New Brunswick

Syrian farmers learn to work Canadian soil in Keswick Ridge

Some old farmland outside of Fredericton is being used to help about 10 Syrian refugee families learn how to farm in Canada and to give them work experience and a little extra food at the table.

12 hectares of donated farmland used for training new farmers at the Tula Farm Project

Ten Syrian families farmed at the Tula Farm Project this summer growing fruits and vegetables in Keswick Ridge. (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)

Some old farmland outside of Fredericton is being used to help about 10 Syrian refugee families learn how to farm in Canada and to give them work experience and a little extra food at the table.

Twelve hectares of donated land in Keswick Ridge is being used as a training ground, known as the Tula Farm Project, aimed at teaching new farmers how to work Canadian soil.  

"A lot of families that have come over recently from Syria were farmers back home," said Brittany MacLean with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. 

"A lot of them aren't currently employed, they are in English classes all day and they're looking for a way to get outside, feed their families." 

The land, made up of a pair of fields and old forest, was donated to the Conservation Council in the 1980s. This summer it was used by 10 families from Syria, growing several different types of crops. 

Brittany MacLean of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick considers this years harvest a success and hopes that someday the fields at the Tula Farm Project will house several acres of crops by people throughout the Fredericton area. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
"That was the intention of Jim and Kay Bedell when they donated that land," said MacLean.

"They were peace activists and they wanted the land to be used for sustainable, community farming." 

MacLean, who used the land when working on her masters the University of New Brunswick studying agroecology, considers this year's harvest a success.

But the group did have to overcome some obstacles. 

"One of the biggest challenges was finding transportation out here," said MacLean.

"So a lot of them were very interested in being in a rural area, starting up their farming careers again, but they're in Fredericton. They don't have driver's licences yet, so being able to just work on the land was difficult." 

The Tula Farm project is working towards having young farmers manage one acre plots within the next season or two. (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
Nuisance deer were also an issue for the fledgling crops, jumping the electric fence protecting them.

Upgraded deterrents are expected for next year. 

MacLean said the ultimate goal of the Tula Farm Project is to get young farmers to the point where they can make a living from the land. 

"In the next season, or the season after that, we want them to be comfortable to maybe work a one acre plot, and maybe start a business from that," said MacLean.

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.