The community was buying a proposed business park for 200 acres of land in Fairview, but there appears to be growing support for an idea that would connect New Americans to farming opportunities.
After a citizens group rejected Erie County’s plan for a new business park in Fairview, community leaders are now thinking about other ways to use the 200 acres of land.
President of the NAACP, Gary Horton, is proposing the land be used for farming.
“In Erie, we have a large new American population that likes to grow food and are interested in farming, who don’t have access to farmland in the city,” Horton said.
Horton said they would like to involve the public in the process.
“We don’t want make the same mistake that the county did in not engaging the residents. So we have someone who’s intended purpose is to outreach the residents to see how committed they are to making farming a possibility on that land,” he explained.
The executive director or the Multicultural Resource Center (MCRC) said the idea is in the beginning stages, but she believes there’s a lot of interest among new Americans.
“The majority of the clients that we serve, that’s part of who they are. They grew up farming and that’s how they fed their families and how they’ve made their living. So to come into a city that doesn’t really have a lot of opportunities for farming is a culture shock for them,” said Katie Kretz, executive director of MCRC.
Kretz said the MCRC works to help New Americans maintain part of their heritage and helps them assimilate into American culture.
Kretz and Horton are advocating for American Rescue Plan dollars.
“If there are funds available for us to be able to help promote a better lifestyle for them and really make them feel as though that they’re part of the community, I think that’s very important,” Kretz explained.
“There’s no better use of ARP funds then to be able to bridge an opportunity of New American qualified people in our community to be able to farm at the proposed Fairview Business Park,” Horton went on to say.