What are the benefits of teaching newcomers to plant a container garden?

  • Some newcomers come from agricultural backgrounds, and growing their own food may be a meaningful way to reconnect to the lives they left behind.
  • Provides an opportunity for physical activity and meaningful time with friends/family.
  • Allows the families to choose the types of plants they wish to grow.
  • Check on the families and their gardens once every month to make sure the plants are growing well. It would be great if the same volunteers could be attached to the same families so as to establish a relationship and build rapport. If the plants are not doing well, diagnose the problem with them, research and provide advice.
  • Provide them with more varieties of plants.
  • Request for the newcomers to bring in their harvested fruits and vegetables for discussion during the nutrition class. Talk about their nutritional value and discuss recipes that include those fruits and vegetables. This will create a sense of pride and accomplishment in newcomers and enhance other families’ interest in participating.

While interacting with newcomers:
  • Clothing: Dress appropriately, especially for Muslim families. Do not wear shorts or short-sleeved clothes.
  • Plan an activity for the kids. Volunteers can create a calendar for kids. The kids can place a sticker on the calendar daily after they watered the plants.
  • Speak to the interpreter and/or the family before going to their houses.
  • Research on common varieties of plants among different ethnic groups. This yields a secondary benefit of saving money as these varieties might be rare in the US and therefore more expensive. Example: The mother of the Central African Republic family was very happy with okra.
  • Tap on available resources. Volunteers can approach places for donations.
  • Sit and hang out with the newcomers. Ask them about their lives. Be interested to know more about them.
  • Involve the newcomers in the process as much as possible, especially the kids. Do not garden for them, do it with them.
  • During times when you don’t have the interpreter, smile as much as possible, facial expressions are universal.
  • Remember to leave instructions on how to care for the plant.
  • Remind the families to wash their hands after touching the fertilizer, especially their children.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to express thankfulness for being welcomed into the newcomers’ home.
  • Volunteers should debrief on what could be done better and improve on it the next time.

List of common vegetables newcomers can choose from: See tables below for item description, prices and recommended purchase locations.  

There are also a number of community gardens in the area, where newcomers can grow their own food:

See this link for others: http://www.nccgp.org/garden_directory