How Mukamujeni Finds Rest in Seeing Her Crops Flourish

Farmer Profiles

How Mukamujeni Finds Rest in Seeing Her Crops Flourish

Mukamujeni Nyiramutuzo, one of the farmers assisted by the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), explains that her tireless efforts in growing vegetables and culturally significant crops extend beyond tangible materials; it’s the joy she feels when witnessing her crops flourish.

Originally from Congo, Mukamujeni shares that farming has been her lifelong passion, a skill she began honing at the age of seven. “I’ll never forget the tiring collection of climbing bean sticks,” she recalls when asked about her earliest farming memory as a child.

From her childhood days cultivating beans, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables to her current status as a farmer in the US, Mukamujeni’s commitment to farming has remained unwavering. “I began farming the very year I arrived in the US. Farming isn’t just a job; it’s my passion. Seeing ripe crops in the field brings me indescribable joy.”

“In winter, I feel unwell. I miss the crops and spending time outdoors, conversing with friends and engaging in various field tasks,” she shares.

For Mukamujeni, the primary reason she continues farming is the ability to provide fresh, culturally significant crops for herself and her family, enriching her life in her adopted home. She hopes her children will follow in her footsteps, although she acknowledges the challenges. “They perceive farming as something for the elderly, having different ambitions and aspirations. I believe it’s because they are growing up in a culture with endless opportunities and choices.”

Mukamujeni, along with 25 other farmers, cultivates various vegetables such as amaranth, kale, Bok choy, carrots, cabbages, and African eggplants, as well as other culturally significant crops like potatoes and sweet potatoes on a 1/12-acre plot provided by ORIS.

The farming season typically runs from late May or early June to mid-October. During winter, ORIS assists farmers in engaging in farming techniques and food safety training, record-keeping, and planning for the upcoming season.

These training sessions provide valuable opportunities for farmers to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and build connections with potential buyers for the upcoming season.

Mukamujeni’s advice to New Americans passionate about farming is to start small and gradually expand. “New farmers can begin by acquiring a small plot and grow in their spare time.” She advises.

Farmer Profiles

Godence: How ORIS Helped Improve My English Speaking Skills

Godence Ndabumvirubusa, a seasoned farmer who began tilling the earth at the age of 10 in her native Rwanda, credits ORIS for the remarkable improvement in her English-speaking abilities since joining Fresh Start Farms. Her journey in the U.S. has not only enriched her farming skills but has also broadened her horizons as a vendor, fostering interactions with fellow vendors, predominantly native to the U.S.

Arriving in America as a refugee from Tanzania in 2007, Godence explored various employment avenues before discovering Fresh Start Farms and ORIS, an organization dedicated to empowering immigrants and refugees to showcase their agricultural expertise. Since then, she has remained committed to seizing every opportunity they provide.

Reflecting on her early farming experiences with her parents, Godence reminisces about the joy of watching crops flourish and the satisfaction of contributing to her household’s needs. Her repertoire included cultivating potatoes, beans, corn, and assorted vegetables—a passion she never imagined she could continue thousands of miles away from her homeland.

Climate change poses significant challenges to Godence’s farming endeavors, with erratic weather patterns wreaking havoc on her crops. To mitigate these challenges, ORIS and the NRCS assisted her in acquiring a high tunnel at the Concord farm, enabling her to extend the growing season and safeguard her produce from adverse weather conditions.

“The high tunnel has been a game-changer for me,” Godence affirms. “It enables me to commence farming earlier and shields my crops from excessive rain and scorching sun.”

Along with approximately 40 fellow farmers, Godence typically commences farming activities from mid-May until the end of September, contingent upon weather conditions. However, inadequate market access remains a significant hurdle, dampening her enthusiasm.

“Despite our best efforts, the inability to sell all our vegetables can be disheartening,” Godence admits. “But we remain hopeful, knowing that ORIS is diligently working to expand our market opportunities.”

ORIS has forged partnerships with numerous wholesalers and has enlisted Godence and other farmers in over 35 farmers’ markets across New England, with ongoing efforts to identify new avenues for sales and satisfaction.

