COLCHESTER, August 26, 2020 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the selection of recipients for approximately $4.1 million in grants and cooperative agreements through its new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. These are the first-ever recipients of these grants and cooperative agreements, which will enhance urban agriculture efforts in Vermont and across the country.
The Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) received $300,000 for their project titled, New Farms for New Americans: Improving Lands, Improving Lives. They were one of ten recipients selected from 500 applicants through the national competitive grant program.
The effort will provide 80 garden plots to approximately 70 households on five acres of leased land to support food production and community building for New Americans. The project will build upon the existing garden infrastructure to improve local food access, offer a 48-week agriculture program for refugee farmers focusing on food systems and nutrition, and a leadership/mentorship program in partnership with the Vermont Community Garden Network. Over 250 people of multiple ages, seven languages and five ethnic groups will be reached.
New Farms for New Americans Project Coordinator Alisha Laramee said, “We are thrilled to receive this incredibly important and timely grant. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with this next generation of Vermonters.”
The effort will focus on four areas including:
- Building upon and implementing an advanced garden curriculum, to include emphasis on educating farmers on Vermont-specific issues such as soil structure, climate adaptation, pests and diseases.
- Implementing a farmer-to-farmer mentor program to initiate a process to create community empowerment and autonomy by facilitating a leadership program.
- Strengthening involvement in the broader food systems by providing education on available resources and participation guidelines for access.
- Building nutrition education in response to an increase in refugee-specific health issues (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity) as a result of a change in lifestyles and acculturation by implementing nutrition education that is inclusive of traditional diets.
Laramee added, “The knowledge of these farmers is so impressive and a program like this helps to connect them to soils, crops and climates that are new to them. We want to make the most of their skills and deepen their participation in Vermont’s agricultural food system.” She noted that before being resettled in Vermont as refugees, New Farms for New American participants were forced to flee their farms, livestock, homes and farmland. “Many were subsistence farmers who knew how to feed their families year-round. With the help of this grant, New Farms for New Americans and AALV will help participants to make the most of their existing skills, build new knowledge and support their farming-specific goals while adding so much to Vermont’s working landscapes.”
USDA’s Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants Program supports a wide range of activities and is spearheaded by the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, led by the USDA-Natura Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Grant program activities include operating community gardens and nonprofit farms, increasing food production and access in economically distressed communities, providing job training and education, and developing business plans and zoning. Priority was given to projects located in or targeting an Opportunity Zone, which is a census tract designation for low-income communities.
“USDA supports and strengthens all types of agriculture, including the work being done by urban farmers and community gardeners,” said Vicky Drew, State Conservationist for USDA-NRCS in Vermont. “I look forward to watching the evolution of New Farms for New Americans which will assist these farmers in deepening their knowledge of Vermont’s growing seasons, soils, and best management practices.”
A complete list of grant and cooperative agreement recipients and project summaries can be viewed at farmers.gov/urban.
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