Vegetable gardening has become a lot more popular in recent years.
And community garden plots are popping up around the state.
Some of these gardeners are hoping to help their tightening grocery budgets.
Some simply want to know where their food comes from.
But as NHPR’s Gina Gioldassis reports, at one community garden in Concord, a lot more is growing than just summer vegetables.
The site of the Sycamore Community Garden nestled right next to New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord looks like any other.
The individual garden plots lined up neatly in rows across the otherwise overgrown field.
Tiny green tomatoes hang loosely from waist high plants surrounded by rows of corn.
Young eggplants and cucumbers peek out from under tresses of green beans.
The gardeners are bent over, pulling weeds, sweating in the hot sun.
But here’s the difference.
Sound of Somali
That’s Batulo Mahamed talking to her six young children.
She was a refugee from war-torn Somalia, and has spent the last six years here in Concord.
Batulo: “We lived before in three different place. First, I lived in Somalia. After Somalia, we lived in Kenya. Then we called for a refugee camp Dadaab. Then we come to Kakuma. Then after Kakuma we came to the United States.”
While her husband works as a carpenter, Mahamed and her kids work in the garden.
It provides her with food, a little income, and open space for her children.
Children: And here’s the corn. Very yummy! Here’s the corn maze…follow. We call it the corn maze for some old reason. Yup because the corn, this is corn. Yeah this is corn and it’s growing. Yeah that’s corn. It’s growing.
But Mahamed’s not the only gardener here to come from thousands of miles away. Some of her neighbors have sought refuge from Bhutan, Burundi, the Sudan, Somalia, and Sierra Leon.
NHTI donated the land which sits conveniently next to a pond.
It’s also on a bus route, so it’s easy for people to get to if they don’t drive.
Organizers created 54 plots originally, but the space has grown to 120 plots serving 107 families.
They share plants, seeds, water and tools.
They exchange old traditions, and they learn about new foods, like this one from Bhutan.
The gardens’ organizers are learning too.
Liz Martin is with University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension.
She knows a lot about plants and food.
But the refugees have also taught her a thing or two.
Liz Martin: We all laughed at the beginning of the year when everybody started digging trenches. They all dug big trenches, the Bhutanese at least, around their gardens. And then they dug in between as well.
The organizers couldn’t figure out why they were doing it.
All the plots were clearly marked out.
The Bhutanese gardeners didn’t have to mark territory.
“Doing a little bit of research, they are all from countries where they do get monsoons and they had a wonderful year last year. It served them very well because we did have one of the wettest years ever.”
(sfx of children playing)
Mahamed’s children play with one another among these trenches, as well as her thriving vegetables.
They do their best to help their mother maintain her garden.
Being here gives Mahamed’s children a chance to be outside and play.
It also gives them a chance to balance what they’ve learned in America with their mother’s traditions.
(kids talking about food)
As the children play, their mom and other gardeners fight never ending battle against weeds and bugs.
But they’re not working alone.
Local Concord residents help out sometimes and have donated tools and are working to replace the water pump.
Still, even with all the local help, Garden manager Cheryl Bourassa is struck by the refugees perserverance and optimism.
Cheryl Bourassa: “They are a model of Resiliency. You meet people within the refugee community who come from truly truly difficult circumstances. And yet, for somebody like Batulo, you can just tell, she is this joyful woman. So For me with young children it is a lovely model of no matter what life throws at you, if you’ve got the right attitude, you can keep going, you can do better.”
For NHPR news, I’m Gina Gioldassis