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Posts Tagged ‘flats mentor farm’

A Lancaster, Massachusetts, woman who came to the country at age 12 without a word of English is giving back by helping immigrants get a start in farming — and her model is being picked up around the nation.

Jane Dornbusch at the Boston Globe writes, “Maria Moreira, 62, is fond of the proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ When her kids were small and she and her husband had a dairy farm in this Central Massachusetts town, she had plenty of milk, hungry kids to feed, and a need to make a little money.

“So she started a business making a soft Portuguese cheese — she calls it simply Portuguese fresh cheese — that reflected her roots in the Azores, where she was born.

“That was in 1986. A year earlier, she had seen another need, and, in her own inventive way, she’d set about meeting it. Moreira and her husband, Manny, had a 70-acre field, not far from their farm, that they used to grow corn.

“A Hmong woman, an immigrant from Laos, approached Moreira about using a small corner of the field to grow her own crops. Soon, word spread, and little by little the entire field was given over to immigrant farmers, each in charge of his or her own plot. Today, says Moreira, 275 farmers are growing more than 75 kinds of vegetables at what is now called Flats Mentor Farm. …

“Gus Schumacher, former Massachusetts commissioner of food and agriculture, came to know Moreira’s work when he served as a USDA undersecretary in the late ’90s. He notes that she was among a handful of leaders — others included John Ogonowski (one of the pilots killed on 9/11) and Jennifer Hashley, of New Entry Sustainable Farming Project — supporting refugees and immigrants in establishing themselves as farmers and market gardeners. It’s a movement that has since gained momentum nationally, he says. ‘But it all started in Massachusetts.’ ”

More at the Globehere.

Photo: Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
Maria Moreira, of Flats Mentor Farm, holds some lemon basil.

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Martha Bebinger had a great story at WBUR recently. It’s about an immigrant from Burundi with a mission.

“There were still drops of dew on the stalks of thick, spear-shaped leaves Fabiola Nizigiyimana slashed and tossed into a box one early morning.

“ ‘We call them lenga lenga, in our language,’ she said, laughing the words. “They are [a] green.’

“The 40-year-old single mother of five farms a one-acre plot in Lancaster. She’s one of 232 farmers who share the 40-acre Flats Mentor Farm. Last year, Nizigiyimana helped found a co-op that teaches farmers, many of whom can’t read or write in English or their native tongue, how to turn their plots into a business.

“They get help with packaging and selling their goods to local restaurants, ethnic food stores and farmers’ markets, many of them creating budgets and balance sheets for the first time.

“Nizigiyimana [was] honored for her work … at a White House ceremony after being selected as one of 15 USDA Champions of Change, who represent the next generation of farmers and ranchers.”

Read about all that this optimistic, cheerful woman has overcome and what challenges lie ahead for her business here.

Photo: Martha Bebinger/WBUR
Fabiola Nizigiyimana helped found a co-op that teaches farmers how to turn their plots into a business.

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