After spending her entire life in refugee camps in Rwanda and Tanzania, Janine Ndagijimana is now a successful farmer in Colchester, Vermont, growing African eggplant and other crops native to her home country. Sales have increased due to word of mouth, as news of the native African vegetables’ availability spread to other New Americans in Vermont and throughout the U.S. She is also tapping into the resale market, with resellers from as far away as Florida purchasing her harvest in large quantity for distribution elsewhere.
Ndagijimana’s success is due largely to her determination and smart business sense, coupled with some additional help along the way. She started growing some of her crops in a community garden, and a local farmer has leased her land for free. She connected with New Farms for New Americans Vermont and the University of Vermont Extension Service for funding and support. And she gives back by serving as a teacher and role model for other farmers looking to emulate her successful business model of high-demand, limited availability crops grown on small farms. Like other successful New American farmers in Vermont, Ndagijimana has found a way to leverage her native culture into a productive and profitable business.