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Dunbarton refugee community fundraiser reaches its goal

  • A shot of Fresh Start Farms taken in November shortly after a community fundraising campaign to help the Organization of Refugee and Immigrant Success purchase the land began. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A shot of Fresh Start Farms taken in November shortly after a community fundraising campaign to help the Organization of Refugee and Immigrant Success purchase the land began. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Friday, February 17, 2017

The community side of a fundraising campaign to make sure a farm tended by refugees stays fertile reached its goal in just two months.

The Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, along with the Russell Foundation, launched the Our Story Hill effort on Nov. 15, 2016 with the goal of raising $20,000 to purchase 56.8 acres of land from the Stone family in Dunbarton. The group’s Fresh Start Farms program lets refugees farm their own crops and keep 100 percent of proceeds as part of their overall resettlement.

By Jan. 20, the project had reached its goal, but that hasn’t stopped the flow of support: as of Friday, 234 community donations and matching efforts have raised $23,253.

It was some of the quickest local fundraising Ian Sweeney, executive director of the Russell Foundation, said he’s ever seen.

“I was surprised at the amount of support,” Sweeney said. “It was really quick for New Hampshire fundraising.”

Sweeney was surprised, too, given the ongoing national conversation regarding refugees and immigrants in the country, and noted the project garnered attention from local media, including the Monitor, who wanted to know more about the farm and the people who worked it. There was initially a concern, he said, that too much focus on the refugee’s lives would draw negative attention to the project.

But getting the project this far needed more than monetary donations, and Sweeney said the true number of people who donated to the campaign was around 250 to 270.

Volunteers did social media outreach, old-fashioned flyering, and organized a poetry night in Portsmouth.

ORIS is looking to purchase the farm from the Stone family for about $90,000, or 40 percent of its estimated worth.

The group will now move forward with planning for how the land would be managed, such as whether to convert a stretch of forest into farmland. Sweeney said they can now also pursue donations from foundations.

He said the goal now is to secure the rest of the funds by late spring or early summer. With any luck, the farm will belong to ORIS by late summer.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)