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Bhutanese refugees embrace community garden on farmer’s land

  • Tony Gillespie of Canterbury and his wife Isabel started a relationship with the Bhutanese community a few years ago with the help of  Ghana Sharma, left, and it has helped both.

    Tony Gillespie of Canterbury and his wife Isabel started a relationship with the Bhutanese community a few years ago with the help of Ghana Sharma, left, and it has helped both.

  • Bola Sharma tends to the Bhutenese community garden at Tony Gillespie's farm in Canterbury.

    Bola Sharma tends to the Bhutenese community garden at Tony Gillespie's farm in Canterbury.

  • The Bhutenese group that comes to the farm

    The Bhutenese group that comes to the farm

  • Tony Gillespie of Canterbury and his wife Isabel started a relationship with the Bhutanese community a few years ago with the help of  Ghana Sharma, left, and it has helped both.
  • Bola Sharma tends to the Bhutenese community garden at Tony Gillespie's farm in Canterbury.
  • The Bhutenese group that comes to the farm

The old cherry trees wouldn’t be moved, Tony Gillespie decided while tilling soil on his 13 bucolic acres in Canterbury.

The shade he’d provide would be appreciated on hot days at the community garden, he thought, when planning began two years ago. He was sure someone would come to use the land, but at the time, he didn’t know they’d be coming from half a world away.

Between thunderstorms Thursday afternoon, a dozen Bhutanese refugees sought a seat beneath those two trees, as a warm breeze ruffled the nearby corn husks they had planted months before.

This, said Concord’s Ghana Sharma, is the Bhutanese community garden, tucked behind a red farmhouse on Southwest Road, near the Concord line.

The garden sits at the intersection of two cultures: those of the Gillespie family and the area’s Bhutanese community. It is a unique arrangement that has Gillespie’s children mulling through rows of vegetables as Bhutanese elders tend to their crop, one of few remaining connections to their home. For the Bhutanese, time spent in the garden is therapeutic. For Tony and Isabel Gillespie, the garden is the realization of a family’s desire to find a meaningful use for its land.

“We had prayed for something like this to happen,” Tony Gillespie said. “It wasn’t really a long-term plan, but it’s been a desire for a long time.”

The family broke ground on the first plots in July 2012. About 25 Bhutanese families maintained gardens during the first season. This summer, about 57 families are tilling the soil, planting traditional crops and harvesting from their personal plots.

“The people come partly to harvest and work in the garden,” said Sharma, a Bhutanese native and the garden’s administrator. “We are farmers, and we come from a country where they did that. For them to come here and not have that was very difficult for them.”

This was the message Sharma delivered to Gillespie two years ago during a birthday party. Gillespie’s wife, Isabel, was teaching English to new Americans through the New Beginnings Church of the Nazarene when a Nepalese student invited the couple to a party.

“I wasn’t all that enthused about going, but I went anyway,” Gillespie said. The property, dubbed Indian Meadows, had been in the family for more than three decades, and Tony Gillespie moved from Nashua about eight years ago. The family had wondered about meaningful uses for the land, and Ghana’s message was an unexpected answer.

“Ghana and I met and started talking about gardens, and we had really been praying about having some people we could share our land with,” Gillespie said. “It was my parents’ desire to do this kind of thing. They never had this opportunity exactly, but they were generous people, and they would have liked to see this being done.”

The garden doesn’t close, and its users aren’t asked to pay. Sharma handles applications for plots, and ensures users agree to basic terms of use, including an agreement not to disturb the family or damage or neglect the property. In return, Gillespie asks only that his guests respect the land and each other. He provides water at no charge, though a moist summer has kept his irrigation pipes from being used.

Most plots measure about 350 square feet – 7 feet by 50 feet – and contain tomatoes, greens, cucumbers and mustard seeds. “It just amazes us how much produce they can get out of their gardens,” he said. “They come out with these huge, huge bags of produce.”

