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Refugee Urban Farmers Launch Kickstarter Campaign for Beehives

ALBANY PARK — What's the buzz at Global Garden?

The refugee training farm and community garden just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy bees and two hive boxes, as well as a collection of heirloom seeds.

In 2012, more than 40 refugee families from Bhutan and Burma built an urban farm at Global Garden, managed by the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly. The farmers produced organic vegetables for their families and for sale, learning how to translate their growing skills to a Midwestern climate, with the goal of moving toward economic security.

The refugee farm shares the one-acre space — formerly an abandoned lot on Lawrence Avenue near the Chicago River — with 200 community garden plots erected as part of the Peterson Garden Project pop-up garden movement.

Adding bees to the garden will serve a number of purposes. The Bhutanese and Burmese farmers will produce honey for their own consumption and to sell or turn into beeswax products. At the same time, the bees will pollinate the garden's vegetable crops.

Among those crops: a section of garden planted with seeds from heirloom foods in danger of extinction, gathered from the preservationists at the Seed Savers Exchange.

The total cost of the bees-and-seeds effort is $4,300. Backers of the project will receive rewards that range from an heirloom seed packet for a $15 pledge to a two-hour home consultation with a master gardener for a $1,000 pledge.

The campaign has until May 16 to reach its goal.