Guest Blog Contribution from Luke Telander, Project Associate for Outreach at LIRS
Edible Yard & Garden is truly an exceptional company for its commitment to environmental responsibility and the empowerment of local refugees. Building on its mission of environmental stewardship, it strives to complement existing flora by including fruit and nut producing trees and bushes in its landscaping, which facilitates local and just food production. Urban environments are food deserts, but by smartly taking advantage of landscaping possibilities, Edible Yard & Garden is taking a step towards environmental justice and food security for everyone.
Located near Clarkston, GA with one of the largest populations of refugees in the Eastern United States, Edible Yard & Garden is also strongly committed to employing refugees at a living wage, capitalizing on the experience and knowledge many refugees bring with them from overseas. To date, Edible Yard & Garden has employed refugees from Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. “We learn so much from who we’re working with,” said co-founder Jeremy Lewis. “Many refugees, not having access to resources, have developed more sustainable practices, and have passed them down through tradition,” said co-founder Benjamin Portwood, “For us this is a big asset and very beneficial. Learning has been a two-way street.” Edible Yard and Garden is committed to figuring out ways to value what everyone, in particular the refugee population, can quite literally bring to the table.
Many refugees are particularly poised to contribute much to the discussion surrounding sustainable landscaping, having upheld many of these cultural practices for generations. When one Bhutanese farmer first visited an Edible Yard & Garden demonstration site, he was almost brought to tears, exclaiming, “This is how we do it at home. This plant helps that plant, it is so much easier this way.” With the help of their refugee employees, Edible Yard & Garden has been able to develop ecologies where edible plants complement each other and even serve as pest controls. Through their great appreciation for food practices and significant practical knowledge, the Bhutanese refugee employees have proven a valued asset to the growth of the company.
The relationship between Edible Yard & Garden and its refugee employees strives to be one of solidarity and mutual growth. The organization has been building slowly and is seeking to grow in order to be able to provide steady employment, all while seeking to foster a sense of solidarity through working the earth together. As the organization sets its sight on expansion over the next few years, I am sure refugees will continue to find empowerment and fulfillment in this outstanding company.