Three refugees from Bhutan are participating in the farm worker training program through the Local Food Hub and the International Rescue Committee, or IRC. Since farm work during the winter is scarce, the men are staying busy by making a unique craft that's spreading holiday cheer: Christmas wreaths.
It's a labor of love, from laying down the hand-picked tree branches, to clamping metal with a foot pedal, to cutting out all the excess branches. The three men are working hard making the wreaths, something they had never heard of before.
"This is our first time making a wreath," said refugee Tul Tamang.
The three men work at Maple Hill Farm throughout the year, but as with many Virginia farms, production slows down during the winter months. "One of the issues with working in agriculture in our area is how to maintain year round income," said Harriet Kuhr, the executive director of the Charlottesville IRC.
Steve Vargo of the Local Food Hub says Christmas wreaths seemed to be the best solution."This is an example of the off-season production that we're doing here on the farm to keep the guys working, and also to raise money for their pay," he said. "Because over the winter time everyone knows in Virginia a lot of farms start shutting down," Vargo said.
It takes up to 30 minutes to make each wreath, and each one costs around $40, depending on the size. It's income Tamang is thankful for. "For the Christmas time, it's good money," he said.
Vargo said he's impressed with how well the wreath making is going. "They've just done a gorgeous job with these things, I mean they're really beautiful and fragrant," he said.
The three Bhutanese refugees are happy to be making something special that's spreading holiday cheer here in their new home.