Refugees get First-Hand Farm Training

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Some refugees in Albemarle County are sharing their farming skills while learning about agriculture in the United States.  It's part of a new partnership to provide employment and build a stronger farm labor workforce.  

The Local Food Hub and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) teamed up to give three men from Bhutan a chance to put their farming skills to good use in the Farm Worker Training program.

This partnership is an extension of the IRC's New Roots program which gives refugees the opportunities to garden and grow food for their families.

For Tul Tamang, Sha Tamang and Kedar Paudel, gathering bushels of potatoes is more than just harvesting nature's bounty, it's a chance at a new life.

Tending the fields begins early each day at the Local Food Hub's 75 acre farm in Albemarle County. 

Emily Manley is the Outreach and Development Director at the Local Food Hub.  She says the program provides refugees a paying job and builds their farm skills.

"It's a nice way for them to sort of transition into living in America and here in Virginia and get some skills that they can use to get jobs on other farms and maybe even start their own farming operation in the future," Manley said.

Courtney Cook is an Employment Supervisor at the IRC and says the men are excited about the opportunity to work on the farm.  

"They're really happy to feel useful to know the skills they are contributing are needed," Cook said.

These men already have an extensive background in farming but they're learning how it's done in the United States. 

"They take one look at the way we prune tomatoes and they say 'Oh my gosh you're killing the tomatoes,' said Manley. "We have to show them no we're not actually killing the tomatoes it's just a different method of pruning them."

Manley also says food production is at an all-time high thanks to this program.  

The Farm Worker Training program will end in October unless the Local Food Hub can secure more funding. That money will go toward build more greenhouses so they can continue to employ the three men through the winter.