Cultivating Social Change in the Fertile City. ~ Carrie Stiles


A digestible solution to global conflict 

Mercy Corps Northwest’s new American Agriculture Project and Grow Portland forged a transformative partnership to address global conflicts on the local level.

The innovative collaboration supports refugee and immigrant resettlement through local, sustainable agriculture. The program is a digestible solution to traumatic, international conflict. Their approach embodies, and emboldens, the common adage ‘think globally, act locally’. The program is creating space for participants to transplant their uprooted lives, adapt to a new climate and develop market-based skills.

We caught up with Mercy Corps Lead Grower Lauren Morse at the SE Nepalese Gardens to learn more.

Morse explained that Mercy Corps has been invaluable to the expanding population of immigrants, refugees and beginning American growers in Portland since 2006. The 2010 formation of the Portland Growers Alliance with Grow Portland was created to address the challenge of establishing market outlets for the gardeners. “It makes a more sustainable livelihood for everyone involved in the program,” Morse explained.

The alliance is addressing participant’s needs through access to land, equipment, supplies, financial support, trainings, business planning and marketing support. The growers practice organic, ecological agriculture in both Portland and Damascus. You can find the Portland Growers Alliance produce at Portland Farmer’s Market, Lents International Farmer’s Market, Thompson Farm Stand, various restaurants and through their Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Most participants are former subsistence farmers who are now learning to cultivate for local tastes with limited land. Participants originate from locations as diverse as Bhutan, Somali, Russia and Burma. Morse explained to Real Time Farms how cultural and language differences have created a dynamic work environment. “All of these different, little idiosyncrasies make this project crazy. Overall it is amazing what we are doing: producing so much good food and getting it into local outlets,” explained Morse.