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USU Extension receives grant for Native American and refugee farmers

USU Extension

Kailey Foster: Recently a USU Extension received a grant that would fund programs to enhance farming opportunities for Native Americans and refugees. Joining me today is Dr. Kynda Curtis USU Extension Economist and Project Coordinator.

So, what will this grant fund help do?

Dr. Kynda Curtis: Yeah, so we were awarded a three-year grant from USDA as part of their Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. This is the second time we've been awarded this grant. And it helps over three years, by providing $600,000; so basically $200,000 annually to continue current refugee and Native American incubator farms in Utah and to create two new farms.

We currently have four farms. We have one in Redwood Road in Salt Lake City, we have another at Wheaton Farm in South Lake Valley, we have one in Logan, Utah, and we have one in Bluff Utah.

The three farms in northern Utah serve refugee farmers. Most of the refugee farmers that we're serving in the greater Salt Lake area are from Africa. Those that we're serving in Logan are primarily from Southeast Asia. And we have partners we're working with the International Rescue Committee and the Salt Lake farms. And we're working with CRIT, which is a refugee Education Center here in Logan, Utah on the Logan farm.

In the previous grant, we established a Native American serving farm down in Bluff. It's at the St. Christopher's mission, and it serves approximately 19 Native American farmers. And we'll be expanding to a new farm in Mexican water and also explained expanding some farming services for students at the blending campus.

KF: So, what kind of need is there for programs like this?

KC: Well, it's two-pronged, as I mentioned. I mean, a lot of these farmers are growing for their families. Another thing is that provides economic opportunity. They're selling the things that they produce, most of our farms, help them sell or even sell for them. So, like in the Salt Lake area, we have established farmers markets, and established communities supported ag programs. And so some of the people who work for IRC, you know, they collect all the harvest, they clean it, they package it, they sell it.

Another thing is many of our refugee farmers, you know, they come from, you know, war-torn areas and the act of farming is very good to help them recover mentally from those aspects. So, there are several things you know, there's having nutrition and food, there's economic opportunity, and there's also the mental health benefits.

KF: And why is this program unique to USU extension?

KC: We are one of the few, actually in the Intermountain West, who have an active incubator farm program for refugees and Native American farmers. And that's a lot due to the success that we've had and obtaining these grants, we work with partners, we're not the only ones involved as I mentioned.

Kailey Foster is a senior at Utah State University studying Agricultural Communications, Broadcast Journalism, and Political Science while also getting a minor in Agribusiness. She was raised in the dairy industry in Rhode Island where she found her passion for the agriculture industry as a whole. Here at USU, she has held various leadership positions in the Dairy Science Club and the local Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. She also also served as the 2020 Utah Miss Agriculture and is currently the 2021 Utah Ms. Agriculture. Here at UPR, she works on agriculture news stories and she produces agriculture segments such as USU Extension Highlights, the Green Thumb, and Ag Matters.