Farmer Profiles

From Fields to Food Trucks: Babu Zuberi’s Journey in Farming

Babu Zuberi, a Concord NH resident, is on the cusp of transforming his one-year-old farming venture into a thriving business. Originally from Congo and Tanzania, where farming was a way of life for his family, Babu has rekindled his agricultural roots in the United States. Supported by the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS), Babu is not only cultivating crops but also envisioning expansion into farmers markets and even venturing into the food truck business.

Having engaged in farming back in Africa, Babu’s transition to farming in America faced initial challenges due to a lack of connections and information. However, his fortunes changed when ORIS offered him a plot and the opportunity to join a community of 40 fellow farmers. Babu reflects on the immense support he receives from ORIS, which provides training on proper farming systems, food safety, and market access.

For Babu, farming is not just a source of income; it is a deeply rewarding experience. He finds joy in working the soil, witnessing seeds sprout into seedlings, and eventually cultivating flourishing crops. Babu emphasizes the financial rewards that come with successful farming, making it a fulfilling venture for those passionate about agriculture.

Babu specializes in cultivating culturally appropriate crops for the immigrant and refugee communities from East Africa. His produce includes African Eggplant, Amaranth, Isogo, Sawa sawa, ibisusa, and more. To share his harvest with a wider audience, Babu participates in local farmers markets, such as the Morning Star Farmers Market and Concord Farmers Market.

Undeterred by last year’s limited market opportunities, Babu is gearing up to attend two additional farmers markets within a 40-minute radius as soon as the weather warms. Beyond that, he is taking his farm on the road by investing in a food truck. This move aims to bridge the gap for consumers who may not be able to reach traditional markets and offer a diverse range of culturally rich and healthy meal choices.

Babu’s food truck will not only feature his fresh produce but also offer a taste of Africa to a wider audience. Among the menu items is Mandazi, a ball-fried pastry with a donut-like flavor, popular in Africa and among African communities worldwide. Babu envisions providing a plethora of breakfast and meal choices to cater to diverse preferences.

Future Aspirations

Looking ahead, Babu Zuberi plans to own and run his own land, expanding his farming endeavors to include livestock. This strategic move will not only provide a sustainable source of manure but also pave the way for a holistic and self-sufficient farming operation.

Babu Zuberi’s journey from the fields to the food truck epitomizes the resilience, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit of individuals pursuing their farming dreams. As he continues to cultivate not just crops but a thriving business, Babu remains an inspiration for those who see the potential for growth in every seed planted and every harvest reaped.

Farmer Profiles

Harimaya’s Journey to Sustainable Farming in New Hampshire

Harimaya has found solace and purpose in farming since 2015, when she started her farming activities in Boscawen NH, thanks to the support of the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS). Having overcome challenges in her journey, she now grows flowers and vegetables, creating a vibrant tapestry of memories that connect her to her childhood and homeland.

Harimaya’s love for farming traces back to her early years in Nepal, where she followed in the footsteps of her uncle and granddad through dense jungles teeming with Jaguars, Tigers, and wild animals. Despite the challenges, these memories form the foundation of her enduring passion for farming. She vividly recalls the ingenuity of storing harvests without modern amenities, relying on traditional methods like drying and pickling to sustain her family through seasons.

For Harimaya, farming is more than a livelihood; it’s a way of life that brings peace to her soul. After relocating to the United States in 2014, she faced a year-long hiatus from farming due to the absence of suitable land. However, her fortunes changed in 2015 when she joined ORIS in New Hampshire, allowing her to reconnect with the soil and rediscover the joy of cultivating crops.

During the winter, Harimaya engages in regular jobs, but when warmer seasons arrive, she dons her farmer’s hat. Beyond the fields, she actively participates in various farmers’ markets across the state, viewing it not only as a source of income but as an opportunity to connect with fellow farmers and showcase the fruits of her labor. Despite her dedication, she acknowledges that farming alone is insufficient to cover the rising costs of living, treating it as a part-time endeavor.

