Published Jul 24, 2014

Field Day Recap: Global Greens — Refugee Farmers in Iowa

By Tomoko Ogawa

More than 80 people gathered together on a beautiful July afternoon to learn about Lutheran Services of Iowa (LSI)’s Global Greens agricultural program in West Des Moines last week. The field day took place in Valley Community Center where the farm is located. The presentations by LSI staff members, Minah Yang (Farm Marketing Specialist) and Zac Couture (Farm Associate) included the photovoice video in which refugee farmers share their stories of moving to Iowa, as well as their connections to food and farming through photographs.

Following the Q&A session with the farmer panel, we went on a farm tour.  At Global Greens Farm, farmers cultivate 50’ x 50’ plot to start developing their skills as a market farmer. As they become more advanced, they move to a larger, 1/4 to 1/2 acre training plots. They receive intensive training on crop production, business development and marketing. Several Global Greens farmers are also recipients of Practical Farmers’ Savings Incentive Program. During the tour, we saw many familiar vegetables, as well as some less common ones. I got to try a roselle leaf (hibiscus species) for the first time. It had a sour but pleasant taste. Roselle greens are used widely in many Asian and African countries, and sepal of this plant is also used for making tea and jams in different parts of the world.

We were hungry and ready for potluck after the tour. Global Greens farmers prepared several main dishes using the produce they raised. It was one of the most exciting potluck line I’d seen, with smothered greens in abundance including  amaranth leaves, squash leaves, and bean leaves. They were all very delicious of course, and I was too busy enjoying all the food to take any photos.

Curious how these greens taste? You can purchase produce from Global Greens farmers at LSI Global Greens Farmers Market , which  is held every Saturday between June and September from 10:30 to 2 pm at LSI office (3116 University Ave. Des Moines) or at Oakridge Farmers Market (979 Oakridge Drive, Des Moines), also between June and September from 4:00 to 7:00 pm every Wednesday. Several Global Greens farmers are also selling their produce at Iowa Food Cooperatives and/or at their churches.