Field Trip! The IRC Community Garden in San Diego
Written by Plant With Purpose on August 18, 2009 in General
by Corbyn Small
It was 4:10 pm Thursday afternoon and I was driving around searching frantically to find the New Roots Community Farm in City Heights, San Diego. My nerves were on end as I was the one who had planned the field trip for the Plant With Purpose staff to visit and tour this urban farm that I had heard about a few months back. Finally I spot the section of land right off 54th Street and rush to park. Once inside I met Amy Lint, New Roots Farm Coordinator at International Rescue Committee (IRC). As I walked in, there were teenagers working hard on a plot of land to get rid of rocks, men playing games under the canopy, and a few women and children watering and tending to their crops. All in all, the small two acres of land was quite active and not at all what I had expected to see!
Every year around 800 refugees from East Africa, the Middle-East, and Southeast Asia arrive to San Diego and have to get resettled into their new home, adjust to culture shock, and find new jobs that will provide enough income to provide for themselves and their families. IRC helps these refugees to do just that. Starting from the beginning, they help these individuals and families to start their new lives here in San Diego, “America’s Finest City.”
New Roots Community Farm is a project by IRC focused on creating an urban garden for refugees, new immigrants, and neighbors to farm in order to help alleviate some pressures on families in the neighborhood who are surviving on some sort of federal aid and living close to the poverty line.
As mentioned before, when I hustled onto the lot I could not believe what I saw, from all I knew this garden had only opened to its farmers two and a half months ago and yet probably 40% of the eighty 20’x30’ foot plots were already flourishing and ready for harvesting.
Plant With Purpose staff and friends proceeded to get a brush-up on the background and history behind the
farm, along with stories of all the bureaucracies the IRC had to overcome to provide an urban community garden to benefit this neighborhood. Most of the people involved come from one of three San Diegan organizations: the Somali Bantu Organization of San Diego, Union of Pan Asian Communities and Proyecto Casa Saludables. Individuals only have to pay a small amount of money for water and then provide seeds for their land while all other costs are covered by IRC.
Amy was joined by Bilali Muya, a Somali Bantu man who works part time at New Roots as the farm manager and community advocate. They gave us a tour of the individual plots and even had a chance to hear from some of the farmers themselves as they proudly shared their plot of land with us. Each of the three ethnic regions that are represented around the farm have chosen a variety of vegetables to plant, including comfort foods from home that are overpriced at local markets.
New Roots may have had a rough start cutting red tape and paying city fees but momentum is rolling now and Amy talked about many strong partnerships that have formed within the community of San Diego. Two acres of land may not seem like a lot to most farmers, but to these families their plots are now a valuable source of nutrients, camaraderie, and even additional income if they manage to produce enough to sell at the local farmers market. Believe me, when you see this much cultivated farmland in the middle of a residential neighborhood you look twice and have to wonder. ‘What is going on there?’