Community garden allows refugees to grow native plants

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Monday marked World Refugee Day, and Kentucky is a city that has one of the largest resettled population per inhabitant.

What do you want to know

  • June 20 is recognized as World Refugee Day
  • Louisville has one of the largest refugee populations per capita in the country
  • Common Earth Gardens enables refugees to grow produce from their home region
  • Catholic Charities is a leading organization in providing services and resources to refugees

Louisville celebrated World Refugee Day in a big way, as the city of Derby has one of the largest refugee populations per capita in the country. Louisville also has many unique refugee resource organizations and programs, including Common Earth Gardens.

“We have kale, Russian red cabbage, collard greens,” Amir Hussein said. The 19-year-old is part of a community growth operation.

Hussein, originally from Kenya and born to Somali parents, commutes daily to work on an urban farm designed specifically for resettled Louisville residents. They are called “Common Earth Gardens”, run in part by Catholic charities.

“Over time, these community gardens get bigger and bigger,” Hussein explained.

Amir Hussein shows us the kale he grows at the community garden. (Spectrum News 1/Jonathon Gregg)

The agricultural program provides land for refugees in Louisville to grow fruits and vegetables native to their home country. Without Common Earth, access to indigenous foods is very difficult, according to Susan Smith of Catholic Charities.

“Many of the refugees who have moved to America are sick from the American diet as opposed to the diet they are used to, which is high in fresh foods and healthier foods,” Smith said.

Not only do participants grow food for their own families and communities, but they can also sell produce at several Louisville Farmers’ Markets. Hussein said more than 400 refugee families are benefiting from Common Earth cultivation sites and more and more agricultural land is needed.

“Over time, things are developing and people are getting more and more used to community gardens. Some actually want to set up their own community gardens to produce on their land and we always have people who need more land,” Hussein said.

Common Earth is expanding on a total of 16 acres of land in multiple locations and hopes to cultivate additional partnerships with area landowners.

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