We often say that food has the power to transform lives, and we see this so clearly in our Growing Together program. Growing Together is The Nashville Food Project’s agricultural micro-enterprise training program. Through it, we work to expand farming access and opportunity to a group of growers who are originally from Burma and Bhutan. Through the program, farmers gain access to land, seeds, training and collective sales outlets, supporting them as they grow food to sell and earn supplemental income for their families.
While food is the tool of Growing Together, education and transformation are the results of the program, for both The Nashville Food Project and the participating farmers. Not only do the farmers learn important skills from our staff, but they learn from each other, and we learn from them! We recently sat down with one of these farmers, Chandra Paudel, to talk about what he has learned and what he has shared with others by participating in this program.
Chandra, like the other Growing Together participants, worked as a farmer in his native country of Bhutan. While he began the program with vast farming knowledge, he tells us that he has enjoyed building upon that knowledge.
“This year I learned about how to look for pests and control them,” he says, adding that he has also “Continued to build on the bed preparation skills.”
Growing Together Program Manager Lauren Bailey can attest to that. “Chandra’s plot is meticulous; the time and care that he devotes to tending his plot is unmistakable.”
Chandra says that in addition to honing his farming skills, he has also learned more about budgeting, record keeping and crop production planning. On one Saturday each month you can see him at the Growing Together booth at the Richland Park Farmers’ Market. There Chandra is able to interact directly with his customers, showing them new types of produce not often grown in Middle Tennessee, while gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to grow for and sell at market.
Lauren tells us that Chandra manages his household and his plot, while also working as a paid leader of the Growing Together community, giving him added responsibility of upkeep of the common areas on the farm.
“Chandra shares so much with the community of growers and the staff,” she tells us. Lauren explains that Chandra truly is a leader in his Growing Together community. “He embodies this leadership in his willingness to take on new techniques and apply information that staff share in trainings and meetings. I think of him as an “idea champion”. If staff suggests a certain pest control practice or harvesting tip, he is often the first to positively respond with an eager nod.”
Growing Together is strengthened by Chandra and farmers like him, who enrich the practice by sharing of themselves. The reality of community-shared farmland can often be messy and unpredictable, but this incredible community makes it work with their willingness to learn with us and one another.