- New Roots Community Garden in the Bronx hires refugees to plant and harvest peppers.
- Hot sauce maker, Small Axe Peppers, buys the peppers from New Roots, and other gardens like it, at a premium price.
- This premium helps the garden sustain itself, while the company uses the peppers to make and distribute the Bronx Hot Sauce.
- Business Insider Today visited New Roots to learn how the garden, with a boost from a hot sauce company, is helping refugees adjust to life in the US.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Following is a copy of the transcript.
The hot peppers that give this sauce its kick are also giving workers a fresh start.
New Roots farm in the Bronx hires refugees to plant and harvest the peppers that are later used to make the Bronx Hot Sauce.
Hot sauce maker, Small Axe Peppers, partners with more than 100 community gardens across the country that hire sexual assault victims, refugees, and ex-convicts.
The International Rescue Committee assigns refugees to work in gardens through its economic empowerment program.
Rose Nzapa-Ayek fled the Central African Republic after losing her husband and children during the country's violent pre-civil war turmoil.
"This country, if you work for one minute, they're going to pay for one minute, but in my country, it's not like that," Nzapa-Ayerk said. "You work maybe six months with no penny. I call this country, for me, is [the] land of the free."
She arrived in New York 10 years ago, bringing her last surviving daughter.
The International Rescue Committee resettled these women in New York and assigned them to work here in New Roots.
Three years ago, Rose started the training program here, where she studied English and farming. She has since graduated from training. She got a part time job with a catering company and also continued working at the farm planting peppers, kale, swiss chard, and other fresh vegetables.
She says the garden has helped her cope with her trauma.
"When I came, I was very, very sick.," Rose said.
"I went to the hospital. The doctors say to me, 'High blood pressure, high cholesterol.' Then after six months, I go back to the doctor. The doctor has me, 'Oh Rose, congratulation!' Then she said to me, your cholesterol go down. Then I say it's the garden!"
After a year at the garden, Rose's health recovered, and she stopped taking antidepressants. She's also eating better, and has enough food to feed both her and her daughter with the fresh harvest she picks from her garden bed.
Once she's chosen what to take home, Rose sets aside peppers for a hot sauce company. The peppers that Rose harvests in this garden are then used to make the Bronx Hot Sauce.
Since 2014, Small Axe has distributed serrano pepper seeds to community gardens like New Roots each spring.
"We wanted to find a way to kind of empower community gardens to make money doing the things they were already doing," said Small Axe Peppers cofounder Daniel Fitzgerald. "They were already growing fresh and healthy and delicious produce, but they didn't have a way to earn income doing that."
Small Axe buys the peppers back from the gardens in August at a premium price of $4 per pound. The company then drops the peppers off at a facility where the hot sauce is produced and bottled.
In 2018, Small Axe bought back 1,500 pounds of peppers from 30 gardens in the Bronx, which equated to a total of $6,000 paid back to the gardens. Dan and his team made 10,000 bottles of hot sauce that year.
This economic model allows the gardens to sustain themselves.
"We're able to take something that's in season for one, two or three months of the year, lock it in, and then sell it and make it available to customers who want to support these urban farms the other 12 months of the year, which is very cool," Fitzgerald explained.
Sheryll works with the International Rescue Committee to manage the New Roots farm and its economic empowerment program. She has trained dozens of refugees since 2015.
She says most of the refugees and asylees recruited for New Roots go on to get jobs of their own.
"You learn enterprise skills by learning how to not only harvest the food and set up the displays, but how to sell the food; how to do a cooking demonstration so that you can attract clients to the market; how to handle money." Durrant said. "It's like an all-round program. They are equipped with these skills that you can work at a job in the food industry and even start your own enterprise."
But even with her new job, Rose wanted to keep working here. And she doesn't miss a day. She says the garden feels like home.
"This garden is the best place for me to be," said Rose.