Carrots are most often associated with spring and summer but the prime season for Oregon carrots is late summer through early winter. That's Suleyman Idrisov photographed above of Southwest Portland’s two-and-a-half-acre Hayat Farm. He's showing off some of his just out of the dirt, several weeks shy of harvest carrots, for a story I did about him for the Portland Tribune a couple years ago.
Idrisov was born in Uzbekistan, and moved to Russia when he was 16 years old to escape ethnic persecution. Idrisov and his family are Meskhetian Turks, a displaced Muslim population originally from Meskheti (now the country of Georgia). Russia proved difficult as well, so in July 2005 Idrisov, along with his wife, children and sister, sought asylum in Portland.
Idrisov had worked as a farmer in Russia, and shortly after arriving in Portland he learned of Mercy Corps Northwest’s New American Agriculture Project, or NAAP. NAAP educates and assists refugees and immigrants in the Portland and Vancouver, Washington area in establishing small agricultural businesses by leasing local farmland.
In the spring of 2006, Idrisov planted his first American crop of fruits and vegetables on NAAP’s organic certified Hayat Farm — leased from the 60-acre Malinowski Farm. Idrisov pays 10 percent of his revenue to Malinowski Farm for use of the land, while a large portion of his remaining profits are funneled into savings.
Idrisov speaks very little English (we had a translator for my story) so when he sells at various farmers markets around town he lets his vegetables speak for themselves which is in part why he's known as the “beet king.” Idrisov adds that in 2007 the title shifted to “turnip king.” because of his purple-top globe turnips. You can find Idrisov’s Hayat Farm carrots, radishes, cabbage and more at the downtown Portland Farmers Market on Saturdays and at the People’s Cooperative Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
Latest NAAP Happenings:
In 2009 NAAP broke ground with its first CSA on land donated on a lot just south of Westmoreland Park. The previous blackberry and weed infested lot is now a vibrant and productive organic garden cultivated by three Nepalese refugee families. Visit the Mercy Corps Northwest website for more information about the Westmoreland Vegetable Box.
Another recent NAAP development is the Damascus training site established to help train new farmers and launch new farm businesses. Larry Thompson of Thompson Farms in Damascus donated individual half acre and acre plots of his 100-acre farm to NAAP participants.
Damascus site participants have access to $1,500 start-up grants from Mercy Corps Northwest while they learn to budget for expenses such as land, tillage, water and seeds. As participants successfully manage their businesses they can qualify for additional capital from Mercy Corps Northwest. NAAP participants market their organic produce through farmers markets, farm stands, churches and other diverse channels.
Mercy Corps Northwest New American Agriculture Program 43 SW Naito Parkway (In September Mercy Corps Northwest moved to this new location) Portland, Oregon 503.896.5076 www.mercycorpsnw.org