The Brandon Refugee farm is a farm located in the city of Brandon in Tampa, Florida. It started out as a plot of land behind St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church which was donated to refugees of different countries by the church’s Ethiopian Pastor, Berhanu Bekele . The refugees who farm this land are were farmers in their home countries (Burma, South Sudan, and others) and were forced to leave due to political instability and war. This land gives the farmers a chance to grow crops and raise animals for consumption and sale. Since its beginnings in 2010, The garden has become a catalyst for community spirit for people who came to the U.S. because they had nowhere else to go. Here is a newspaper article written about this farm; and here is another article with a video of the farm.
Here is a video which a group of us students at the University of South Florida (USF) made regarding their current chicken coop and need for expansion.
Personally, I have received many benefits from helping at this farm.
The Burmese farmer who lives on the farm with his family, Lahku, has taught me the medicinal uses of plants as well as different ways to cook the crops that grown on this land. He has also taught me farming skills such as applying chicken manure to fruit trees and cow/horse manure to vegetables.
The Pastor who donated his land to the refugees, Pastor Berhanu Bekele, has also taught me many things. We often ponder religious questions, questions about humanity as a whole, and our thoughts on the future. He tells me stories of his past in Ethiopia and in Europe where he studied to become a pastor. He told me that Ethiopia is a wonderful country where there is no racism because it was never conquered by European powers (except for 5 years by Italy). It is because of my conversations with him that I decided to apply to Peace Corps Ethiopia and am now scheduled to go to Ethiopia in January 11th 2016.
I have also had a chance to bond with the children of many of the farmers. Some of the children from South Sudan teach me Arabic and I teach them Spanish in return (which they ambitiously want to learn after just having learned English here). More importantly, I have come to more deeply understand the quote that I some time ago read in a book:
“It took us that long to realize that the purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved”
-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
Here is Pastor Berhanu Bekele, a good friend of mine and my inspiration for going to Ethiopia
Farmer Htwa Meh works in the garden
Many farmers work together growing Chinese cabbage
A child counts the carrots his family grew
Progress on the new chicken coop; the kids painted it themselves