Harimaya, like many growers, grapples with challenges such as climate change and a limited market for her produce. The shortage of customers can be disheartening, and she emphasizes the need for more market opportunities to expand her farming activities. Harimaya seeks solutions and has been enrolled by ORIS in three farmers’ markets open between May and October: Concord Farmers Market, Bedford Farmers Market, and Canterbury Farmers Market.

With determination and resilience, Harimaya envisions an organized and successful future for her farming activities. Her customer base, a diverse mix of regular Americans and immigrants, particularly those from India and Nepal, speaks to the universal appeal of her produce. As she navigates the ups and downs of farming, Harimaya remains committed to reaching as many people as possible, fostering connections, and ensuring the prosperity of her agricultural venture.

Harimaya’s journey represents the transformative power of farming, transcending borders and connecting communities. Her dedication, coupled with the support of ORIS, serves as an inspiring tale of resilience, cultural preservation, and the enduring joy that comes from nurturing the land. In the fields of Boscawen, Harimaya continues to sow the seeds of her dreams, cultivating not just crops but a legacy that echoes the richness of her Nepalese heritage.

Farmer Profiles

Elizabeth Nyirabutega: Cultivating a Better Life Through Farming

In the scenic landscapes of Southern New Hampshire, Elizabeth Nyirabutega has cultivated not just a thriving farm, but a life filled with resilience and determination. Elizabeth’s journey is intertwined with The Double Up Food Bucks program, a symbiotic partnership with food stamps that has not only increased her income but has also transformed her lifestyle.

The Double Up Food Bucks program, allowing the purchase of local produce with an EBT card to get double the purchased produce, has been a game-changer for Elizabeth. This initiative has brought about a financial boon, evident in the regular checks she now receives every two weeks. For Elizabeth and her family, life has taken a positive turn.

ORIS-owned trusty tractor has been a blessing for Elizabeth, streamlining much of the arduous farming work. However, even with modern equipment, challenges persist. There are moments when the tractor falls short, and Elizabeth, alongside her hands and arms, steps in to ensure the job is done right.

Elizabeth’s farm is a haven for African vegetables rarely found in standard state markets. From amaranth to African eggplants, collard greens to daikon radishes, kale, carrots, corn, and eggplants, her diverse produce reflects a commitment to cultivating both tradition and health.

Farming, for Elizabeth, is not just a profession; it’s a way of life. Living with a disability that prevents her from enduring an 8-hour shift, she cherishes the autonomy that farming offers. “I like farming because you are your boss,” she shares. Flexibility in work hours allows her to take breaks when needed and return refreshed, or even head home whenever required if the day’s tasks are completed.

Beyond personal satisfaction, Elizabeth sees farming as an avenue to provide her family with healthy, organic, and fresh produce. Health issues further motivate her to grow food that suits her dietary needs. “I get fresh produce for home consumption; I even sell my produce to different markets here in Southern N.H,” she proudly asserts.

Elizabeth is a fixture at various farmers’ markets in New Hampshire, participating in the Concord Market on Saturday mornings and the Morning Start farmers markets every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. She collaborates with Fresh Start Food Hub, under the wing of the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS). ORIS supports Elizabeth and 40 other farmers from diverse backgrounds, fostering a community that transcends borders.

For Elizabeth, farming is not just about sustenance but also about well-being. She views it as a form of exercise vital for a healthier life, echoing the encouragement of medical professionals.

Expressing gratitude for the support from ORIS, Elizabeth does face a challenge – deer intrusion that threatens her crops. To safeguard her livelihood and prevent potential contamination, she fervently requests a fence before the next farming season begins.

In Elizabeth Nyirabutega’s story, farming is more than a livelihood; it’s a testament to resilience, autonomy, and the ability to cultivate not just crops but a better life.