For Bhutanese elders who farmed wheat, barley, corn and grains in their native country, digging their hands in the soil on the sloped, hay-covered property, is a reminder of home.

“It makes them happy, and it brings a type of healing and satisfaction,” said Bhakta Darjee of Concord, who has maintained a garden for two seasons. “All around the grandparents and parents are staying home, and it makes it boring for them. When they come here, they feel happy, and they talk to each other and laugh a little bit.”

Everything he grows, his family eats, he said.

“It feels like we did our share. This is ours. We did this. Everyone likes that, because it’s a product from ourselves,” he said.

Demand continues to increase, and while Gillespie jokes there are “only so many acres,” he has already started clearing new plots for next summer. Next year, the garden will be renamed the New American Community Garden, Sharma said.

This is good news for people like Bishnu Kanal of Concord, who inherited a pumpkin-covered plot earlier this summer. He smiled as he crouched and ruffled the leaves of his cherry tomatoes.

“I usually come after three or five days. I have not gone to any of the stores to buy vegetables,” he said through a translator. He expects the Bhutanese community to continue to embrace the gardens. “This reminds us a lot of home,” he said.

What his peaceful and friendly guests take from the property, they return in life lessons for Gillespie and his three children, Ian, Beatriz and Yesenia. “They work hard, and the children come out and see them working in the sun, it shows a very strong work ethic,” Gillespie said.

“These people have become our friends, friends that we did not have before,” he said. “There are some we haven’t gotten to know yet, but we will.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@ cmonitor.com or on Twitter @iainwilsoncm)

Legacy Comments18

Why do people keep bringing up illegal immigration in response to a article featuring legal immigrants? Do you understand that when you do this, it looks to others like you are lumping legal and illegal immigrants into the same unwanted group?

I am a republican and I am not against legal organized immigration. I am against illegal immigration such as is happening on our southern border. I also have numerous friends who are US citizens, formerly from other countries including Mexico, that came here legally and went through the proper channels to become citizens. They are furious at what is going on and do see this as the democrats bolstering their roles. As is typical of the left, just because I am against illegal immigration I am classified by the left as uncaring. Not so.

Still not going to vote for Jean Shaheen...her track record on illegal aliens and open borders is abysmal. In her own words New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen reportedly added, "Rather than worrying about the silos where the money comes from, we need to think about what we can do that’s right for the kids."

Reportedly? By whom?

"Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski told a panel, "This is a humanitarian crisis, and we have to go to the edge of our chairs to at least get the estimate for fiscal ’15...our failure to appropriate could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis." New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen added, "Rather than worrying about the silos where the money comes from, we need to think about what we can do that’s right for the kids." Washington Post

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/06/01/Sharp-Increase-in-Illegal-Immigrant-Children-AT-Border-Causes-Crisis - - - - - What gets me irritated about Shaheen the Dem is that she does not "think beyond the silos" of where some of our tax-payer money is being kept or stored, to that of HOW it is extracted from some of us by FORCE to begin with, that when Ed & Elaine Brown didn't pay their supposed "fair share" of taxes as contested with their civil case #2005-C-033 in Grafton County Superior Court that the Feds stole by violating their own 28USC636(c)(1) needing the "consent" of BOTH parties: P & D did the Feds go by their own U.S. Supreme Court case-law by the Morsel case of 1875 to squeeze them down into half the RSA Ch. 480:1-9 "freehold" or homestead to make payments on the so-called debt? No they (with the help of the N.H. State Police goons here that (or who) call themselves "law enforcement" officers be really are just political policy enforcers) plucked them off the land and send you and me the bills for their upkeeps! The State judge who allowed this Removal was Judge Jean K.(Mrs. Peter Hoe) Burling whose Article 36 retirement is undeserving and so ought to be reviewed for such during her next annual review and RSA Ch. 100-C:15 amended to attach plus to maybe also have her impeached! cc: to the candidates for Reps over there. Of what is Shaheen's favorite vegetable? The squash? because she likes to squash the Executive branch-ers with her opinions in the Legislative; of to do what she thinks of not to do her Section 5 duty in the 14th Amendment too? She KNOWS that we are one of the eleven states that do not elect our "Judicial officers" but could not care less since the complaint of one in her "Democracy" "doesn't amount to a hill of beans."

