Refugees and immigrants with agricultural roots have a good friend in the Vermont USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Brad and Larry Parker, brothers and employees of the FSA, are helping Asian and African immigrants with cultural education, business connections, financial resources, and farming advice through the New Farms for New Americans Program.
Many immigrants come to the United States with farming backgrounds but don’t have English language skills, experience with native crops, knowledge of industry practices, access to familiar foods, or the money for farmland.
The Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), a non-profit organization providing services to refugees and immigrants who have resettled in Vermont, formed a partnership with the Vermont FSA that has allowed new residents to obtain loans, build business plans, purchase land, grow crops, sell their harvest to local restaurants, and even turn a profit.
Acting as both allies and educators, the Parker brothers bridged a cultural divide. Through training sessions in farming and business techniques as well as language and social skills, they worked together with the AALV to provide a social service that cultivates leadership, allowing immigrants to take the economic and social challenges of American life head on.
The AALV began as a small African community group dedicated to discussing the challenges of a new American life. It has since grown into an organization serving all refugees in Vermont, with a full-time staff offering valuable opportunities for new residents. Their partnership with the USDA Farm Service Agency is vital, helping the community make great strides in their new situations.
The farmers are not only paying off loans but generating a sustainable income and celebrating harvests together with the Parker brothers and the Vermont FSA office.