The Karen Farm is a story of the Karen people’s journey. It is said that soil runs through the veins of the Karen, and their affinity to the land is unmistakeable. For the Karen farmers, the farm is a new, hopeful chapter.
The Karen people farm high in the mountains in Thailand and Burma using traditional farming methods handed down from generation to generation.
Now, in Ottawa they are using those skills to grow high-quality produce.
Their methods are chemical free, as respect for the land is of prime importance in Karen culture. Karen farmers take great pride in growing food and preserving the land.
From Thailand to Canada
Karen farmers are used to long growing seasons, the only variable is the produce that is being farmed. There are definite planting, harvesting months dependent on their rainy, dry seasons that define their farming practices. In Ottawa the Karen farmers start to plan for the growing season while they are still up to their knees in snow. It won’t be long before they are up to their knees in mud as the melt down begins on the farmland they work in Blackburn Hamlet.
In 2014, Shar La Lah visited her family and her village, and brought back images of farm life in her community.
Shar La Lah and Kloy Htoo, husband and wife farmers, are dedicated to the farm and spend their days there working, and teaching Karen youth about farming.
Towards a dream!
The farm is the expression of a dream that will see these Karen farmers on land they can call their own. This is the completion of a circle that starts with Canada extending a hand to help those who have lost everything due to forced relocation.
When the Karen in Canada truly heal and flourish, they will become whole once again. And with that, the circle is complete, where the Karen can make the contributions using the skills they bring with them. To contribute, and truly take part in this new community is their deepest hope.
So many come to this country with skills that are often overlooked as they integrate into our way of life. Perhaps someday, as we learn together, this project can serve as an inspiration for others who strive to create a new life in Canada, and for those who extend a hand to help.
Just Food is an organization whose mission is to work towards a vibrant, just and sustainable food system in the Ottawa region. It is in cooperation with the Just Food Farm that the Karen farmers and KLEO work an acre of land in the Ottawa Greenbelt in Blackburn Hamlet. Here the Karen farmers learn from others farmers and share their extensive knowledge of organic farming. The Just Food – Karen farm is organic with the certification process under way this year.
Kleo has been providing financial support for the startup phase of the farm. This year KLEO decided to form a farm team to help the farmers weed through North American techniques of crop planning, planting intervals, translating and liaising with produce outlets, and with the enormous amount of paperwork that is required. With that, we enjoy the opportunity to experience some of the hard work of the farmers as their infectious vitality comes to life as surely as the produce emerges from the ground.