A few years ago, we were approached by a representative of a community of Karen people, a persecuted ethnic minority from Myanmar, with a proposition: Would be willing to provide these refugees, farmers in their homeland but now living in urban apartments, a parcel of land where they could grow some of their own crops?
The purpose was two-fold: As an incubator, it could help the Karen earn money, the better to ease their assimilation into their new home in Central Indiana, and as a small farm, it could reconnect them with the soul-satisfying joy of working the land.
We agreed and before long, we had a group of new friends raising crops you’re not likely to see on most Central Indiana produce farms – bitter melon, yard-long bean, and a host of others. We prepared the soil for them, but the work was theirs to do.
The Karen proved to be diligent farmers, raising enough produce for their own consumption and for sale to ethnic markets, and the project was deemed a wonderful success.
Now we move on to another chapter.
The Karen have planted more than just crops – they’ve planted themselves, too. They’re buying houses and becoming part of the fabric of our community … cultivating new fields, you might say.
And so our project with them comes to an end – but it’s a happy ending. Our Karen friends have moved on but there is another group of newcomers waiting to come out to the farm in 2013 to begin their own process of incubation, assimilation and connection. We don’t yet know who they are or where they’ll come from, but we do know that we can’t wait to welcome them to our farm family.