PHOTO FRIDAY: Refugee Farmers Struggle After Being Robbed

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In an area that has been largely paved or developed with warehouses and industry, one of the last remaining parcels of farmland in the Kent Valley is being intensively farmed by refugees from Burundi, a poor country in East Africa that was torn apart by the genocide that spilled over from Rwanda.

When they arrived in SeaTac three years ago from a refugee camp, the Burundians spoke no English and had no job skills for the modern world.

Today they share a ten-acre parcel in Kent with farmers from the Bantu tribe of Somalia.

Their goal has been to grow crops for their own families and to sell at local farmer’s markets, and they’re being helped toward those goals by the Children’s Home Society of Washington and Burst for Prosperity.

As they began their second season of farming, the cold spring weather and the heavy rains set them back, but they persevered and have just begun to harvest crops for the market. Unfortunately, there has just been another setback. On Wednesday, June 30th, at approximately 4 a.m., someone broke into their produce shed, stole their farm tools, their pump, two rototillers, their seeds, and even their work boots. They were shocked and dismayed, but they are determined to continue. In East Africa, they carried water from the creek to the fields by bucket and they were prepared to go back to doing that here if they had to.

With the warm weather, a water pump was a pressing issue. Local writer Richard Glaubman arranged for a pump via Jim’s Honda in Port Townsend. Glaubman didn’t want the farmers to wait for enough donations to come in to pay for the pump in order to get it, so he paid for it himself, hoping that subsequent donations from the community might help him recover those costs.

Glaubman’s generosity was quickly repaid through donations from the Port Townsend community, and excess funds are to be divided between the Burundi and the Somali Bantu to be used toward replacing the remainder of the stolen equipment.

To help forestall further problems, new, sturdy locks have also been donated.

A recent article about Glaubman’s donation in the Peninsula Daily news prompted an outpouring of support; a farmer in Olympia to offer to donate a rototiller and the Port Townsend community provided replacement hand tools.

Donations are still being accepted to help replace the remaining missing items and for general support of the fledgling project, and can be made through the Children’s Home Society of Washington (a direct link to the donation page is here), and please be sure to indicate in the appropriate box that your donation is intended for the Refugee Farmers Project.

Here’s Francis Zera’s Sound Slideshow of the farmers (be sure to turn your speakers on):

Click to Play
Click to Play Francis Zera’s Photo Slideshow

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