Overview: The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is an international organization that “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives” (http://www.rescue.org/). As part of their on going effort to prepare and empower refugee farmers to start their new lives in the United States, IRC’s New Roots Farm and Food Security Program is working with refugee communities in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area to develop the Gila Farm Cooperative, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Project: In conjunction with this endeavor, the three member student team, comprised of Carrie Bauer, Vivian Figueroa, and Gene Sanchez, partnered with Phoenix IRC and Somali-Bantu, Togolese, and Uzbeki farmers to produce a range of promotional materials and strategies for the development and official launch of the Cooperative in the summer, 2011. Combining knowledge acquired in from the classroom, interviews with participating farmers, and experience gained working with IRC staff, the student team generated ideas and strategies to publicize Gila Farm Cooperative/CSA and generate interest in it as an innovative new organization in the greater Phoenix-area. Under the guidance of IRC coordinator and project mentor, Jessica Woiderski, students helped design the Cooperatives’ promotional pamphlet and created flyers and video slide shows featuring individual farmers and their communities. Together these projects help to shed light on the particular stories of the Somali Bantus, Uzbeki and Togolese, which they hope will help to cultivate and sustain a growing consumer base as well as foster greater communities ties to residents within the broader Phoenix metropolitan area.
Flyer featuring Togolese farmer (click on the name below to view)
Flyer featuring Uzbek farmer (click on the name below to view)
SOMALI BANTU FARMERS
Flyers featuring Somali-Bantu farmers (click on the names below to view)
Gonzales, V., Forrest, N., Balos, N. 2013. “Refugee Farmers and the Social Enterprise Model in the American Southwest,” in Journal of Community Positive Practices, XIII(4), 32-54.
Developed out of this initial partnership with IRC, the article above provides an analysis of Gila Farm Cooperative as an experiment in building a new model of collective entrepreneurship among refugee farmers from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Focusing on the intersection between cooperative development and refugee resettlement, we link an organizational analysis of the structure and operational processes of the cooperative to board members’ perspectives of the social and economic value it generates. In so doing we discuss the prospects for reinforcing the GFC’s role in empowering refugees through the adaptation of a more deliberative, solidarity based model of collective entrepreneurship.