West Valley City • Call it a field of dreams.
It could be considered nothing less for Bhagiratha Bhattarai, a refugee of Bhutan who crouched beside a planting bed in Salt Lake County's newest urban farm and poked a pumpkin seed into the soil.
Her words were broken. But her message was clear: A business venture soon could sprout from that West Valley City dirt.
"Big sell them," Bhattarai exclaimed.
A refugee initiative known as New Roots of Utah unveiled an expansive community garden near the Redwood Recreation Center on Wednesday that will supply both garden plots and entrepreneurial training to refugees who are trying to make new lives for themselves in Utah.
The farm is the product of a three-way partnership between Salt Lake County, the Utah Refugee Coalition and the International Rescue Committee, along with financial backers such as GE Capital and First Utah Bank.
With 1.5 acres of tillable land, the refugee farm will offer dozens of traditional gardens, as well as four Â¼-acre micro farms that will teach immigrants from troubled lands such as Burma, Ethiopia, Burundi and Bhutan how to grow, market and sell their crops locally.
"We are happy to support you and to watch you grow along with these gardens," Missy Larsen, founder of the Utah Refugee Coalition, told gardeners Wednesday. "We can't wait until you are leading all of this."
Indeed, that is the vision behind a farm that aims to not only feed refugees by giving them a place to plant cauliflower, carrots, peas and other veggies, but also to empower them to start a business using the agricultural skills they acquired before coming to the United States.
"Projects like these are important," said Ze Xiao, the county's refugee coordinator. "They engage them in something they know how to do."
With some coaching, refugees then are taught how to make money off that trade in Utah a philosophy that guides programs such as Global Artisans and the Refugee Kitchen Alliance that help immigrants learn how to profit from selling crafts and food.
Suk Bhujel, a Bhutanese refugee, described his community plot as "the beginning" of something larger.
"We have dream of having a business in the future," he said. "Right now, we are having only the base level. We are going to try and try until we get the best."
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon applauded the initiative, made possible by the county's urban-farming program.
"We, as a community, should give them an opportunity to be successful," he said. "This is a small way to help them be self-sufficient."
The New Roots of Utah initiative already has 90 garden plots for refugees at five separate locations. The new farm will add 36 gardens to that inventory, including several raised planter beds surrounded by concrete for people with disabilities.
"As we embrace our refugee friends and get involved with them in projects like this, we enhance all of our lives," said Pamela Atkinson, a longtime advocate of the homeless and disadvantaged. "We enhance our culture as well as hopefully enhancing theirs." By the numbers
8,103 • Refugees who came to Utah between 2000-09, according to the Utah Refugee Office
$30,000 • Estimated cost of building the refugee farm
36 • Community gardens included in the West Valley City project
4 • Micro-farms that will provide small-business training for refugees
1.5 • Size of the refugee farm in acres