Heartwarming story for the day: refugees given little farm plots in Massachusetts

This is a nice story, from the Worcester, MA, Telegram. For once there doesn’t seem to be a hidden dark side. (If there is, someone from the area can let us know.)

 In her native Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christine Kindeke and her family always grew their own food.

“In the Congo, most of the income of a family comes from farming,” she said. The knowledge of how to farm, when to plant a particular crop and what methods work best from year to year is passed down from parent to child.

But when she arrived in the United States as a refugee several years ago, that connection to the earth was broken. Living first in New Hampshire and later in Worcester, she had no way to plant the seeds that she had brought with her from Congo. The seeds are from a spinach-like vegetable called biteku-teku in Kikongo, her native tongue.

Last year, she planted those seeds in a small community garden in front of Goddard School of Science and Technology, and harvested a good crop. This year, she has bigger plans.

In a project that seems to be privately funded, a farmer is leasing four acres to Lutheran Social Services.

Quarter-acre plots will go to individual refugees who have shown success in community gardens, while half-acre lots will go to groups of refugees from particular countries, such as Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Iraq, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A group called the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture is funding this with a $10,000 grant. I looked it up to make sure it’s not government-funded, and found an interesting story. Its home page says this:

The M.S.P.A. was founded by concerned citizens, one of whom was Samuel Adams.

In the years following the Revolutionary War, the Commonwealth was struggling with the suspension of profitable industries, destruction of property and heavy taxation. It became evident to the founders that the only present and available wealth lay in agriculture, the primary source of all wealth.

They sought to promote the study and improvement of agriculture by giving “handsome premiums to the men of enterprise who have by their inquiries made useful discoveries and communicated them to the public.” (Petition for Incorporation, March 1792).

So far, I like this project and this organization. Here’s another grant they gave:

A grant allowed a group of entry-level immigrant farmers to buy equipment to insure their success in their fields and at farmer’s markets thus providing a steady income and role-modeling for upwards of forty families.

That’s local involvement at its best.

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