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 Garden plot offers members of immigrant community a chance to connect

  • Hari Adhikari talks to customers at the Farmer€™s Market in downtown Concord on June 26. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Hari Adhikari at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Concord on Saturday, June 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Hari Adhikari uses a hoe to clear out her plot of the garden at St. Paul’€™s School on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/3/2021 4:00:20 PM

Sitting on a plastic stool in a field of green, Hari Adhikari broke a kale leaf off at the base of the stem. She repeated the process hundreds of times, bunching the pieces together and securing them with a rubber band. The task was tedious, not to mention time-consuming in the 90-degree heat.

Adhikari arrived at the farm at 6:30 on Monday morning. Her goal for the day: fulfill an order for Fresh Start Farm’s FarmShare. When she finished her kale bundles, she planned to pick 36 bunches of cilantro.

It’s hard work, but Adhikari says she is enamored by farming. So much so that she can arrive at the field in the morning only to lose track of time, spending her day well into the afternoon with her crops.

While farming is an old passion – one that was instilled in her from her childhood days – it was never her vocation.

Adhikari was born and raised in Nepal, where she lived until she immigrated to the United States in 2011. Her uncle and other extended family members had a farm, where she used to visit.

“I loved that,” she said.

Now, she has a plot of her own.

“Finally, I found so much joy in this,” she said. “It makes me so happy.”

Fresh Start Farms

Working with Fresh Start Farms allows Adhikari to grow her crops on the land for free and generate income by selling back to their FarmShare or at local farmer’s markets.

A project of the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, Fresh Start Farms helps work with new American farmers. Since 2011, farmers have grown on their two plots in Dunbarton and Concord.

On Saturday mornings, Adhikari’s husband helps her set up a gray tent at the Concord Farmer’s Market. In black bins, filled with water to keep the crops fresh, she’ll lay out bundles of greens to sell.

“Have you tried my new items?” she asked a customer passing by, pointing to the amaranth and lamb’s quarter.

Some seem skeptical, but slowly the bundles disappear as customers trade $5 a bunch after hearing Adhikari’s sales pitch.

“That’s why we are here, to share culture and food,” she said.

She explains how she likes to saute the greens, use them in a salad or freeze the bunch for later. They’re similar to spinach, she pleads.

“It’s exciting,” she said, teaching people how to cook lamb’s quarter, a plant most don’t think to eat. “Everyone thinks that it’s a weed, and they pull it.”

At Saturday’s market, she figured she made about $250. That was a good day. Since May 28, this is Adhikari’s Saturday routine. She arrives at the market at 7:30 a.m. to set up. By noon, her husband comes back to pick her up.

As one of the best English speakers in the Fresh Start Farm group, she goes to the market each week. If other farmers come, she can help translate for them or be the point person to talk to customers. Sometimes, there are three farmers set up under the gray tent.

“I always work with them so I can communicate with them and customers,” she said.

There is a strategy to her set-up. She places bags of sweet peas at the front of the table, knowing those are popular among customers. Once they’re drawn in, she can pitch her other greens.

Selling amaranth and greens like cress also differentiates herself from other farm stands. In the past, she’s tried to sell kale. But with other farmers selling the same, she ends up having to throw the excess out. Plus she hates to waste and loves to share.

She laughs as a customer complains about how big her bunches are. She said she can’t help herself.

“I have to. They’re the gift of mother nature,” she said.

Finding a new home

Farming was in fact the reason Adhikari moved to Concord.

Her family immigrated to the United States in 2011 through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. At the time, she, her husband and young daughter moved to Massachusetts.

She and her husband are trained musicians. She’s a singer, with a focus on traditional Hindu music, and plays the harmonium. He’s a drummer. They met in school, where they were both studying music at the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, which is about 300 miles south of Kathmandu.

In 2014, Adhikari visited Concord for a music event. In between performances, someone showed her the Sycamore Community Garden on NHTI’s campus.

Among the crops, she also saw a community of new Americans, like herself.

She returned home, rented a U-Haul and her family moved to Concord. She now has no intentions of leaving.

“It is really hard to find this mixed community,” she said.

In 2018, she became a citizen. Now she, her husband and two kids are settled, with a strong community of Nepali and American friends.

“We never get to miss our family, because everyone is like family members,” she said.

As her children get older, the farm becomes more of a family affair. Her daughter, a student at Concord High School, will come help with watering. Her husband helps with the digging. At the market on Saturday, her son sits on a plastic stool under the tent.

And even in Concord, music is still intertwined with her day-to-day life.

She and her husband both work with the Concord Community Music School. Across the state, they perform at various festivals and new American events.

On June 5, she saw her two worlds come together when she attended the New Hampshire Herbal Network’s annual Herb and Garden Day event. Sitting on a blanket outside the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, she played her harmonium, while her husband played the drums.

In between songs, they stood up to tend to their typical Saturday set up, a tent with tables of greens underneath, selling vegetables on the side.


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