Learn the stories behind our remarkable growers!
We have the privilege to work with some of the Portland area’s newest and most awesome residents to help grow and market delicious and healthy produce to our neighbors! Refuge Gardens currently works with families from the Karen and Nepali Bhutanese communities, two ethnic groups that have experienced traumatic dislocation in their homelands and have come to the Portland area in significant numbers in the last decade seeking a better life. The collective energy, resilience, and positivity of our families is the lifeblood of Refuge Gardens and part of our mission is to help those attributes improve our community as a whole.
Refuge Gardens works with several families from the Karen community, as well as friends and neighbors that come to help with plantings and harvest days at the Damascus farm. The Karen are an ethnic community native to eastern Myanmar (Burma) in SE Asia. In the wake of the 1962 Burmese coup d’etat, they have been the victims of systematic aggression and persecution by the Burmese military and many have fled across the border into Thailand into a network of refugee camps. Around 2005, the U.S. State Department opened the way for displaced Karen, as well as other persecuted groups in Myanmar, to resettle in the U.S. Over 50,000 have come since that time, with several thousand finding a new home in the Portland Area. The Karen families involved in Refuge Gardens bring with them a strong sense of their community and culture. The Karen place a high value on education and our growers have excelled at learning, teaching, and providing assistance and support to their fellow growers in the program.
Refuge Gardens is equally privileged to have a connection with the Bhutanese community in Portland, working with several families at our gardens in SE Portland along with friends and neighbors that come to learn, help, and share in the harvest. The families in Refuge Gardens belong to a group of Bhutanese known as the Lhotshampas or “People from the South,” who are descendents of Nepali families that migrated into Southeastern Bhutan starting in the 1890s and cleared land for agriculture in those areas. As the population of Lhotshampas grew through the 20th century, tensions began to grow with the Bhutanese majority from whom they differed in religion and language. Conflict spilled over into violence by the late 1980s and by 1992 more than 100,000 Lhotshampas were displaced into camps over the border in Nepal. Bhutanese began settlement in the U.S. in 2008 and several hundred are our neighbors here in Portland area.