Innocent Kabahizi & Marie Kashindi
Innocent was born in Burundi, but fled with his family to a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the age of seven, while I (Marie) was born in the camp. Both of our families were farmers, with our parents renting land to farm while we were living in the camp. We grew up helping our parents on the farm, learning from working with them. Even when I was going to school, when I got back each day I would help my parents by taking care of the animals we were raising, including chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep. We were married in the camp and farmed together in Congo until a war broke out, forcing us to flee to Tanzania. In the refugee camp in Tanzania, we once again rented farmland, but we also had a large enough plot of land that we were able to grow food and raise animals in our backyard. Our family was resettled to Des Moines in June, 2008. In 2011, while I was in class at Lutheran Services in Iowa, I learned about the opportunity to have a garden. We were excited to be able to once again grow food for our family, and we grew tomatoes and beans on a small plot in a community garden. The first year, our harvest wasn’t great, but we tried again the next year and harvested a little more and thought it was good for the food and the exercise. Then in 2013, we moved out to Global Greens Farm in West Des Moines, where we were able to grow on a 50’ x 50’ plot. Things got better there, as we were able to learn more and grow many vegetables, selling some, and eating a lot as well. We sold some of our produce at LSI's Global Greens Farmers' Market. After three years on a plot of this size, we moved up to three plots. At the same time, our markets grew to include the Global Greens CSA, Plymouth Church Farm Stand, and a few days at the Downtown Farmers’ Market. In 2017, all the vegetables grew well and we really enjoyed the season. We have participated in many educational workshops and trainings on a variety of subjects about small-scale vegetable production and business development during our time at Global Greens. We grew up in families where we did a lot of agriculture, and so we grew up loving it. When we came here, it gave us the urge to do what we knew how to do and what our family had always done, and to also share our knowledge with others. Being able to produce our own food with our own hands makes us happy and gives us a reminder of back home, where we’re from. We have learned a great deal during our time farming, starting with learning how to garden in general – using the soil in good ways that also take care of the soil, as well as what not to use when we are doing things organically. We have had opportunities to interact with people from different cultures, and this has taught us a great deal. During our time in Global Greens, we have learned a lot about ways to improve our growing practices, including doing things differently to grow different crops, and learning about new vegetables has been a great experience.