Land & Environment

USU Students Helping Refugees Start Anew With Food From Home

By Marcus Jensen |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

SALT LAKE CITY — Inside the greenhouse at Utah State University Salt Lake Center, a special partnership has taken root. USU partners with the New Roots program, a service of the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City that enables refugees to celebrate their heritage and nourish themselves and their families by planting familiar crops in their new communities.

Students in the horticulture program at USU Salt Lake Center use the campus’ greenhouse to start these plants from seeds in the spring semester. After the plants have matured and are ready to plant in the fields in May, the crops are then given to New Roots to be put in the community farm.

“We start these plants pretty early in the semester,” said Rachel Broadbent, senior lecturer and horticulture program coordinator. “The students participate in the watering, the pest management and the fertilization of these plants. This makes sure they are good and ready to be handed off to New Roots in May.”

Participants in the New Roots program each have their own plot of land on two farm sites that are leased from Salt Lake County. They use the plants provided by USU’s greenhouse to grow crops that are familiar to them. Participants are given free reign over what they grow and how their plots are used. They can use the crops grown as their own food or to sell at local farmer’s markets, to grocery stores or local restaurants to earn supplemental income and build farm businesses.

“They kind of make it their own site,” said Sierra Govett, community garden coordinator for the New Roots program in Salt Lake. “It’s really their farm, not ours. That can really do what they want and grow whatever they want with their plots.”

This is the third year of the partnership between USU and New Roots. Each year, the two units have met to look for ways to improve the program, both for farmers as well as making the process better for the students who participate. The partnership is another way USU looks to fulfill its mission of being a resource to the community.

“The reason we continue to work with New Roots is the real-life impact that it has on the community,” said David Vernon, associate vice president for the Wasatch Region. “It’s a way for students to apply skills in a meaningful way, right on our campus. There is a lot of pride in the good things that USU does, and it is great to be a part of it.”

The International Rescue Committee provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture and other immigrants to thrive in America. Each year, thousands of people, forced to flee violence and persecution, are welcomed by the people of the United States into the safety and freedom of America. These individuals have survived against incredible odds. The IRC works with government bodies, civil society actors and local volunteers to help them translate their past experiences into assets that are valuable to their new communities. In Salt Lake City and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.

Located in the heart of the Salt Lake Metropolitan area, Utah State University Salt Lake Center offers students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university. With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings, USU Salt Lake Center offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


David Vernon
Associate Vice President for the Wasatch Region
USU Statewide Campuses
(801) 597-0640


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