116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Darius and Wealee Nupolu dream of having more land to grow more food.
The married couple farms their acre of land at Dows Farm every morning before they head to their full-time jobs.
The work on the farm, however, is the dream they have been pursuing since before arriving to the United States over five years ago. Emigrating from Liberia in 2015, the two are farmers taking part in the Equitable Land Access Program, a partnership between Linn County and Feed Iowa First.
The program, which is in its first year, connects people who have a background in agriculture but no land with the fertile fields along Dows Road east of Cedar Rapids.
Currently, two farmers each have an acre of land to grow what they want, however they want, through the program. Other farmers are growing conventional crops on the other roughly 100 acres at Dows Farm.
“We help them get started with equipment and things like that,” said Feed Iowa First Executive Director Carter Oswood. “But we don’t tell them what tools they use or need.”
The farmers then are able to sell the crops they grow and harvest for profit, increasing the amount of and access to locally grown food in Linn County, Oswood said.
Dows Farm is 179 county-owned acres of farmland, pasture and stream buffer bordered by Mount Vernon and Dows roads. In the future, it also will be the site of an agri-community that mixes housing with farming
When complete, half the property will be conservation land, 25 percent will be the farm’s operation and the remaining 25 percent will be the agri-community.
Darius, 43, who has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Liberia and a master’s of strategic leadership from Mount Mercy University, uses no machinery in his farming practices. He farms using hand tools like shovels, rakes and hoes.
He said his interest in farming came from growing up on his dad’s farm in the west African country.
"I decided to learn it to improve the life of my family and now I’m able to ascend to other people,“ Darius said.
He applied to take part in the Equitable Land Program, which was at no cost other than a deposit that is given back at the end of the season.
Currently, the Nupolus, with some help from their three children, are growing rows of tomatoes, bell peppers, ghost chilies, okra, onion, eggplant and various African crops including bitter ball and watergreens. Darius said his farming methods are organic.
When the family moved to Iowa in 2017, Darius said he observed a lot of Africans in the Cedar Rapids area making the four-hour drive to Minneapolis to buy some of the same African foods that he now grows.
“I thought we could try to do something,” he said. “Instead of driving, we can produce these things here.”
So every day, Darius and Wealee, 35, farm from 7 a.m. to about 1 p.m., then they head to their full-time jobs at Nordstrom Direct.
“We come here every day and do this all by hand,” Wealee said. “Our goal is to get more land to grow more food.”
Oswood said the program’s first year has proved to be viable and next year the program will help Darius and Wealee establish their own company.
“Consistency is our motto,” Darius said. “Anything you plan to do, you have to be consistent in it. Dedication is the only way to succeed … This has been my dream.”
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