Farmer Profiles

Cultivating Dreams: Margarita Manario’s Journey from Refugee to Farmer

In 2013, Margarita Manario embarked on a transformative chapter of her life when she joined the New American Sustainable Agriculture Program (NASAP). Born in Burundi, Margarita had fled to Tanzania in 1993, seeking refuge in a camp as a young mother. A decade later, in 2015, she arrived in America, hopeful for a new beginning.

Upon reaching the United States, Margarita faced the challenges of adapting to a new culture and language. Despite numerous attempts to secure traditional employment, her limited English-speaking skills proved to be a barrier. It was in this pursuit of livelihood that Margarita discovered NASAP, a program offering farming land, technical training, and market connections.

“I was overjoyed,” Margarita shares, reflecting on the moment she learned about the program. Her initial motive was simple – to provide healthy, culturally appropriate food for her family. Little did she know that her journey with NASAP would evolve into a passion for sustainable agriculture.

In her early days with NASAP, Margarita cultivated various crops, including main beans and coins. However, her dream extends beyond mere subsistence farming. She aspires to elevate her farming business to new heights, despite facing challenges posed by language and literacy barriers.

To overcome these obstacles, Margarita enrolled in ESL and literacy classes, significantly improving her English and writing proficiency. Yet, she admits that communicating with potential buyers and partners can still be a struggle. To navigate this, she relies on the support and supervision of the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS).

ORIS combines expertise in case management and youth development with cultural and linguistic skills to assist new Americans like Margarita in achieving their goals. NASAP, a project under ORIS, serves as an incubation program, guiding new American farmers until they can independently navigate the intricacies of farming in the U.S.

Margarita’s journey in farming is a family affair, with her husband, Augustin Ndikumana, actively involved in various farming activities. Together, they find solace in the rhythm of farming in New Hampshire, where they work during the growing season and rest during the cold months.

“If I have to choose between doing a corporate job and farming, I will choose farming,” Margarita confesses. Her commitment to farming goes beyond financial considerations; it’s a connection to her roots and a way to build a community with fellow refugees who share a common language.

Margarita sells her produce at the Concord Farmers’ Market, a Saturday event that not only allows her to generate income but also provides a platform to connect with new people and enhance her English proficiency. Additionally, she participates in the Morning Star Farmers’ Market every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. Here, she engages with members of her community who seek culturally appropriate food, not commonly found in standard produce markets in the state.

Currently, Margarita owns a 1050-square-foot greenhouse, a testament to her growth and partnership with the USDA. She is poised to take a Produce Safety Alliance growers training, aligning with her commitment to continuous learning and improvement. As April or May of 2024 approaches, Margarita, along with 40 other farmers, anticipates the beginning of a new farming season, ready to contribute to the flourishing landscape of sustainable agriculture in her community. For her, the farm isn’t just a plot of land; it’s a place that feels like home, where dreams are sown and cultivated.

Farmer Profiles

Jeanette Mukeshimana – Cultivating Dreams in a New Homeland

In the picturesque landscape of New Hampshire, a remarkable woman named Jeanette Mukeshimana has been sowing the seeds of success since she arrived in the United States in 2011. Jeanette’s journey is not just a tale of farming but a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of agriculture.

Born into a farming family, Jeanette discovered her green thumb at the tender age of eight, cultivating amaranth, manioc, and sweet potatoes under the watchful guidance of her parents. Farming, for Jeanette, is not merely a livelihood; it is an embodiment of her culture and a connection to her roots.

In 2011, after immigrating to the U.S., Jeanette’s passion for farming found new avenues when she joined the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS). The New American Sustainable Agriculture Program (NASAP), initiated by ORIS, became the fertile ground where Jeanette’s agricultural aspirations began to flourish.

Despite facing challenges and being disabled, Jeanette’s determination led her to choose farming with ORIS as a means of self-sufficiency. “I don’t qualify for MEDICAID or Food Stamps, but thanks to the income from farming with ORIS, I can afford to feed my family and cover my medical bills,” she affirms.

For three years, before joining ORIS, Jeanette engaged in farming activities in Concord, NH. However, her association with ORIS has not only empowered her financially but also provided her with a supportive community that values the unique skills and cultural richness that immigrants bring to the United States.

