Pine Island Farm

The sign reads “Dead End” in big black font. The unpaved road throws pebbles banging at the underside of the car. Ding, ding, ding. On either side of the road are big open fields until the sign “Pine Island Community Gardens” comes into view with a little red sheds surrounding it. At the top of the hill sits a tall barn with a large enclosure out front, goats are mulling around grazing on grain and fighting for a spot at the water bowl.

It is a chilly overcast day in the beginning of December. The farm is quiet and peaceful, with only the sounds of rosters crowing. It smells of clean air and pine as the trees sway in the slight wind of the morning. In the background, the Green Mountains stand tall, creating a picturesque environment and the perfect location for a new start.

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There are two houses on the top of the hill surrounded by greenery and open fields. These are the homes of two refugee families, the farmers who live and work on Pine Island Community Farm, raising goats and chickens for new American families to purchase. Nestled in the town of Colchester in Chittenden County where over 6000 refugees have resettled over the past 30 years, according to SevenDays Online.

Chuda Dhaurali arrived at the farm in 2013 to a bright red barn unsuitable for goats with little enclosed outdoor space. Originally from Bhutan where he learned about farming from his father who worked in buying and selling animals. He and his family spent 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal before being relocated to Vermont in 2009. The refugee camp was too densely populated with amount of displaced people to allow for farming or raising animals. Which added a level of stress to the environment with a lack of the fresh food and the inability to farm as many people were from rural areas.

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The farm was created in partnership with the Vermont Land Trust and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont and was started in 2009. With a rise in the refugee population there was a demand for more goat meat as well as culturally appropriate food. When Chuda arrived in Vermont in 2009 he had to travel as far as Massachusetts in hopes of finding fresh goat meat. But even than the meat was not available and was not always fresh. The supply was limited and the demand was growing.

The goat population on the farm has risen dramatically since 2013 when Chuda started living and working on the farm. The growth confirms the need and push for more communities like Pine Island. In the summer the expansive fields surrounding the barn are purchased for garden plots where the new American population is able to grow foods they are accustom to. Seeds and plants are donated and purchased for the garden to help provide more fresh food as well as a means of income.

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According to the Pine Island Community Farm website, the goal is for farmers to raise their own crops and meat in an individual business. Theogene Mahoro runs a chicken business which has been growing rapidly in the past couple of years since he started in 2014. He is originally from Rowanda and resettled in Vermont 2014. His chicken operation allows for families and community members to choose and humanly slaughter their own chickens.

 

Pine Island Farm provides the new American population with food that they are accustomed to and creates a community atmosphere. Chuda remarks that the people who come to the farm find a sense of calm in the open space and quiet atmosphere that reminds the new American population of their home countries. Which continues to prove the need for more organizations that support the needs of a changing demographic of the area and Vermont.

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