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.