With hunger in our eyes, eight refugees, Joanne Finch, and myself carpooled our way down to Patagonia, Arizona on September 14th to do some harvesting.
Patagonia, a small town famous for its beautiful scenario and 300 plus species of birds that nest or pass through the area during migration seasons, is also the location in which lies a 160-acre conservation farm.
Native Seeds/ SEARCH, a major regional seed bank based in Tucson, Arizona, operates this farm along with The Nature Conservancy. These organizations are known for not only perpetuating the existence, growth, and consumption of native fruits and vegetables, but they are also known for their charitable services.
Without a moments thought, we decided to take advantage of one of these services. By putting a few hours of leisurely work in on the farm, we were compensated with 1/3 of the products we picked. With everything on the farm being 100% organic, we were treated with some of natures finest. The main courses consisted of cowpeas, sunflower seeds, and millet -- all of which never having been harvested by Iskashitaa before--, but that wasn't all we got. Wishing for the refugees to get as much out of the experience as possible, we toured various parts of the farm, gathering bags full of wild tomatoes, hot peppers and even pumpkin shoots. You heard me, pumpkin shoots. With a little ingenuity, one can cook both the leaves and the stock of these shoots to create a delicious vegetable dish.
The eight refugees, coming from Bhutan, Somalia, Cameroon, and Someplace Else, were all experienced farmers and plowed through the fields until we compiled large trashcans full of tasty morsels.
As my first experience interning with Iskashitaa, It was truly heart warming to see the smiles on the faces of the refugees as they plugged away at a task they were so familiar with.
"Farm was great!" said Maryann, a woman from Somalia. "I love those tomatoes we picked," said Indra Chauwan, a woman from Bhutan.
We all, including Joanne and I, went home with bunches of food so raw and indigenous that I don't even know how to cook much of it. The refugees on the other hand seemed to know exactly how they were going to use their portion of the spoils, and in the end, that's all that really matters.
By Max Efrein, Iskashitaa Cookbook Intern
 "Conservation Farm", Native Seeds/SEARCH, Native Seeds/SEARCH 2011, http://www.nativeseeds.org/index.php/our-work/conservationfarm.