Farm Business Training Comes Full Circle as Refugee Starts Urban Farm

| 12/20/2011 2:39:59 PM

Refugee Urban Farm SiteThree years ago, Lay Htoo (pronounced, TOO) took a courageous step. Born in Klay Thoo, a village in the jungles of Burma, she resettled in the United States. So while buying a home is an exciting and anxious time for anyone, it wasn’t something she had even imagined possible.

“Because the Burmese military came to our village to kill us, my family had to flee to Thailand,” Lay Htoo is quoted on the New Roots for Refugees blog, “we crossed the border and lived in the Tham Him refugee camp…for 10 years.”

Lay Htoo is one of 18 farmers enrolled in the Farm Business Development Program at Cultivate Kansas City. She is one of 16 refugees in Catholic Charities’ New Roots for Refugees program.

Four years ago, Cultivate Kansas City started the Farm Business Development Program in partnership with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, combining a working farm with intensive one-on-one technical assistance--both key elements of its existing Gibbs Road Community Farm and Urban Farmer Development Programs. Operating on land owned by the Kansas City, KS, Housing Authority in the Juniper Gardens housing complex, the program provides farmers with a quarter acre of land, tools, seeds, and water as well as one-on-one technical assistance, training, and support to start their own urban farms.

“My family did not support my work my first year,” explains Lay Htoo, “but every day they saw what happened and tasted the food and liked it. Then I tell my husband we are going to buy a house with money from the garden. It is good for [me] and good for my family. Now they are happy and we don’t have stress.”

After two years in the program, Lay Htoo was able to save enough money selling her produce at market to capitalize her own farm. Most farmers are in the program between two and five years depending on their initial level of agricultural ability.

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