Gardening Program Unites Refugees, Agriculture

[By Glenn Rutherford]

Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program is operated by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Catholic Charities.  Some of the produce from this program is sold through the JFCS Farmers Market every Sunday afternoon.

History has its roots in agriculture. So do the majority of refugees and immigrants who come to the United States, especially those from Asia and Africa.

In their homelands the immigrants grew much of what they ate. Now they’ve been resettled in a land that, to a large degree, appears to have left agriculture and farming behind. Children grow up thinking Cheetos are vegetables or that food is magically produced by supermarkets. They know little of the farming background of their own ancestors — people who not so long ago depended upon their own gardens and farms for the majority of what they put on the kitchen table.

Consider these numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • In 1900, nearly half of the American workforce was employed in agriculture.
  • By 1945 that number had fallen to just 16 percent of the labor force.
  • By 2002, the number was approaching just one percent.

In other words, nearly 99 percent of people in the U.S. may know little about how their food is produced and have nothing to do with producing any of it themselves.

Refugees and immigrants have a dramatically different contemporary agricultural history. In many cases, their lives depended upon what they were able to coax the ground to produce.

And now a program run by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Catholic Charities is helping to ensure that those who arrive here from other lands don’t have to leave their agricultural and gardening heritage behind them.

It’s called the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program (RAPP), and it began three years ago with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. Today that program provides gardening space for refugees in two locations as well as opportunities to sell some of what they grow at area farmer’s markets.

Read more from The Record’s article by clicking here.
Story and photo compliments of The Record.

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