Transplanting Roots

Zoey Fink is a Burquena who graduated from UNM in 2016. You may know her from the Stone Age Climbing Gym, the hip downtown coffee shop Zendo or the friendly face behind the information booth at the Downtown Growers’ Market. In November Zoey made the move from organizing farms to running one. She is now the Program Manager of the Tres Hermanas Farm affiliated with the refugee resettlement program, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountain Refugee and Asylee.

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The Tres Hermanas Farm plot, located at the Rio Grande Community Farm. Three Congolese women are working in the field on the far left, and Zoey is walking toward them. Photo Credit: Author

Zoey is working on four different ways for refugee families to get involved with farming and gardening. One way is to work at the SWOP Garden in the International District, and another is to work on a couple garden beds provided by a local church. The resettlement agency also has a small piece of land on 8th St near Mountain Rd. It is part of Red Wagon Urban Farm & Community Garden, which is partially owned by the Harwood Art Center and Red Tractor Farm. And then there is the larger Tres Hermanas farm, which is community garden style and divided up into rows. The farm is located on the Rio Grande Community Farm and is about half an acre. Zoey says, “the goal of the program is to empower the Albuquerque refugee population by providing them with space to grow for themselves, and for their families and then to help them access market places that they wouldn’t know otherwise how to access.”

The Lutheran Family resettlement agency has offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Morgan, Greely, and Albuquerque. The program does everything from getting refugees into the country, picking them up from the airport, finding them a place to live, a job, schools for the children (and the parents), and in the case of the Albuquerque branch, an opportunity to work on a farm.

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Lutheran Family resettlement agency classroom. Photo Credit: LFS Refugee – Albuquerque

The number of refugees coming into New Mexico every year determines the agency’s budget. Refugees are coming from many countries, including Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the new Administration’s policies have drastically reduced that number, it is possible that the resettlement agency will start seeing budget cuts.

For the time being, Zoey is working hard to get infrastructure in place at the farm in case the budget cuts do occur. She visits the agency’s English classes to recruit more families to come out to the farm. She says, “It’s really important because I am establishing myself in the community. I don’t know these people and they’re not going to come to the farm if they don’t know who I am or what I’m talking about. Once people start to come then they start to talk about it and when I present about [the farm] they explain to the others what I’m talking about.”

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Three members of Tres Hermanas Farm are working on preparing the soil for planting. Photo credit: LFS Refugee – Albuquerque

Right now there are about 20 families signed up and Zoey is looking to get about another 10 for this year. Many of the families come from agricultural backgrounds and have brought with them some of their traditional farming techniques. If the family doesn’t have a farming background Zoey and the Lutheran Family resettlement agency are ready and willing to help them through it.

In the future Zoey hopes to support the farmers through training programs such as the Las Huertas Farmer Training Program and to eventually set them up with a booth at the Downtown Growers’ Market. She also hopes to have farmers take more leadership over the farm. In the event that the resettlement agency funding does fall through, the Rio Grande Community Farm will most likely allow the Tres Hermanas Farm to stay put. With a little leadership, the farm could be entirely independent. In the meantime they are hard at work and you can look forward to seeing their booth at a future growers’ market!

-Posted by Juliet

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