Bridging the Opportunity Divide

With the Number of Farmers in the U.S. Dropping, This Program is Helping Refugees Take Their Place

September 15, 2014
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With the Number of Farmers in the U.S. Dropping, This Program is Helping Refugees Take Their Place
A single US farmer can produce enough food for 155 people. Getty Images
The country's newest faces are going to play a big part in feeding America.

More important that putting gasoline in our cars, we need food to survive, and our farmers are the ones who keep us fed. A single U.S. farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people.

Worryingly, the population of American farmers is only getting older. According to the last census, the average age was 58.3 years and a third of farmers were older than 65 in 2012, the Associated Press writes.

Even though there’s been a small uptick of younger farmers between the ages of 25 and 34 (due to government support and increased interest in locally-grown foods) there’s still a big void that will need to get filled.

Thankfully, our newest Americans could play a big part in the country’s agricultural future.

MORE: Ask the Experts: Why Should Americans Care About Employing Immigrants?

In central Maine, the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP) is presenting immigrant families with an opportunity to break into farming and help feed the country. Not only does the program also give them a chance to escape poverty and debt, but it also provides a shot at a college education, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

A large number participating in NASAP are refugees from civil war-torn Somalia, South Sudan, and the Congo. (Modern Farmer reports that Maine is home to roughly 5,000 Somalis.)

According to their website, NASAP provides training, on-farm workshops and one-on-one consultation to recently resettled refugee and immigrant farmers living in the greater Lewiston and Portland areas.

By working in NASAP and selling their crops to restaurants, farmers markets and grocers, an enrollee can bring in about $2,000 to $4,000 a year in supplemental income and up to $20,000 yearly, the Christian Science Monitor states.

“We’re so proud to be here,” Somali participants said via translator to Modern Farmer. “We couldn’t have this opportunity without your support, and we appreciate it.”

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