New Lands Farm: Helping Immigrants Put Down Fresh Roots

New Lands Farm

Helping Immigrants Put Down Fresh Roots

Text and farmer photographs by Leslie Lynn Lucio; recipes photographed by Dominic Perri

Inside the city of West Springfield is a farm that gives opportunity to refugees and immigrants from all over the world. New Lands Farm, a part of Lutheran Social Services of New England, has worked with over 100 refugee and immigrant families since 2008. The farm assists them with finding the tools and resources to support building a life in their new country. In addition to the West Springfield farm there is a second farm in Worcester. Both locations have at least 30 families working on them.

New Lands Farm’s farming families have come from many different countries: When first arriving to the United States, they came through the United Nations Refugee Resettlement Program, which helps protect the rights of refugees. They were assigned to Lutheran Social Services of New England and New Lands Farm.

Many of the farmers have previous agricultural experience prior to coming the United States. New Lands Farm is one place where these farmers can use their agricultural skills, bringing something familiar to them into a new setting.

Farmers come from many countries, including Bhutan, Vietnam, Russia, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo. The two primary languages currently spoken amongst the farmers are Nepali and Swahili. Despite the language barriers, the farm has been able to grow and work well with consistent hard work. When farmers first start at New Lands Farm, a translator is provided to help them with introductory classes.

Shemariah Blum-Evitts, program manager, says, “Many of the farmers that have gone through training have now been here three to five years. They have picked up some basic English, but we rely a lot on younger generations to help translate for a lot of the farmers. We will often talk with children or with somebody else in the group who knows English.” The farm staffers primarily use English and pictures as their languages. For instance, the staff uses posters with pictures of what needs to be washed and how to bunch vegetables.

New Lands Farm, via a partnership with Enterprise Farm and Gardening the Community, offers a mobile market for the city of Springfield. Three days a week the market brings fresh local food to four different parts of the city, for a total of twelve different locations. Partners for a Healthier Community has helped with the outreach. Shemariah says, “It’s been a great project. We are looking to increase traffic so that the profits are working.”

Recently, the farm started a new market in the Merrick neighborhood of West Springfield—home to many of the farmers. There are grocery stores in the area, but prior to opening the market, fresh local food wasn’t readily available.

The farm also offers a CSA to the public on Tuesdays. The CSA sells crops found in most New England markets, but sometimes offers exotic produce, such as African and Asian eggplants and bitter greens that aren’t commonly found here. Traditional family recipes are also given to CSA members to help introduce them to these new-to-them vegetables.

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Shemariah says, “It’s just so wonderful to see how excited people get. They are just so grateful to have access to land. I think anyone would be, but they have such an appreciation for it, in that it was their family tradition, their livelihood. When we ask them why they like doing this, the number one reason they say is because they are farmers, that’s the blood in them. It makes them feel like who they are, because that’s what they knew before.”

You can learn more about New Lands farm, as well as volunteer opportunities at LSSNE.org/NewLandsFarm.aspx. You can also

keep up with updates and events on their Facebook page.

Leslie Lynn Lucio has enjoyed cooking and baking since she was a small child. In addition to running Beets & Barley Catering, she writes for Hilltown Families with a column: Oak and Acorn. She can be reached at info@beetsandbarley.com