“Farming is very important for me, not only because I love it, but also because of all the benefits and assistance I receive through ORIS. As long as I breathe, I will not stop being a farmer,” Jeanette declares passionately.

Her dedication has borne fruit, quite literally. Over the years, Jeanette’s harvest has grown steadily, attributed to her growing experience, expanding knowledge, and the support provided by ORIS. “This year, I have achieved more sales than at any other time in my life. African eggplants and cabbages sold exceptionally well,” she proudly shares.

Jeanette, along with over 40 fellow farmers, faces challenges but remains undeterred. Her dream extends beyond the lush fields she tends; she envisions owning her land, farming independently, and inspiring other immigrants in Southern New Hampshire to reclaim their agricultural heritage.

The recent construction of a Green House for Jeanette, primarily funded by the USDA, is a testament to the success stories emerging from ORIS. Jeanette’s journey exemplifies the transformative impact of programs like NASAP, which not only sustain farmers from diverse backgrounds but also foster a sense of belonging and empowerment.

As Jeanette continues to cultivate her dreams, she envisions a future where immigrant farmers across New Hampshire unite, cultivating not just crops but a shared vision of prosperity and community. In the tapestry of Jeanette Mukeshimana’s life, each seed planted represents a step towards independence, resilience, and the promise of a bountiful tomorrow.

Jeanette sells her produce at the Concord Farmers’ Market, a Saturday event that not only allows her to generate income but also provides a platform to connect with new people and enhance her English proficiency. She also sells her produce to the immigrant community in the State that needs culturally appropriate produces that is not easy to find in standard produce markets.

The Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS) commenced its operations in 2007, providing sustained support to farmers from over eight countries, including Congo, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Nepal, and more. ORIS manages farms in various locations, including Boscawen, Concord, and Dunbarton in New Hampshire, as well as in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Top 5 Ways to Help Support Immigrant Success

The reality is that creating a fair and just society takes work. Undoing racism and intolerance requires a lot of love, hard work, and a personal journey of self-awareness. Remember that YOU have the power to make a difference!

#1: Get political.

New Hampshire state capitol building

Public policy directly shapes the landscape of public safety, economic opportunity, affordable housing, food security and immigrant rights.

  1. Learn about issues that affect new Americans at the federal, state, and local levels. Subscribe to the AFSC-NH NH State House Newsletter and track your representatives through the ACLU-NH Legislative Scorecard.
  2. Get your members of Congress on speed dial. Remember- our taxes pay their salaries.
  3. Visit, call, and write your state representatives.
  4. Become an advocate! Take an advocacy training with New Futures. Contact the Granite State Organizing Project to discuss advocacy opportunities for you in NH.

#2: Get personal.

a farmer shaking hands with a customer at a farmers market

Nothing makes the fabric of NH stronger than real and authentic personal relationships.

First, learn how to examine your own unconscious biases and how to talk about race. We commonly think of prejudice as something you either have or you don’t. But we all carry implicit bias and hold stereotypes.

Secondly, just show up! Follow the Welcoming NH event calendar to find a multi-cultural festival, film screening, language share, solidarity march, diversity training, or around-the-world food tour near you!

#3: Support immigrant-owned businesses.

two farmers selling produce at a farmers market

We vote with our dollar. Keep your money in New Hampshire and support local businesses owned by immigrants and refugees. The path to a thriving NH economy needs the innovation, work ethic, and entrepreneurship of new Americans.

#4: Don’t just be a bystander.

It is up to all of us to interrupt racism.

Watch the Bystander Video above and read AFSC’s Don’t Just Be a Bystander. Understand immigrant rights during interactions with ICE and police. Know your rights if you video record the police.

#5: Donate to successful programs.

a sunflower against a blue sky with clouds

ORIS has a track record since 2008 of successful programs that have assisted thousands of new Americans and made NH a richer and more welcoming place for all of us. Your contribution ensures that we keep fighting to make NH a state of equal opportunity. But we are not the only game in town. Our partners need your support as well!