Thursday, April 11

Sustainable South: Susan Pavlin

Susan Pavlin of Global Growers Network. Photo by Global Growers Network.

Susan Pavlin is redefining the links between the South and Africa. As the director of Global Growers Network, she connects refugee farmers—often from east African countries—with farm projects in metropolitan Atlanta. Similarities in the climate and vegetation of the American South and east Africa allow the refugees to grow crops they know. The result is a community that fosters self-sufficiency in a bustling American megacity. 
Global Growers Network was born of Refugee Family Services (RFS), a Stone Mountain-based nonprofit that helps women and children acclimate to life in the United States. Pavlin, who was with RFS at the time, observed that refugee farmers had a hard time adapting to a land of strip malls and fast-food restaurants. She successfully negotiated contracts with landowners and local governments, allowing the refugees to farm vacant plots. Over time, she created the network that is now Global Growers.
Photo by Global Growers Network.
The network continues to grow. With several projects running and a training farm in Stone Mountain, Global Growers is putting down roots in Atlanta—and so are the refugees. The women of the Burundi Women’s Farm are a great example. Growing crops such as okra and mustard greens, they sell to American customers who have deep roots in the South. With increasing ease and confidence, the Burundi women—who used to wait to be picked up and driven to the farms—commute via Atlanta’s public transportation system. Some are learning how to drive.
The Global Growers Network is a testament to the changing South. Through their work as farmers, the refugees, the refugees and feeding their friends and family while playing a vital role in the South’s evolution. They set a table where all may gather.

Emilie Dayan, our office intern/assistant/chief collaborator, blogs weekly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.