardeners ─ like Anezi and Egide ─ to provide education and help when selling and growing produce, supplementing diets and incomes, reestablishing agrarian roots, and connecting with the local Tucson community.
Variety of Vegetables Grown Each Season
Anezi and Egide were some of the first farmers to go through the IRC Tucson’s New Roots Micro-Producer Academy (MPA) program in 2017 and have since been successful in growing and selling their produce in local markets such as Santa River Farmers Market, Pivot Produce and Tucson CSA.
In the summer months, Anezi and Egide grow varieties of chiles, eggplant, okra, squash, and pumpkin. And in the winter they can be found growing chard, kale, mustard, root vegetables and more. They also bring knowledge of the agricultural environment in their home country, Burundi, as they grow several African varieties of Amaranth and Cassava.
"Farming has been very helpful to me, because it helps me feed my family and it even goes to my friends.”
As experienced farmers, Anezi and Egide are always persistent and accepting to change they face as farmers. They pass on this advice to many others in the community, uplifting new and seasoned farmers alike.
Educating New Farmers
“The other day when they were giving new farmers their certificates, I had a talk with them. I was teaching them and telling them if today they find that they are successful and tomorrow they find they’re not, that they always have to remember to be patient,” Egide encouraged.
IRC Tucson’s New Roots Education and Outreach Specialist, Carla Vargas-Frank, realizes that farming has its ups and downs, especially in the Arizona heat. But Egide, “possesses a great deal of problem-solving and ingenuity skills,” which has assisted in his successes.
Anezi has been a constant reminder of the gratitude that follows determination when farming. “Anezi is one of our most dependable farmers. She is extremely dedicated and eager to learn skills that will enhance her ability to grow,” Vargas-Frank expressed.
Like Egide, Anezi mentions the significance that being patient has on farmers' success. And Anezi also acknowledges the appreciation she has for farming and the impact it has had in her life, noting that, "farming has been very helpful to me because it helps me feed my family and it even goes to my friends.”
Anezi leaves off on an uplifting note, “I just want to thank the IRC for receiving us and how they manage to have us as refugees. And for loving us and allowing us here. I want to say thank you so much to the Tucson community and IRC for allowing us the opportunity to farm.”
Currently many of our farmers, including Anezi and Egide, are looking for more local markets to sell their produce. If you are interested in supporting them, please reach out to us at: [email protected].