This documentary, which features Transplanting Traditions farmer Tri Sa, was directed by Morgan Capps and Heather Stewart Harvey for the Documentary Video Institute at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Surrounded by Thai banana trees and blooming hibiscus flowers, Tri Sa surveyed the acres of her farm plot with purpose, stopping to prune her wandering bottle gourd vines or point out inviting, bright green leaves.
Plucking one of the crisp leaves from its stem, she presented the leaf between her fingers. “Try that,” Tri Sa said. “It’s very sweet.” The leaves would normally go in her Thai curries or soups.
Tri Sa has been a farmer with Transplanting Traditions Community Farm since its inception in 2010 in Chapel Hill. She came to the U.S. in 2007 as a refugee from Southeast Asia’s Burma (Myanmar), a country embroiled in civil war and its diverse population faced with ethnic and religious persecution.
An estimated 1,100 Burma refugees call Orange County home, and Transplanting Traditions was created to connect these families with farmable land, healthy food, agricultural education and business opportunities. The project began in 2010 with one acre and 11 families. Today, the farm is eight acres, and 35 families are preparing to grow a variety of fall crops such as kale, broccoli and collards.
These farmers were farmers in their home country, or their parents were farmers. Tri Sa has been farming in Chapel Hill for seven years now, and she said she appreciates growing her own food, which tastes better than what she finds at the grocery store. On her acres, she tends to plants such as ginger and turmeric, surrounded by yellow and orange marigolds.
Nicole Accordino, program coordinator for Transplanting Traditions, said this piece of land has become more than a farm. It is a community gathering space, a safe haven for the refugee community. Here, farmers have built huts where they eat lunch or take naps in between working the land. Children play among the flowers and the chicken coops.
“That’s literally putting down roots,” Accordino said. “I think there’s a lot of comfort in being able to establish plants… and making a home space and all the good memories that come with home.”
And the space continues to grow. Transplanting Traditions received a $4,000 Community Care Fund grant in 2016. The Community Care Fund, which is a Doing Good in the Neighborhood giving category, awards grants to diverse nonprofits in the Triangle every fall. The 2016 grant helped fund a three-acre expansion to allow new families to join Transplanting Traditions and current families to expand their farming operations.
The expansion, which required digging a well, building a fence and applying for permits, cost more than $60,000.
In addition to providing families with farm land, Transplanting Traditions’ small staff provide 64 agricultural trainings every year at the farm and 49 hours of classroom training on topics such as marketing, business and sustainable agriculture. This training impacts about 160 family members who grow produce to sell in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes as well as at the Carrboro and Chapel Hill farmers markets.
“I just hope people see this space is so much more than a garden,” Accordino said. “I just hope they see the love and care that’s put into this.”
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