It’s Farmer Friday! Meet Fabiola from Flats Mentor Farm, a program of World Farmers
This month, Rural Coalition is celebrating the stories of farmers, farmworkers, and ranchers of our member organizations. Our “Farmer Friday” campaign features the people and communities who motivate and inspire our organization’s advocacy and policy work on Capitol Hill. Now, let’s hear from Fabiola, a farmer and changemaker of our member organization, World Farmers based in Lancaster, MA.
“Farming has always been a vital part of my life.”
Fabiola Nizigiyimana was born in Rwanda and raised in Burundi, where the majority of folks are subsistence farmers. Just three years after Fabiola arrived to the United States as a refugee in 2007, she found a space where she could farm for herself and her family once more — this time, at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster, Massachusetts.
Flats Mentor Farm (FMF), a program of World Farmers, currently supports 300 small-scale immigrant and refugee farmers in access to farm infrastructure, and assistance in marketing and farm business development. World Farmers, a member organization of Rural Coalition, has supported immigrant farmers since the early 1980s and leads the program through farmer to farmer mentorship, modeling a unique beginning farmer program. At FMF, people with a talent for growing can also become accomplished producers by honing the knowledge and skills they need to operate a successful farm business.
Driven by her passion for farming, Fabiola now cultivates over an acre of land and owns a high tunnel. The result of her dedication to a year-long application process and several meetings with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fabiola’s high tunnel allows her to start planting earlier in the springtime and grow her crops through late fall. It also protects her plants from excessive rain in the summer, so her chard, tomatoes, collard greens, and carrots can thrive.
“Since I started to farm I don’t have food problems,” Fabiola asserts. With her abundant harvests, Fabiola feeds her five children and earns a profit at local farmers’ markets and other community retail spaces.
During her time farming at FMF, Fabiola also founded the African Immigrant Marketing Cooperative. The co-op serves as a space in which farmers can support the success of each other’s small-scale operations. While growers might not produce enough individually, together, farmers can sell their produce wholesale. “It helps us to sell our vegetables easier,” as she told the Telegram & Gazette. Fabiola also translates for other cooperative members; English is one of five languages she knows.
“In my life, there is something making me…help other people.” Fabiola’s gift for cultivating both vegetables and positive change makes her a valuable leader for World Farmers, as well as within our wider Rural Coalition family of farmers and communities.