Understanding integrative agriculture with refugee farmers: A case study in Central Iowa

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Date
2023-05
Authors
Tobin, Timothy Charles
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Rongerude, Jane
Zimmerman, Emily
Maddad, Monica
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Community and Regional Planning
Abstract
The state of Iowa has a history of accepting refugees dating back to global conflicts in the 70s and 80s. Many refugees come from agricultural backgrounds, so there is an ongoing effort in Iowa to connect refugees to farmland where they can grow specialty crops. This study develops a framework for integrative urban agriculture for refugee farmers in the Des Moines Metropolitan Area. Using mixed methods including spatial analysis, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews, the study identified suitable parcels for new farmers based on environmental, infrastructural, and social factors. The most significant challenges to social integration were found to be the period of adjustment following arrival where refugee families must begin to formally access support services, language barriers, and finding a stable pathway toward land ownership for specialty crop refugee farmers. The results of this study communicate a need to create space for refugees to be able to work towards ownership without the fear of impending displacement. Agriculture can serve as a medium for social and economic integration by considering various aspects of livelihood both from a business standpoint but also from the standpoint of social life in urban environments for refugees and their families.
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