At a fall 2007 refugee conference, Susan attended a session about people from Burundi who would soon be entering the United States in refugee status after more than 30 years of struggling for survival in makeshift camps dotting Kenya and Tanzania. They had fled the horrors of an ethnic war that had swept through Burundi, Rwanda, and neighboring regions, and were surviving in limbo – unable to make new homes and yet unable to return to their own. The conference session was about their orientation for coming to the United States, and in particular, their readiness for the US job market. The video that was presented showed Burundi men and women standing up to state their employment goals in the U.S., and one after another, they said, “Farmer.”
When Susan met Obed, an older man who had worked as farm educator and cultivator of a demonstration farm during his “old life” in Burundi, they formed a partnership committed to re-connecting his people with their own traditions of local, sustainable farming. Despite the challenges of living in an urban metropolis of more than 5 million people, we figured that there was plenty of space to grow food and to develop skills that could meet a growing demand for experienced, small-scale farmers. With the extra spice of cultural traditions and differences of climate, language, and growing traditions, we knew it would be an adventure. In fact, we soon discovered that we weren’t the only ones tackling these challenges – we might even be considered trendy.
In Fall 2008, we began looking for a home and resources for Our Community Farm Project. Georgia Organics enrolled us in the Farm Mentor Program, and we began a series of discussions and visits with Rashid Nuri of Living Well, Joe Reynolds & Judith Winfrey of Love is Love Farms, and many others. Fred Conrad at the Atlanta Community Food Bank joined us to review potential properties and offer start-up support, and a myriad of interested community people gathered to pitch in for fundraising dinners, moral support, and guidance. Finally, in the winter of 2009-2010, we secured both a home for the garden, thanks to the developers of East Decatur Station, and some additional funding support through the Southern Risk Management Education Center. We have launched – Spring 2010!