Originally for The Northern Light.
Mountain View is the most diverse neighborhood in the U.S., according to the 2014 diversity census created by UAA’s sociology professor, Chad Farrell. Anchorage welcomes refugees with the help from Catholic Social Services and Anchorage Community Land Trust. They are given opportunities to be integrated into the community by programs like Fresh International Gardens.
The Fresh International Gardens program was created by the Catholic Social Services in 2007. The program helps refugees hone their agricultural experiences from their former lives to the Mountain View neighborhood. The refugee participants in the program will be able to showcase samplings of their produce at the upcoming Grow North Farm-raiser.
Catholic Social Services’ Director of Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services, Liza Krauszer, brought the program up into a conversation with ACLT and formed a plan to utilize a space for refugee farmers to grow and sell produce.
“It’s a joining of the missions of both Anchorage Community Land Trust and Catholic Social Services to enhance the Mountain View neighborhood and provide social opportunities, business opportunities and increase food security so that participants have access to food to provide for their families,” Krauszer said. “It’ll be a place where the neighborhood can access healthy affordable food as well.”
ACLT works with residents, business owners and stakeholders in Mountain View, Fairview and Spenard. The nonprofit organization purchases property that has been vacant for 10 or more years, or contaminated by hazardous materials.
“Back in 2016, we had heard from a lot of refugee families from the neighborhood were looking for more economic opportunities in the neighborhood that they live in,” Emily Cohn, ACLT communications and development manager, said. “Transportation can be a big issue; a lot of people are on the bus system. They were looking for opportunities to operate their businesses in their own neighborhood.”
As refugee families voiced out their needs for economic opportunities, the Mountain View farmer’s market was born.
According to New Americans in Anchorage, refugees and immigrants contributed $1.9 billion to the city’s gross domestic product in 2014.
Two years ago, the Anchorage Community Land Trust received a grant to build a farmer’s market on the vacant lots where the farm is going to be. The initial farmer’s market season was a success with over 27 vendors involved. In the summer of 2017, they put $20,000 directly into the pockets of the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood.
The partnership of Catholic Social Services and ACLT created the Grow North Farm-raiser event to raise money for an urban farm in the heart of Mountain View neighborhood.
“This lot that the farm is going to be built on used to be this old RV park hotel. It was super run down, old rusty pipes coming out of the ground. It was really contaminated,” Cohn said. “We took that and invested a bunch of money to the site and demolished everything. We did a lot of site work and decontaminated it.”
The urban farm on Mountain View Drive will expand the Fresh International Gardens’ current garden plots to 27,000 square feet. One third of the lot will be for current Fresh International Gardens participants and the remaining two thirds will be for those that have graduated from the program.
The Grow North Farm-raiser will have baked and fermented goods, such as pickled grapes, garlic cloves, onions and carrots to name a few. All proceeds will go towards soil to build the Grow North Farm this summer of 2018.
The event will be held on Feb. 21 at Resolution Brewing Company on Mountain View Drive from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.