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Refugees Tend Their Own Farm In Orange County

Some of the farmers at Transplanting Traditions.
Transplanting Traditions Community Farm

On 4 acres just outside Chapel Hill, nearly 150 Karen refugees till the soil as they did back home in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Transplanting Traditions Community Farm is educating locals about Burmese vegetables and cuisine, and teaching the refugees about American produce, with the eventual goal of setting them up as full-time farmers.

Triangle Land Conservancy received the farm as a bequest in 2007.

"We were looking for a way to sustain it in sustainable agriculture," associate director of stewardship and planning Leigh Ann Hammerbacher told host Frank Stasio on The State of Things. "Transplanting Traditions...seemed like the perfect partner. We really wanted the urban farm to serve as an incubator for education and research."

Kelly Owensby, project manager of the farm, says the influx of experienced farmers from Burma is great for North Carolina, as the state continues to lose small farms.

"We have a population that loves farming and has a strong cultural heritage of farming and wants to farm," says Owensby. "One of the most incredible things that I see daily at the farm is how much families love being there."

"The Karen families, as a society, as a community, they want to unite together," said Eh Tha Pwee, the farm's translator and cultural liaison. The farm serves as a place to gather and share stories, advice and resources, "so even though they are so tired from their full time job, they feel so happy when they get off the job and are going to the farm."

Transplanting Traditions has a farmers' market at Johnny's in Carrboro each Friday from 5-7 p.m. And the farm is holding an open house Friday, June 28th, from 6-8 p.m.

Audio of this segment will be available here by 3 p.m.

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Isaac-Davy Aronson is WUNC's morning news producer and can frequently be heard on air as a host and reporter. He came to North Carolina in 2011, after several years as a host at New York Public Radio in New York City. He's been a producer, newscaster and host at Air America Radio, New York Times Radio, and Newsweek on Air.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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