New American refugee and immigrant farmers face barriers to access land, capital, and markets. As a result, they experience significant challenges to accessing healthy, organic, affordable, culturally appropriate food, and barriers to economic prosperity resulting from limited markets for their agricultural endeavors. The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) is assisting three Somali Bantu food and farming groups, Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization (SLRO), New Roots Cooperative Farm (NRCF), and Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA), in developing access to healthy, local produce, including African vegetables, for New Americans and other residents of Lewiston, Maine and the surrounding region.
Jerry Lieberman, a friend, supporter, and collaborator with CDI, visited with CDI’s Maine staff and the farmer-owners of the New Roots cooperative farm in Lewiston, Maine.
For three years, CDI’s has helped these organizations develop, secure land access, raise money and develop farm business plans. CDI has also worked with New American farmers in ME, NH and VT and is now working with new co-op farms in MA and CT. CDI has identified the opportunity for these farmers to share best practices, grow markets and increase access to healthy food and build economic security throughout the region. CDI believes there is synergy to expand these relationships through facilitating in-person exchanges between these farm co-ops to lay the foundation for a regional network.
CDI has received financial support from the John Merck Fund and the USDA’s Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant (SDGG) which we have leveraged to raise over $150,000 in donations, grants, and financing to support the capital needs of these co-ops.
The project has recently received some great local coverage: