Monthly Archives: July 2010

AP Article About New Entry!

An AP reporter and photographer came by the farms recently to do a story on New Entry. Well, the story came out this morning, and it has already been picked up by almost 250 news outlets!
Here it is (with a link to the original press release):

(AP photo … of our own Mr. Kim!)
Massachusetts program turns refugees into farmers
DRACUT, Mass. — The bullet wounds show on Rechhat Proum’s back when he bends down to pull lemon grass or water spinach on his farm in peaceful northern Massachusetts. When the 56-year-old Cambodian refugee lifts a pumpkin, the movement of his shirt reveals deep stab wounds on his stomach.
Nearby, Bessie and Samuel Tsimba tend African maize. The Zimbabwean immigrants deflect questions about the country’s violence and instead direct attention to the freshness of their cucumbers. “They’ll taste better than what you’ll get at most supermarkets,” promises Bessie, 43.
Proum and the Tsimbas got their start through a program that has quietly trained about 150 refugees of war, famine and genocide in modern farming to help them integrate into American life. On farms along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, the refugees have slowly replaced aging farmers and put back into use land that has been idle for years, the program’s organizers said.
They supply the region’s farmers markets and ethnic stores with beets, cabbage, egg plant, Asian spices and other produce.
“Some were farmers. Some come from a family of farmers,” said Jennifer Hashley, project director of the 12-year-old New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. “What we do is provide them with the means to return to agriculture by figuring out financial resources and developing a production plan.”
The program was launched in 1998 largely with the help of John Ogonowski, the pilot on American Airlines flight 11 to Los Angeles that crashed into the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Ogonowski served as the program’s first mentor farmer and let Cambodian and Hmong refugees use his land to get started.
Proum credited Ogonowski for introducing him to modern irrigation techniques and said Ogonowski wouldn’t accept money from him, only fresh vegetables.
After Sept. 11, Ogonowski’s widow, Peggy, helped create a farm trust as a memorial to her husband. Meanwhile, Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science’s Center for Agriculture, Food and Environment secured $500,000 in grants to expand the program and train more farmers, Hashley said.
Under the program, refugees take a six-week course at Tufts on agriculture and commercial farming. Would-be farmers then enter a three-year transition program in which they farm small plots, typically earning $5,000 to $10,000 a year to help supplement their non-farm incomes.
Bessie Tsimba, of Tyngsboro, a second-year trainee with her husband, said working her plot has introduced her to the basics of farming and allowed her to pick up techniques from other refugees. “You hear all sorts of languages when you’re out here,” said Tsimba, while cutting weeds with a machete. “We pick up new ideas from each other.”
The apprentice farmers also work to find steady, new markets to sell their produce.
“People call me up for orders and I can barely keep up,” said Tsimba, who sells to African churches in northern Massachusetts.
After three years, graduates lease a new plot from the trust set up by Peggy Ogonowski or New Entry helps them find other land.
Visoth Kim, 64, of Lawrence, one of the program’s original farmers, has built a steady business on a couple of acres he leases. A former teacher and survivor of the Khmer Rouge, a regime that slaughtered more 20 percent of the Cambodian population in the 1970s, Kim sells sweet potatoes, redroot pigweed and tomatoes to Boston-based Tropical Foods and stores in Maine.
“I wake up at 4 every morning and pay close attention to everything I grow,” Kim said. “They like what I give them.”
Lori Deliso, marketing manager for the Lexington Farmers Market in Lexington, Mass., said refugee farmers have introduced new foods to her market that proved popular, even if customers were a little apprehensive at first about buying “exotic” vegetables.
“They’ve been great to work with and they always bring different kinds of ethnic foods,” Deliso said. “They offer wonderful suggestions on recipes and are quick to show us how good everything tastes.”
The program has developed a reputation for teaching about locally grown food and is now attracting American-born would-be farmers, Hashley said. In three years, it has grown from 15 trainees a year to 30 — with more than half American-born.
Amanda Munsie, 34, of Wilmington, said she came from a family of Ohio farmers and wanted to get involved in the locally grown food movement. African and Asian refugees in the New Entry program introduced her to new foods.
“They farm so differently than the way we did back in Ohio,” said Munsie, a trainee who farms next to the Tsimbas. “Now, I want to grow some of (their) vegetables because they looked so colorful and tasty to eat.”
Proum, who recently lost his full-time job at a technology company, said farming his 3-acre lot gives him solace and keeps him busy. If he is idle, his mind drifts to painful memories of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war or losing his friend Ogonowski on Sept. 11, he said.
“I don’t like to think about all of that,” Proum said while looking over his Chinese long beans. “I want to think about these.”
Here’s a link to NPR’s copy, including another great picture of Ly and Mr. Kim:

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Beef Workshop Videos Online

Thanks to the efforts of video producer extraordinaire John Dorman and the camera work of Ronit Ridberg, last fall’s Beef Workshop is online in its entirety!
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
This year’s Beef Cattle School will be held on October 23. You can learn more and register for the workshop here:

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Backyard Poultry Workshop Day

About 40 people showed at Pete & Jen’s Backyard Birds in Concord as our own Jennifer Hashley played host to a poultry field school as part of the NOFA/Mass Statewide Backyard Poultry Workshop Day. Participants saw firsthand what a successful pasture-raised poultry business looks like in New England, checking out the broiler and layer operations while Pete and Jen revealed their tricks of the trade. The mobile poultry processing unit was there, too, and participants even got to witness some (unplanned) on-site MPPU repairs!

Here we are, just moments before our Livestock Field School weather karma finally caught up with us. Luckily, the rain didn’t last long, and we were able to all fit under a roof to learn about feed and equipment selection.

These chicks were old enough to get out into the fresh air – and lucky enough to be born on a farm where they will be raised on pasture.

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New farmer Deena Sao

Deena Sao is a student of nursing and education, a Born-Again Christian, and a homeschooler of her four kids. And now, she’s a farmer with the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. She discovered the NESFP through a simple internet search and “realized how lucky [she] was” when she discovered that the NESFP office was mere blocks from her Lowell home.
Deena enrolled in and completed the Farm Business Course last fall (“a great experience”) due to “several pieces of the puzzle…all coming together.” Because she is passionate about public health and the health and education of her kids, but was also feeling the financial squeeze, she decided to give farming a try.
She considers it a good way to provide for her family in a number of ways. “I fantasize about being wealthy someday” she says, and not having to go out to the farm “even when I’m feeling under the weather.” But still, she is confident that “it will always be part of my life as a passion and as a skill I can pass on to my kids”.
In addition to all the rest of Deena’s busy life, she has managed to post regularly on her blog ( since 2005. Recently, it has become her “farm journal”, which documents the peace and the mayhem of her new farming life. She discusses the joy of getting her kids outside with their hands in the dirt, the trials and errors of weeding beets and growing tomatoes from seed, and the recent turkey invasion at Smith Farm, which her quarter-acre has so far managed to escape aside from a few nibbles. The blog is entertaining and honest, and also a clear window into the life of one of our newest New Entry farmers. Check it out when you get a chance, and look forward to Deena’s hard-won produce in your upcoming CSA shares!
-Jeff Hake

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Local food phenoms

The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project occupies a unique niche in the swelling local food movement. Beyond simply advocating for buying close to home, the NESFP fosters sustainability in the local food economy by disseminating agricultural knowledge and helping the next generation of American farmers help themselves. Through its cooperative CSA, farmer incubator programs, mobile poultry processing unit, and other cutting-edge endeavors, the NESFP is quietly shaping attitudes and economies around the future of agriculture.
But the NESFP is not alone on the forefront of the local food movement. Below are three brief profiles of groups and individuals in the area who are doing their own part to know their food and know, (or be!), their farmer:
The Urban Homesteader’s League: This Cambridge-based non-profit is “committed to re-imagining the good life as one that is meaningful, pleasurable, environmentally sustainable, and socially just. [They] place the home at the center of that pursuit and see it as a site for personal and societal transformation.” Founded just last summer by Lisa Gross, an artist and graduate student living in Inman Square, the UHL has quickly blossomed into a source of inspiration for over 800 urban homesteaders of all stripes. Urban farmers and gardeners, makers of cheese, soap and yogurt, home composters, knitters and carpenters all have a place under the wide umbrella of UHL’s skill-sharing. The UHL’s most recent project is its Market Stand at the Union Square Farmers’ Market in Somerville, where Lisa and many others teach mini-workshops on a variety of homesteading skills. For more information on the UHL, visit their website at or find them on Facebook and Meetup.
Top Sprouts: Top Sprouts is a for-profit venture that is working to create “edible campuses” and local food production through rooftop farming and gardening. Alice Leung and Akshay Kolte founded the company in 2008 in Boston and are currently developing a pilot project with Bunker Hill Community College. The project would entail the construction of greenhouses on the flat roofs of the school that will grow vegetables “for year round food production and yield a healthy return on investment”. The company hopes that the pilot project will serve as a model for rooftop growing in other parts of the city, and Alice and Akshay have been collaborating with students and the city of Boston to expand the scope of their work. To learn more about Top Sprouts, check out their website at
Julia Davis and Andy McLeod: A lot of catering companies have noticed a dramatic upswing in the number of engaged couples wishing to have their wedding reception dinners stocked completely with local foods. But Julia Davis and Andy McLeod of Washington, Maine are going one giant step further: they are growing essentially all of it themselves. From greens to squash to chickens, this ambitious couple are planning to have the harvest of their 7,500 square foot backyard garden completed by September 24th, when they will enlist family and friends in the preparation of a complete menu of homegrown delights for about 100 guests. To follow the progress of this labor of love, check out their blog at
-Jeff Hake

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