You understand that the refugees featured in this story are LEGAL immigrants, right?

I t think a lot of Republicans don't want any immigration, even legal. Keep America for Americans before whites become a minority..

Again, a hysterical response and untrue. We simply want existing laws followed and the border wall. period.

Which is it a sign of -- prosperity or patriotism -- to be so bitter and unwelcoming to honest hard-working people of the soil?

57 Family Community Garden Plots on 13 Canterbury acres. " Most plots measure about 350 square feet – 7 feet by 50 feet – and contain tomatoes, greens, (see below, plus 2 more of: corn and carrots) cucumbers and mustard seeds. " Yup, according to; http://www.gardenguides.com/138591-vegetables-grow-new-england.html " The Best Vegetables to Grow in New England. . . New England encompasses USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 6 on the United Stated Department of Agriculture zone map. While all of the six New England states---Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island---can plant the same vegetables, gardeners in different zones will plant and different times and may grow different varieties. Carrot / / / / / Carrots grow well throughout New England, as both a spring and fall crop, since they dislike the hot humid summers common in the region. The University of Maine recommends scarlet nantes, nelson, sweetness II and bolero for Northern New England gardeners. Carrots can be eaten raw or fresh and contain high doses of vitamin A. Carrots mature in 60 to 75 days on average. . . Corn / / / / / Corn was already a staple crop in New England when European colonists arrived and continues to be grown throughout the region today. Gardeners can choose between yellow, white or bicolor sweet corn. The University of Maine suggests Daybreak, Seneca Horizon, Silvery Queen, Silver King and Argent for New England gardens. Corn requires a warm soil for germination, above 55 degrees F, and grows as a summer crop in New England. Green Beans / / / / / Green beans include both pole beans, which require trellising, and bush beans, which do not. They grow as a summer vegetable and are the second most-popular garden vegetable after tomatoes, according to the University of Illinois. Most beans mature in 55 to 65 days. Blue lake, Kentucky blue and scarlet runner are recommended fresh varieties for New England, while dried bean lovers will want to try the yellow eye, the traditional baking bean of the region. Tomatoes / / / / / Tomatoes perform well in New England gardens in full sun. Gardeners can try heirloom varieties Pruden's purple, striped German and red brandywine, or cherry tomatoes sweet million or sun gold. Tomatoes mature in 50 to 80 days, depending on the variety. / / / / / . . . Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English. " & see: http://www.pickyourown.org/NHharvestcalendar.htm for the cucumbers and more, but no mustard seeds listed, but by name of found in Wolfeboro: . http://newhampshirefarms.net/farm-profiles/carroll-county/the-olde-ways-at-mustard-seed-farm-wolfeboro-nh.html

Hey Joe . . . may I ask why you thought it'd be a good idea to post a primer on gardening in New England as a comment to this story about refugees and their community garden hobby???

Because "Most plots measure. . . and contain" only these four listed vegetables, and so me curious as to what the other #____ ones are of in the minority. I guess sometimes I have to be more blunt Dan. (;-) Thanks for the reply. Maybe somebody can answer this simple question: What are the OTHER vegetables there? Monday @ 7:37 p.m.

Sheeesh! Marijuana, peyote cactus and psilocybe mushrooms. Satisfied?

Yeah! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peyote#mediaviewer/File:Peyote_Cactus.jpg from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peyote and don't forget Article 5 of our N.H. Bill off Rights! to Religion.

Sorry, I forgot all about Article 5 - that'll never happen again. I also forgot to mention that they're growing opium poppy.

Gracchus, you made me spit my coffee. That's the best laugh I've had in weeks.


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