Beginning Farmer Program in Michigan Helps Refugees

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program & Lansing Roots Helps Refugees Start Farming in the United States

Eight Lansing families, mostly immigrants from Bhutan, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe, many of which fled civil warfare in their respective countries, are farming quarter-acre plots in mid-Michigan under a new program through the Greater Lansing Food Bank called Lansing Roots. Scott Davis at the Lansing State Journal published a story on this topic last week (full story here). Excerpt: Laura Wies, manager of the food bank’s Lansing Roots program, said the goal is to expand small-scale farming in mid-Michigan and provide new income opportunities for struggling families. Some of the produce is consumed by families at home, but most is sold at regional farmers markets; the families pocket the proceeds. ... The program, in its first year, is funded by a three-year grant of $365,000 from the federal Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. It leases the quarter-acre plots of land to participants at the below-market rate of $125 per growing season, provides tilling support and arranges for produce to be sold at farmers markets in the area. ... Wies said program employees handle most of the selling for participants. Because many of them can’t speak English, she said, they would have difficulty selling produce in a Michigan farmer’s market. ... She said she expects none of the participants to make more than a few thousand dollars from the endeavor this year. ... as they lease larger plots from the program, it eventually could turn into a livable annual income. After a few years, she said, the goal is to wean them from the program so they can make a go of it themselves.  

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