The Catherine Kasper Place has a new space for its gardens and new twists to its current Fresh Food Initiative gardening program for refugees.
The nonprofit’s mission is to help immigrants, refugees and political asylees who arrive in northeast Indiana integrate into the life of the community through social, spiritual and economic independence and strategic networking.
"For the past several years through the Fresh Food Initiative, clients of CKP have been given access to free raised (plant) beds and farmland, seeds, tools and technical assistance in gardening and marketing produce throughout the community.
Their new garden is at 2305 Slataper St. next to McCormick Place. They have two fenced acres with water, a hoop house and storage. Over the fall they built 36 raised beds and sold Community Supported Agriculture shares in which subscribers get shares of produce. Now they have 36 little farms, and clients were able to choose among 36 different varieties of plants. Four of these plots were bought by nonprofits; St Mary’s Soup Kitchen, Miss Virginia’s Mission House, Redemption House Ministries and Wellspring Interfaith Social Services.
Holly Chaille, director of CKP, said they have allocated extra space for these nonprofits in a big bed used for overflow.
"Redemption House had their clients come out and work in the garden, a little sweat equity." Chaille said.
In addition to working with their immigrant clients CKP has added a new program called the new farm management-training program. The refugee participants are paid interns who will complete nine training modules including financial literacy, crop management, business management sales and marketing and grow it forward.
In “grow it forward” the trainees will have to go into the community and teach a nonprofit how to set up a garden. In the farm management program they must speak English only. Chaille said over the years they have found that the practical application of speaking English to others seems to stick better than things they learn in a traditional classroom.
"It’s a really neat angle on integration because they are working with yet another marginalized part of the population, which when you bring groups like together you are integrating them into the common fold," Chaille said.
This Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon CKP will hold a drop-and-swap at the farm, 2305 Slataper. People who have extra shovels, gardening tools, trowels, shears and stakes or hoses can drop them off and swap them for a packet of vegetable, herb or flower seeds. They will also be planting fruit trees; Arbor Day is Friday.