The Farm Bill Extension and Beginning Farmers & Ranchers

March 14, 2013

This is the second post in our series of blogs highlighting how the current farm bill extension is affecting organic agriculture and local food systems.

This week we are featuring guest blogger Kelly Owensby, Project Manager of Transplanting Traditions Community Farm.  This program of the Orange County Partnership for Young Children (OCPYC) provides an amazing opportunity to displaced farmers from Burma who have recently moved to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. However, Kelly’s program is in desperate need of funding to keep it operational. OCPYC had planned to apply to several sources of USDA funding this year, however those funds are no longer available because of the current farm bill extension.

One of the sources of funding that they planned to apply to is the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP). The Carolina Farm Stewardship has recently received funds through this program to pay for scholarships for beginning farmers to attend our annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference. The loss of these funds is affecting both OCPYC’s and CFSA’s ability to train new and beginning farmers.

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The Transplanting Traditions Community Farm (TTCF) is a vocational agricultural program that works to build economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially sustainable local agricultural business opportunities for refugees living in N.C.  The TTC Farm project addresses the challenges of food insecurity, and economic well-being inequity in the refugee community by providing agricultural growing space for over 140 refugee adults and children and culturally appropriate marketing opportunities and trainings for refugee farmers.

At the TTC Farm, families grow traditional fruits and vegetables hard to obtain in the U.S., attend educational trainings and significantly supplement poverty-level incomes through marketing produce and lower grocery costs,. In addition the farm is an important community space for refugees to learn, share ideas and preserve cultural agricultural heritage while simultaneously transitioning to their new lives in N.C. In 2012, the project impacted over 140 refugee adults and children and brought $11,287 in income directly to refugee farmers through produce sales.

Tri Sa, a farmer with TTCF, came from a generation of farmers in Burma and was a successful farmer herself before fleeing her home country. Because of the support of the TTC Farm Tri Sa is now making her dream of farming in the U.S. a reality. “I was born from a family who totally depend their lives on farming. My parents always taught me about how important it is to have a farm.”

The U.S. accepts more refugees than any other country in the world and N.C. resettles some of the highest numbers of refugees each year. The TTC Farm is located in Chapel Hill, NC just 4 miles from the largest refugee neighborhood in the county. Although the population of this area makes up less than 1% of the total population of N.C., over 10% of the total refugee population lives in this area.

Farmers in the program receive growing space at the educational farm site, access to markets, and attend culturally appropriate agricultural, business and marketing trainings. In 2012, refugee farmers took part in 72 on-farm trainings throughout the growing season with an average farmer participation rate at 86%. Over the winters of 2012 and 2013 farmers completed “Grower’s School” an intensive eight-week classroom marketing and business school with a total of 32 hours of classes taught each year. Guest speakers are also brought in to lead discussions on farming topics.  As a result of these educational initiatives, farmers are gaining self-sufficiency and independence both as sustainable market farmers as well as gaining ground as successful agricultural entrepreneurs.

In 2010 the Orange County Partnership for Young Children received funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to expand from a community gardening project into the Transplanting Traditions Community Farm.  This funding will end in September of 2013.  Several USDA grants that could keep this amazing project afloat were cut in the current Farm Bill extension. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program as well as the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program are two grants that are designed to support programs like the TTC Farm. Both did not receive mandatory funding with the extension.  Without these grants TTC Farm and projects like it across the U.S. are left scrambling for a seriously diminished pool of funds and left to rely on individual donations and small foundations. The reality of the current Farm Bill extension is that important projects like TTC Farm might have to shut their doors leaving our most vulnerable populations unable to fulfill their dreams.

Please visit www.OCPYC.Wordpress.com for more information or to make a donation to this project.

 

 

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