Farm entrepreneurs build business together – World Refugee Day 2018

idaho farm story

Boise, Idaho – a farmer honors his farm business partner for World Refugee Day 2018

farm carrotsI met Farhan during the summer of 2016, when I began working as the farm manager for Global Gardens. Farhan was farming through Global Garden’s entrepreneurial farming training program and selling his produce at our local farmers’ market and through community supported agriculture (CSA) shares.

During those first few months in the farm manager role, I worked with Farhan occasionally but we really didn’t get to know each other until the following season, when we built a wholesale program together.

Farhan was born in Somalia, where he was raised on a farm that he and his family tended until they were forced to flee to Kenya in 1991. He lived in Kenya until 2004, when he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and then to Boise in 2007. There, Farhan learned about, and became part of the Global Gardens entrepreneurial farming program in 2009.

farm eggplantAlthough Farhan grew up farming, growing and selling produce to Americans through farmers’ markets or through CSA shares was much different than subsistence farming and market gardening, which is what he knew. When he first joined Global Gardens, Farhan remembers, “Katie (Global Garden’s program director) taught me how to plant, space and harvest my veggies so I could grow more for market.” He joyfully explained with a huge smile how ecstatic he was to have land to farm. It reminded him of his youth in Somalia, he explained, “But also taught me how to sell produce at the market and make money.”

As a farmer, growing produce is only one of the skills you must have to be successful; it is also imperative that you have the ability to market and sell, store and advocate for yourself and your business. Rarely is it as straightforward as planting and selling all of your produce at the farmers’ market or directly to a restaurant.

During the summer of 2017, Farhan, Ali (another farmer in the Global Gardens program), and I reinvigorated a dormant wholesale program. Our goal was to sell produce directly to restaurant and generate income for Farhan’s and Ali’s farm business, while also increasing access to locally grown produce throughout Boise.

We started small by meeting and establishing relationships with chefs, organizing ourselves by creating resources like produce prices sheets, crop planting plan, and systems from harvest, washing, storing, and delivering produce.

farmers market tomatoesFarhan was instrumental in developing the foundation of our newly revamped wholesale program. His dedication and tireless work ethic (despite the fact that he works night shift) was contagious, as was his incredible and unique ability to infuse work with his lively sense of humor and playfulness. While working with Farhan, I’ve had the distinct opportunity to learn more about Farhan and his passion for farming and providing his community with healthy, fresh produce. I learned that if there was produce that wasn’t sold at the farmers’ market, Farhan would take it to his mosque and give it to those in need of fresh produce. He also taught me about different traditional produce that is grown and enjoyed in Somalia, and how it’s prepared, like mchicha (African spinach, or amaranth).

By the end of last season we worked with ten restaurants and two farm stands, and sold over 2,000 pounds of produce. This season we are eagerly working to deepen our relationships with chefs and find new markets to sell produce to. Currently we are consistently selling produce four days a week to five restaurants and one mobile market. I am excited to be working with our wholesale team, and to see what surprises come out of this season.

Refugees shaking hands

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World Refugee Day 2018

This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place. They will open new worlds for you.

Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.

Learn more about World Refugee Day. All across the country, there will be events celebrating World Refugee Day. Visit this map to find an event in your community.

About Tim McKinley
Tim McKinley is an Idaho native with a passion for farming. He is the Farm Manager & Wholesale Program Coordinator for Global Gardens in Boise.