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Success Story

The Conservation Efforts of the Karen Community Farm.

A NRCS employee standing next to a flower farmer in a garden

A small community farm in Wake County with a huge impact for refugees throughout the states.

Members of the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) of North Carolina (N.C.) visited the Karen (pronounced Kah- Ren with an emphasis on the second syllable) Community Farm at Oaky Grove. The community farm is in Wake County at 5800 Turnipseed Road, Wendell, N.C. The farm consists of three acres and is part of the 118 acres of the historic Oaky Grove, owned by Dr. Talmage Brown. According to the Karen Community Farm website, this is the first refugee farm of its kind in Wake County, providing a space for the Karen to gather and be part of a community. 

“This is a family place to me; community is very important to our culture. When we come here, this is our gathering place,” said Kree Sain, Karen Community Farm Flower Producer.

The Karen people can use the property to provide fresh produce and flowers to the local community. Much of the produce is culturally important to the Karen people.  Because of the hospitable climate in N.C., the produce is often being sold to stores in the Northern States. The community farm has also recently started a produce stand which offers fresh produce, freshly cut flowers, and more recently, hot dishes. Often, the money raised is sent back home to relatives who are displaced. The stand provides an opportunity to expand the Karen market and provide awareness. The property also allows for members of the community to simply grow their own food and maintain their connection to their culture.

The Karen people home of Burma (now Myanmar) was given independence in 1948, but they were not granted rights to their own land. After many years, they were left with no choice but to leave their homeland. The reason why the Karen Community Farm at Oaky Grove is so important, is partly due to providing an opportunity for this marginalized group to have some normalcy.

“It’s very gratifying to see what they’ve done,” said Dr. Talmage Brown, owner of the Oaky Grove farm.

Being no stranger to conservation, Dr. Talmage Brown has worked extensively with N.C. NRCS since 2019. Throughout the historic 118-acre farm, 80 acres is planted in loblolly pine, 13 acres of open fields is rented to a local farmer and 3 acres is leased to the Karen Community Farm, with plans to lease an additional 5. Some of the conservation practices on the property include forest stand improvement, prescribed burning, cover crop, and a high tunnel system. The property is also close to finalizing an agricultural easement sometime this summer, keeping the land in agriculture and safe for the Karen to use for many years to come. 

N.C. NRCS can also provide other assistance through voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.  Through these programs, the agency approves contracts to implement conservation practices that addresses natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal, and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. To get started, please visit your local USDA Service Center.

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