URC’s Partnership with the New Roots Program
What is the New Roots of Utah program?
New Roots is a partnership between the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the Utah Refugee Coalition. New Roots seeks to build a healthier community through the development of small scale, urban farms and community gardens while increasing food access for the broader refugee community in Salt Lake City. The program focuses on connecting refugees with access to land, resources and training so they can become successful gardeners and farmers in their new communities, and also creating opportunities for refugees resettled in the Salt Lake City area to access healthy, familiar, culturally appropriate foods.
Through participation in the New Roots program, refugees can grow fresh produce for themselves or improve their family income by selling their produce at local markets and restaurants. In addition, participation in the New Roots program helps refugees integrate into their communities and meet their neighbors.
Who are refugees?
Refugees have known great struggle and hardship in their lives. Some have been forced to flee war or political oppression. Others have been living in limbo in refugee camps across the world. All of them have been given sanctuary here in the United States. The International Rescue Committee, Salt Lake County and the Utah Refugee Coalition are committed to helping them as they start their lives here. The New Roots program is part of that commitment.
Refugees are resilient people. They are determined to seize every opportunity to live full and self-sufficient lives here in the United States.
How did New Roots get started?
The refugees we assist told us that they wanted a way to farm – and so Salt Lake County started to work to fill that need and connect refugees with the land. They looked for model programs, of which the most notable are programs run by the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix and San Diego. Because of IRC’s experience with refugee agriculture, it was a natural fit for Salt Lake County to partner with the IRC in Salt Lake City to build this program in Utah.
In 2011, during the first growing season New Roots started a Neighborhood Farm Stand with the goal of increasing access to healthy, familiar, culturally appropriate food for refugee families resettled in Salt Lake City. This year New Roots increased program capacity by sustaining our original Farm Stand, expanding to the People’s Market and pursuing retail sales with local restaurants and grocery stores.
What does the program do?
There are three program areas for New Roots which include connecting refugees with community gardens, the micro-training farm program for agriculture entrepreneurship, and addressing food access issues within the refugee community.
- Securing plots for refugees at community gardens throughout Salt Lake City working with local partners such as Wasatch Community Gardens, etc. .
- Providing seeds, seedlings and instruction on gardening practices in Utah.
- Providing low-income communities with access to affordable produce that they can purchase with SNAP benefits.
- Matching SNAP purchases dollar for dollar through our Fresh Fund.
- Educating refugees on food literacy topics such as Nutrition and Diabetes Management.
Micro-Training Farm Program
- Facilitating greater economic independence through market gardening.
- Providing training and technical assistance to 20 farmers from countries as diverse as Sudan, Burma, Bhutan, Chad, DR Congo and Burundi.
Refugees as Farmers
Most refugees come from a farming background. They have a tremendous work ethic, skills and the knowledge they need to become American farmers of the future.
New Roots provides agriculture and business training to refugees so that they can supplement their income through sales at local farmers’ markets and via retail sales to restaurants and grocers with the ultimate goal of having them own and run their own farms. Our goal is to give refugees the tools they need to make their livelihoods as farmers and, as a result, impact their local communities by providing easier access to healthier foods.
New Roots of Utah accomplishes these goals by helping farmers sell at direct markets like our Farm Stand, and also by working with local grocery stores such as the Community Food Co-op and Southeast Asian Market, as well as by connecting refugee producers with local chefs, many of whom are also participating in Around the World. This year refugee growers have worked with Café Niche, Tin Angel, The Rose Establishment, Carluccis, Sea Salt, and Paris Bistro, among others. New Roots has helped refugee farmers make over $15,000. Through Farm Stand sales refugee farmers have also connected over 300 refugee families to fresh, culturally appropriate, affordable vegetables.
The New Roots program is community based and relies on the support and enthusiasm of volunteers, partners, and local supporters to succeed.