Archdiocese Local

Buy local and fresh through farm shares from Roots for Refugees

New Roots for Refugees farmers show off some of their produce. A collaboration of Cultivate KC and Catholic Charities, the program empowers families from the refugee community to start farm businesses by selling produce they grow at Juniper Gardens Training Farm in Kansas City, Kansas. PHOTO BY IM PHOTOGRAPHY

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With the virus receding and the weather improving, local farmers are hoping for a return to normalcy this summer.

And that is good news for farmers markets.

But if you want a jump on getting the freshest produce available, there’s no better plan than to buy a farm share from New Roots for Refugees.

A collaboration of Cultivate KC and Catholic Charities, the program empowers families from the refugee community to start farm businesses by selling produce they grow at Juniper Gardens Training Farm in Kansas City, Kansas.

Cultivate KC executive director Brien Darby moved to Kansas City a year ago, and buying into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was one of her first priorities.

“Being new to town and not having developed garden space at our house,” she said, “we knew we were going to need a CSA to help supplement our local produce intake every week.”

She bought a New Roots farm share and the experience went beyond her expectations.

“I love it,” she said. “There aren’t too many CSAs like this — you get a good mix of traditional vegetables most people would anticipate.

“But then, they kind of push the envelope by getting in some of those Southeast Asian vegetables and African vegetables that I would not pick for myself.”

 “We want [refugees] to make this their home,” said New Roots for Refugees program manager Meredith Walrafen. “And that means growing what they’re familiar with.

“We try to include [in the shares] things that are unique to a Midwestern palate.”

But no worries; recipes are available to help customers experiment with what often becomes a new favorite food.

“There’s one called chin baung,” said Darby. “I love it.

“They gave us a recipe in one of the newsletters and I tried that. Now I feel comfortable experimenting with it.”

As New Roots’ farmers adapt to the Midwest climate and market, an important part of their learning process is practicing organic agriculture.

If you are in the market for fresh, local, organic produce, there’s no better bargain.

“One of my favorite things about this program is if you’re ordering from us,” said Walrafen, “[the produce has] been harvested within one to three days.”

Darby has been impressed by how much the program helps her save time and money.

“If anyone is on the fence about trying this CSA,” she said, “you will absolutely get an amount of vegetables equal to and probably exceeding what you pay up front.

“And then, pickup is extremely easy with the four locations and someone there to provide guidance for you when you pick up.”

Newsletters inform customers about what produce to expect in their share, and other items can be added from the online store open each week from Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon.

Customers can purchase extra produce or items such as meat, honey and fresh flowers to add to their orders.

People who don’t own a share, but would like to support the program, can also set up an account and shop at the online store, then choose a pickup location.

New this year, aligning with Catholic Charities’ goal to serve neighbors in need, New Roots has been approved to accept food stamps for a farm share or for the online store.

And, of course, customers are always encouraged to participate in the Share-a-Share program, which enables a purchased share to be sent to a local food pantry.

‘Everybody seems to be reverting back to normal,” said Walrafen about the upcoming farm season. “So, the markets are continuing on and we’ll have people all over the metro area.

“You can find an updated list on our website of where New Roots farmers and graduates are selling.”

Spring is in the air and summer is coming fast, so grab your farm share before they’re sold out.

To purchase a farm share

Farm share customers can secure their share by going online to:

On this site, you can purchase a farm share subscription, place weekly orders and choose a convenient pickup location, or place a wholesale order if you are a restaurant, grocery store or other food retailer.

• Early Summer Vegetable Share – May 15 – July 24: $24/week

• Late Summer Vegetable Share – Aug. 7 – Oct. 16: $24/week

• Full Summer Share – one week free!

You can also purchase gift certificates for farm shares or online shopping.  For more information visit the website at:

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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