SyRAPP + Deaf New Americans:
This year we were fortunate to have the opportunity to welcome a new community to the Salt City Harvest Farm. We were introduced to members of the deaf New American population, including Monu Chhetri and her husband Jai, who expressed an interest in coming out to the farm for a work day. Following the work day, the staff received an email from our Assistant Manager, Aaron Bodine, who had worked with them on that first day and raved that it was “a huge success.” The deaf New Americans had worked hard weeding and putting down mulch, and Aaron had a great time getting to know them and working alongside them.
Over the course of the rest of the growing season, Monu and Jai and the rest of the crew came out to the farm every Monday to help plant, weed, trellis and harvest, and the rest of the farm staff has gotten to know them, and to look forward to the time that they spend with us. As with the rest of our New American community, they take home the majority of what we harvest on any given work day. Communication is facilitated on many days with the help of Monu’s colleague and friend Trish, who translates between spoken English and American Sign Language, which. Monu and Jai can then translate for other deaf New Americans in Nepalese sign language or, in the case of Eritrea and some other members of the community, through informal hand signs. Communication is thus quite dynamic and effective. Even on days when Trish can’t be there, we are able to mutually communicate, as Jai and Monu are adept at reading lips, and speaking aloud and writing in English.
We also welcomed the first class of SyRAPP incubator farm participants to Salt City Harvest Farm this year. This program, in collaboration with RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment), Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and Brady Faith Farm, trains New Americans over the course of multiple years, with the goal of enabling them to run their own farming operations. Our program began in 2017 with gardening classes led by RISE and CCE and small plots in the city of Syracuse, and now in the second year of the program the first class of participants each received a 1/8-acre plot of land at Salt City Harvest Farm to grow their own crops. All eleven participants worked all season long and each grew hundreds of pounds of produce, much of which was shared with their communities on the Northside in Syracuse and some of which was sold at the Regional Market and elsewhere. They learned new skills, including how to work with drip tape irrigation and how to prepare harvested produce for sale to American markets, and they shared with us production techniques of their own. Their plots were variegated explosions of colors and smells, full of marigolds and mustard seed, potatoes and tomatoes and a bounty of corn. Next year this first class will have the opportunity to manage a quarter-acre plot each, while the class behind them will graduate to their own 1/8-acre plots. We are excited to see what these ambitious and hard-working student-farmers accomplish in the coming years!