New Iowans farming on land near Pleasant Hill

July 10, 2020

by Leigh Adcock, communications specialist

New Iowans have a new place to grow food for sale this summer, thanks to a partnership between Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI), the city of Pleasant Hill and a local landowner. The FFED Community Food Systems team was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.

Group standing on farm.
Four new Iowans originally from Burundi are among the farmers working on the newly leased land in Pleasant Hill. From left: Cubwa Rajabu, Marie Kashindi and Innocent Kabahizi with Delefine Niyigena (daughter of Marie and Innocent) translating. These farmers are graduates of the Global Greens incubator program. LSI photo.

The team worked with local group Grow Pleasant Hill between 2016 and 2019. They led a food systems assessment that clarified priorities to support a healthy local food system in this community of 8,700 a few miles east of Des Moines.

One priority project was creation of an “agrihood,” or a neighborhood centered around community agriculture. Learn more about the CFS team’s facilitation of the agrihood project in this earlier blog post.

Keeping farmland in farming

Area landowner Phyllis Childers is leasing 12 acres of her family farmland to LSI for its Global Greens program. As part of the organization’s Refugee and Immigrant Services, Global Greens supports former refugees in the Des Moines area as they start their own small farming businesses. Two farming families have expanded their businesses and are sub-leasing Childers’ land from LSI.

Two farmers gesture at growing plants.
Marie Kashindi helps lead the farm tour.

LSI held a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony at the farm via Facebook live on June 26. The ceremony featured comments from LSI staff, Phyllis and some of the farmers now growing food on the land.

Zac Couture, farm manager for LSI, said in his comments, “I want to remind us that we don’t need to assimilate our former refugee neighbors to our ways, because their dreams and goals are the same as ours—healthy families, safe and resilient communities, abundant opportunities for our children, [and] land ownership.”

Supporting farm businesses

Next up was a virtual farm tour, including a peek at the new wash and pack shed LSI staff recently added at the location. Global Greens farmers grow and sell produce at their own farmers market and CSA. You can access their produce online through the Iowa Food Coop.

Global Greens helps connect over 150 gardeners to community gardens each year. The program also works with around 25 beginning farmers annually as they pursue starting small farming businesses.

The farmers start their farming businesses on the 8.5-acre Global Greens Farm at Valley Community Center in West Des Moines. Global Greens works with graduates to find land where they can expand their farming businesses. Global Greens now supports six graduate families, farming on a total of 20+ acres.

Learn more about our CFS team’s work with Grow Pleasant Hill here (click Research and Previous Projects tab).