Rosata, her husband, Prosper, and son, Japhety, work year-round on their small farm to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables for the Portland community.
Growing food helped Prosper Hezumuryano and Rosata Niyonzima nourish themselves in their home country of Burundi and then feed their expanding family during 12 years at a refugee camp in Tanzania.
Now they cultivate three small farms collectively known as Happiness Family Farm, named for the couple’s daughter. The bounty feeds not only their family, but others around the metro area who buy the farm’s produce at markets and online.
On a recent August afternoon, Niyonzima tenderly cared for rows of chard, kale, collard greens and amaranth. Nearby, chubby yellow summer squash tumbled from vines and tall corn stalks stooped under the weight of their plentiful yield. Chickens clucked, sprinklers whirred and the wind blew through the fields.
In 2007, when the family moved to Beaverton, Oregon from the refugee camp, their future was uncertain. Niyonzima and Hezumuryano both worked full time in minimum-wage jobs, but it was hard to pay for housing and food for their eight children.
“The farm started because things were expensive here and my parents knew how to farm. My parents grew up farming. It was nothing new to them,” said Japhety Ngabireyimana, Niyonzima and Hezumuryano’s son.
Because the farm offers vegetables like amaranth, red beans and small cream-colored African eggplant not commonly found in the Pacific Northwest, Ngabireyimana created videos for the farm’s Instagram site showing how to cook them.
In a short Instagram video, he demonstrates his mother’s recipe for amaranth. He soaks the greens in water for a few minutes, drains them and cuts off the stems. Then he sautees the greens with onions, green pepper and tomatoes. He sprinkles salt, pepper and minced garlic over the mixture, adds water, and cooks the vegetables until they’re wilted.
“I love the taste of amaranth. It’s one of the best things Mom taught me to cook,” Ngabireyimana said.
In addition to holding down a job at Target and attending college classes, Ngabireyimana helps his parents with social media, marketing, translating, harvesting and transplanting for the farm. He intends to continue this work so the business can grow even after his parents can no longer run it.
“After seeing the hard work of my parents,” he said, “seeing it die out would break my heart.”
Text adapted from an article by Rachel Pinsky, first published in The Columbian