Russell’s friend Emily Staugaitis is one of those people who seems to be a kind of natural difference-maker. Where other people see challenges she can identify opportunities, and she’s not afraid to tackle a big project — like trying to set up an urban apple orchard in a depressed part of the Detroit area.
One of Emily’s projects is Bandhu Gardens. It’s a collective effort that uses gardening to help Bangladeshi immigrants in the Detroit area use the green thumbs they developed while growing up in south Asia to connect with each other, and with local restaurants that are interested in fresh, locally grown foods. It’s also a way for Bangladeshi women to make some extra money, achieve more autonomy in their households, and get a taste of the business world in our capitalistic society.
Last year, the Bandhu Gardens group collectively sold 120 pounds of greens, beans and peppers and 25 pounds of squash to restaurant accounts. They’ve also hosted “pop-up” dinners, including some at local restaurants owned or operated by women, have begun to offer cooking classes, and this year will be selling their produce at a large public farmers market in Detroit.
It’s a classic American immigrant story, of how people come to our country and begin to make their way forward, drawing on their traditional experiences and know-how and applying them to realize opportunities in their new home. Sometimes, though, it helps to have someone who can help to point out the openings and make the potential opportunities into realities. Congratulations to Emily for helping to serving in that important role for some of the new arrivals to our land of immigrants!