Food Systems Spotlight: Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success

Deneé Woods

 As New Hampshire’s mud season marches on and pulls us closer to that much-anticipated Springtime warmth, it seems to leave us with a sense of uncertainty. Will it rain today, or will it snow? Should we pack a light jacket and bask in the sun, or keep our winter coats at the ready for any last bursts of winter weather? Can optimism and pure willpower make these shoes immune to the mess of mud season?

These moments of uncertainty are what we all deal with at the end of another New England winter. However, many groups and individuals face a larger and more severe sense of uncertainty in their lives. This is what brings us to today’s Food Systems Spotlight network partner: Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS).

ORIS is an “ethnic community-based organization” that exists to ease the uncertainties many immigrants and refugees face when beginning a new life in New Hampshire.  Their staff consists of experienced, multilingual, multinational staff and consultants that work together to the promote self-sufficiency and continued integration of new Americans. Their work is based out of Manchester, which serves as a national refugee resettlement center and has received more than 7,500 refugees since the early-1980’s. ORIS partners with roughly 250 refugee clients on a yearly basis through case management services.

One of the ways ORIS encourages immigrant and refugee success is through their New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP). By drawing from their unique agricultural knowledge,experiences, and business skills, NASAP helps new Americans build sustainable farm enterprises that benefit our regional food system. ORIS provides marketing and production workshops, agricultural ESL classes, links to farmland access programs, teaches sustainable agriculture growing practices, and offers several other services to new Americans beginning a farm business. 

New Americans participating in this program are then able to sell their products under the collective Fresh Start Farms brand. Fresh Start Farms supplies fresh, local, organically grown food to New Hampshire families and businesses through CSA shares, farm and market stands, and wholesale sales. The farmers frequently grow crops familiar from their homelands such as amaranth greens, African eggplant, okra, and mustard greens. Fresh Start Farms also has two farmer’s cooperatives - The New American Farmers Cooperative started in 2016, and the Umoja Farmers cooperative started in 2017. These cooperatives emerged as efforts to represent different communities and increase self-sufficiency.

The work ORIS is doing is important for immigrants and refugees as well as for the New Hampshire food system. There are so many aspects of our food culture, and we realize the importance of focusing just as much on the people and communities we’re trying to feed as we do on the food itself. For that reason, we also want to remind our readers about the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge hosted by another network partner, Food Solutions New England. The Food Alliance  has committed to increasing our awareness and understanding of racism by engaging with provided materials for 21 consecutive days. We are building our racial equity habits – and we want you to join us! There is still time to sign up, and we invite you to by visiting the link here.  

We wish all our readers success in navigating the uncertainties of life, whether it be about food systems and farming or mud season footwear. For more information about the amazing work ORIS is doing and how to get involved, visit their website here. You can also send any questions or comments to our Communications Coordinator, Samantha Cave, here.