Mohammed Ali has a passion for agriculture. Specifically, the refugee from southern Iraq loves to grow mushrooms; but growing mushrooms requires carefully controlled conditions.
"By myself it will be very hard to do all of that," he said. "I was hoping they'd stay and not go anywhere, so we can make this project work. I always had this big dream to make it a bigger project, my own business, and without them, it will be very hard to do that."
"They" is the Global Gardens program, run through the Idaho Office for Refugees. The program, started in 2004, includes 11 farms and 200 community gardens involving 2,000 people. It's a critical piece of Boise's local food supply and an important factor for the city's refugee and New American community, but in mid-October, the IOR learned that a previously reliable source of funding—a major grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture—would not be available this coming year.
The situation is dire. Katie Painter, Global Gardens' project manager since 2008, has left the organization. According to IOR Director Tara Wolfson, it will cost $50,000 to keep farmers on the land and the food they grow coming to market. An additional $40,000 would keep its community supported agriculture operation in business. For $60,000 more, its Food Hub program, which distributes food to restaurants and grocery stores, could expand.
"I like to say failure isn't an option," Wolfson said. "We're optimistic the community will come behind Global Gardens."
IOR is already on the hunt for stopgap funding, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign; but the inroads the program has made at places like Petite 4, Bittercreek/Redfeather, High Note, Rootz Zero Waste Market, the Capital City Public Market and others hang in the balance, as do the tangibles (and intangibles) the gardens have given local refugees. "We look around and see what we need to do for growing food, and we like to hang out and play with the kids," Ali said about spending time at the local garden with his four children. "They love the animals. They're learning a lot."