Grow & Tell: Putting Down Roots

Aug 24, 2023 | Grow & Tell - Stories, Local Food Guide

Missoula Nonprofit Facilitates Space to Grow in a New Country As the sun dips below the mountains, a woman slips...

Missoula Nonprofit Facilitates Space to Grow in a New Country

Athena Photography | Meadow Hill Community Gardens | Missoula

As the sun dips below the mountains, a woman slips off her shoes and kneels barefoot in the dirt. Despite having spent her day caring for others, she now gives her attention to the tiny plants before her–once precious seeds from her home country. Like the seeds, she is learning to thrive in a new environment. As she attends to the needs of her garden, the garden, in turn, takes care of her. Beyond simply food, the garden provides her joy, confidence, and purpose. 

Interacting with the land and growing our own food strongly ties us to the places we live. This is also true for many refugees and immigrants. Farming shaped their food practices and deeply connected them to the land they lived on, but forced departure from their countries jeopardized this bond. Soft Landing Missoula, a community-based nonprofit, partners with Garden City Harvest, Tower Gardens Community Garden at FARM, Seedlings 4 Solidarity, and the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition to facilitate the supply of sponsored garden plots to refugee and immigrant growers. This program allows them to preserve a connection to their homeland through farming while putting down roots in their new country and increasing their confidence and autonomy. 

“The garden, and growing, has proven to be this nostalgic, happy space for them,” remarked Greta Bates, Director of Community Partnerships and Client Engagement for Soft Landing Missoula. “It gives them a sense of place. A little bit of familiarity. Something they know…A lot of things are so foreign when they come here, but having access to land, dirt, and soil is something they are very familiar with, and they’re confident in.”

Greta Bates | Bitterroot Line Garden | Missoula

Emily Kern Swaffer, Community Gardens Director at Garden City Harvest, echos Greta’s thoughts, adding further benefits, “I think just having that piece of land to tend, care for, visit, and get you out of the house has immense positive impacts on people’s overall quality of life, but especially mental [and] emotional health, and physical activity.” 

Soft Landing Missoula enables refugee and immigrant families to reenact their connection to land, increase confidence and autonomy, and grow roots in their new community by pairing them with sponsored garden plots. Learn more about Soft Landing Missoula’s programs by visiting their website at Or get involved with your local food system and the land you live on by growing your own food, joining a community garden, or talking with a local farmer or rancher.

Find more stories like this one in our Local Food Guide!

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