It was a stunning, sunny spring morning in Boise, Idaho’s Liberty Park near the St. Alphonsus medical campus, and two dozen people gathered with the promise of putting roots in the Earth.
A day and a half of rain had just concluded. Tilled soil was wet and stuck to shoes in big, muddy clumps. A group of women wearing bright blue, orange, yellow and purple head-scarves sat on the dirt, basking in the strong spring sun and scent of a just-passed storm.
Mahamud Kuso wore a blue button-up shirt and sat near the edge of the field with some other men. He spoke some English, but after several probing questions from a reporter flagged down a friend to translate his native Swahili.
He waved an arm toward the 2 acres of tilled soil where refugees of various nationalities were poking around a grid delineated by orange-painted wood stakes. In his native Kenya, he said, one person would farm an entire area that size, and that would be their main source of income. In Boise, the 3 square-meters that will be allotted to his entire family is comparatively tiny.
“You don’t have time to farm that much anyway because you have to work,” he said. “Back home there is less work, so you have to focus on farming for your daily bread.”
The community garden is an opportunity for refugees from diverse cultures and backgrounds to come together and nurture a sense of place, pride and fraternity. It’s also a great way to produce local food. On another level, though, it’s a fitting metaphor for refugee resettlement in the Treasure Valley. Families and people of various ethnicities were forced from their homelands and are looking for a place to put roots in the earth.