Former Iroquois Homes site being made into gardens to provide fo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Former Iroquois Homes site being made into gardens to provide food, jobs and therapy for refugees

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The former site of the crime-ridden Iroquois Homes in southwest Louisville is about to become a produce haven.

Seven acres on Bicknell Avenue near Taylor Blvd. are being turned into a garden that will provide therapy, food and jobs for a group of refugees.

A ceremony and groundbreaking made it official on October 10.

After sitting vacant for years, the old site of the Iroquois Housing Projects is being transformed into the Hope Garden Project.

The project, which is being led by Louisville Grows and Gate of Hope Ministries, is in the early stages.

So far, garlic is the only thing in the ground and the rest of the soil is being prepared.

"So exciting. Everyone wants a small piece of land for his vegetables,” said Pauline Mukeshimana, program director with Gate of Hope Ministries International.

Gate of Hope will provide trauma therapy and interpreters for the refugees.

Louisville Grows will provide expertise.

"Most of the refugees are from the Congo and Central Africa and they've come to Louisville and many of them don't have the language skills they need to find employment, so this garden project, among others is a way they can get involved in something and also make a little bit of money and feel connected to this community and to the earth,” said Valerie Magnuson, director of Louisville Grows.

Louisville Grows got the land through the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

Ten refugee families will maintain the garden in 2016, growing food for a community-supported agriculture program and for retail.

"We're also going to be growing food wholesale for Save-A-Lot, which is our neighbor. And they've also contributed $3,000 to the project and they've made a pledge to purchase the produce that's grown by the refugees,” said Magnuson.

Mukeshimana told WDRB the garden will help the refugees have an easier time settling into their new home.

Once they move here, she says they're here to stay.

She says farming provides more than just therapy and a sense of purpose.

"Not only the exercise, but the healthy food it provides on their tables,” she said.

Some planting is already underway, but the majority of the work will begin next spring.

The refugees will be trained in January.

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