SunPoint Farm Sanctuary is an island of rural New Hampshire nestled in suburban Derry, NH: the farm is 24 acres that abuts 128 acres of conservation land. SPFS works with refugees from Manchester NH, and provides space for them to garden and farm. In the ten years of this program, we have welcomed refugees from Bhutan, Congo, Turkey, and Iraq. Often these new Americans do not speak much or any English, but come to the farm possessing farming and gardening skills acquired in their home country. The language barrier is a difficult one to overcome, particularly when trying to assist our farmers from tropical locales with understanding the dangers of frost. Additional linguistic problems have arisen in trying to show them how to use particular machinery or how to farm, “American style.” What has been dawning on us over the years is to actually integrate the knowledge and skill of the traditional farming methodology from the refugees’ home country and adapt it to the particular challenges of farming in New England. The discovery is that there is a mutual exchange of farming wisdom though the language difference poses a seemingly impenetrable barrier. Trying to show an elderly Bhutanese woman how to weed, she simply smiles, laughs at our “poor technique,” and taking us by the hands shows us the real way to weed the garden bed. What develops in absence of a common language is camaraderie and respect for the willingness to be in that uncomfortable space together. More can be said it seems, when our tongues are mute but our eyes and hands speak. This is perhaps the great lesson for our current era: learning how to listen rather than to always be talking. As we listen more carefully to the needs of our planet, our communities, and ourselves, a clearer path out of the quagmire of consumerism and anthropo/ethno-centrism begins to emerge. A deeper ecological awareness penetrates to the heart.
Learn how SunPoint Farm Sanctuary's experiences translate to YOUR work, to help you and your group better overcome barriers at the Newport RootSkills Training. We will be joined by SunPoint's Executive Director, Jody Creel, for the workshop "Co-Creation Across Cultural Barriers".