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Elderly refugees growing fresh produce in Louisville at Hope Community Farm

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 10:22 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Hope Community Farm in Hazelwood is a healing place for all who work there. For five years, refugees from Central and Eastern Africa have grown fresh vegetables for the community.

The goal of the farm is to provide work for elderly refugees who wouldn’t be able to find a space in the workplace. A side effect of this is a thriving community of supportive people with shared experiences.

Emmanuel Niyivuga joined the farm two years ago after moving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said that he is happy with the work since it is similar to what he did in his home country.

He is just one of the 82 families that use the farm to grow traditional African vegetables for use in their homes and family restaurants.

Sarah Kimeu owns Sa Sa Samosa Kitchen, an African catering company, and said that she wouldn’t be able to make authentic flavors without the work of people like Niyivuga.

“The taste of fresh, organic vegetables makes for delicious samosas,” Kimeu said. “It has also given me the opportunity to participate in farmers markets, which require these organic foods.”

The farm’s business structure is called Community-Supported Agriculture, where members pay a subscription fee to collect a weekly bag of harvested produce. The farmers then use these funds to pay operating costs for the next planting season and take home a stipend.

CSA is the brainchild of Dr. Pauline Mukeshimana, who wanted it to be a holistic way to provide well-being to the workers.

“It’s like our hospital, it’s like our court, it’s everything in here,” Mukeshimana said. “Their loneliness is gone because they have their peers and can talk. They can laugh together; they can cry together.”

Niyivuga added that being with his friends reminds him of home.

“When we are here, of course we are talking about what we are doing when we are gardening, but most of the time we talk about our lives back home in Africa,” Niyivuga said.

Mukeshimana said she is proud of the strong community these people have built for themselves.

“When they come here, it’s like they do therapy for each other,” she said. “They are working physically, which helps their body. Because of this, they go home happy.”

Mukeshimana estimates more than 800 people enjoy the produce grown on the farm.

For more information on the Hope Community Farm, click here.

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