Refugee Farm Lab

Refugee Farm Lab participants learning about greenhouse management at Eaton's Creek Organic Farm.

Refugee Farm Lab participants learning about greenhouse management at Eaton's Creek Organic Farm.

The Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee (CRIT) is a nonprofit originally founded by Somalis and now serving diverse refugee populations in Middle Tennessee. In 2012 alone, 1,534 refugees were resettled in Nashville. A cross section of recently arrived Asian, African, and Middle Eastern refugees use CRIT as their homebase for rebuilding their lives after resettlement; CRIT helps them meet their needs for affordable and safe housing, local jobs, English proficiency, and social support. 

In the fall of 2013, CRIT and Nashville Grown partnered to launch an agricultural training and incubator farm program for refugees who have been resettled in Nashville during the last five years. This program is largely funded for the next three years through the federally managed Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program. The program operates as follows:

  • Every December, 20 refugee participants are selected for the training program.
  • Between mid-December and mid-April, the participants attend weekly 2.5 hour long preparatory classes (held partially in the classroom and partially on farms) for a career in sustainable farming, with topics ranging from crop production planning to pest control to business management.
  • In April, participants who wish to start their own farm may apply either alone or in groups for one of six ½-acre plots on the incubator farm.
  • Incubator farmers may farm on their ½ acre plots for up to three years. In the first year, equipment, supplies, and mentorship may be accessed for free; in the second year they must pay for 50% of their costs, and in the third year they must pay in full for the resources they use.

The first year of the program is well underway, with 21 refugees—currently all Burmese in origin—actively attending classes. We're launching a website for the Refugee Farm Lab soon, where you'll be able to find out more details about the RFL CSA, farmers market stand, and volunteer opportunities.