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Refugees Planting New Roots In Utah Through Farming Program

Photo of Albert Betoudji tying together mustard greens.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Albert Betoudji, a refugee from Chad, harvests mustard greens at a farm in West Valley City. Betoudji is part of the New Roots program operated by the International Rescue Committee, a local nonprofit that supports new Americans.

Farmers’ markets provide customers an abundance of fresh produce, but two Salt Lake County markets that primarily serve refugees also create cultural connections through food. 

The markets are run by the International Rescue Committee as part of its mission to support immigrants as they establish new lives in the United States. The produce is grown by refugee farmers at the organization’s two farm sites in West Valley City and Draper. 

The refugee advocacy group started its New Roots program in 2010. Executive Director Natalie El-Deiry said the markets are meant to provide neighborhoods located in food deserts with access to fresh produce. The farming component of the program gives refugees a way to make extra money and start them on an entrepreneurial path. 

The International Rescue Committee holds two farmers markets in South Salt Lake and Millcreek where they also offer free, nonperishable foods to their customers. The nonprofit plans to open a third market next year.

Editor’s Note: The International Rescue Committee will benefit from KUER’s upcoming fall fund drive as a social good partner.

Photo of Albert Betoudji washing mustard greens.
Credit Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Refugee farmer Albert Betoudji washes mustard greens he grew at the International Rescue Committee’s farm in West Valley City. Bitoudji has been farming there for nine years.
Photo of IRC farm.
Credit Rocio Hernandez / KUER
The International Rescue Committee has a farm just under two acres in West Valley City where refugee farmers can grow crops ranging from cherry tomatoes to roselle. It also has a second, larger farm site in Draper.
Photo of Roselle leaves.
Credit Rocio
Roselle is a plant that’s found in west Africa that many refugees come to buy at the International Rescue Farmers markets in Salt Lake County. Farmer Ashraf Kambare says the leafy green tastes like mixing sugar and salt together.
Photo of shoppers at market.
Credit Brian Albers / KUER
Customers line up at a Millcreek farmers’ market waiting to buy produce. The International Rescue Committee says roughly a 100 people come to the Saturday market.
Photo of shoppers at market.
Credit Brian Albers / KUER
The International Rescue Committee’s farmers market in Millcreek offers its clients hard-to-find crops like African eggplant, roselle and okra. Customers typically buy as much as they can before the produce runs out.
Photo of Ashraf Kambere selling produce.
Credit Brian Albers / KUER
Congolese refugee Ashraf Kambere is one of the program’s farmers but he also works as a volunteer at the market. He says he enjoys seeing the face of his customers when they get to buy foods that represent a little piece of home to them.

Rocio is coming to KUER after spending most of her life under the blistering Las Vegas sun and later Phoenix. She earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno. She did brief stints at The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Public Radio. She enjoys wandering through life with her husband and their toy poodle.
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