Program teaches refugees gardening and food preservation skills

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — SDSU Extension, in partnership with Somali Bantu Community Development Councils of South Dakota and HyVee, introduces a new beginning farmer incubator program, New Roots for New Americans. This program helps Sioux Falls refugees learn skills of horticulture and gardening, nutrition, cooking and food preservation skills as well as skills related to local food entrepreneurship.

The program was launched this winter when SDSU Extension designed a six-month, intensive classroom and garden-based training program, which began in January and runs weekly into June. Currently there are 38 participants.

Through this program, participants gain, community garden plots at the New American Garden and an opportunity to sell produce at the New American Garden Farmers Market.

Training also includes field trips to see commercial fruit and vegetable producer operations. In April participants visited Linda’s Garden, in Chester, S.D., where they observed field and high tunnel production.

The program is funded through a Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program (RAPP) grant which the Somali Bantu Community Development Councils of South Dakota acquired to assist aspiring, limited-resource refugee in developing their skills as gardeners, to encourage healthy diets and to sell their produce.

“A partnership with SDSU Extension has enhanced our program and brought new opportunities to our organization. Participants are learning about growing food in South Dakota, food safety, preservation and nutrition,” said Abdul Sidow, Executive Director of Somali Bantu Community Development Councils.

This grant helped fund the establishment of a community garden, a program director and horticultural educator/garden mentor. A partnership with the East 10th Street Hy-Vee provides the ground for 102 raised garden beds at the New American Garden.

The team who developed the curriculum includes: Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialist, who developed the program and provides instruction on food entrepreneurship; Karin Woltjer, an SDSU Extension Master Garden who serves as an instructor for the course; Lavonne Meyers, an SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist who provides hands-on food preservation workshops and food safety training; and Becky Phillips, an SDSU Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program(EFNEP)Assistant who provides hands-on food preparation classes where participant learn to prepare healthy meals utilizing garden produce.

To learn more, contact Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialist at