Reading the daily news can be a real downer sometimes. It’s rare that we hear how the efforts of one person can make a real difference in the world. If you’re having one of those days, well, this blog post is for you.

Today we have a story for you about a woman who is singlehandedly helping local immigrant and refugee farmers launch successful farming businesses in Massachusetts. She’s also helping diversify the farming bounty that appears in our local farmers’ markets and on our plates.

Meet Maria Moreira, the founder of Flats Mentor Farm which is located on a 70-acre piece of land in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Flats Mentor Farm got its start in 1985 when a Hmong woman, an immigrant from Laos, approached Ms. Moreira about using a small corner of Ms. Moreira’s land for farming. Ms. Moreira agreed to let the woman use it at no cost and the seed of an idea sprouted. Today, Flats Mentor Farm has grown to help a diverse group of immigrant and refugee farmers grow and sustain successful farming enterprises. Flats Mentor Farm provides land and training to its participating farmers at no cost. Farmers receive technical assistance on soil fertility, irrigation, pest and weed management, and marketing.

At first, many of the farmers grow just enough food to sustain their families. Through mentoring services that Flats Mentor Farm provides, many quickly begin to grow crops that produce enough bounty to sell through local farmer’s markets. Flats Mentor Farm encourages its farmers to grow crops that embody their various cultures. Lalu “Egyptian Spinach”, callaloo, and tatsoi are just a few of the delicious bounty grown at Flat Mentor Farm.

While we often highlight the excellent agricultural and food science programs that our universities offer, we’re eager to highlight the difference that individuals like Ms. Moreira make too. The need for training for people who want to farm this land is large. Flats Mentor Farm provides invaluable opportunities to farmers but also to all of us. By encouraging and supporting the local immigrant and refugees farmers to grow and prosper, we also reward our palates with a diverse selection of delicious produce in our restaurants and homes.

Read more about Maria Moreira and Flats Mentor Farm here. 

Visit the Flat Mentor Farm website here.