Immigrants and refugees have historically created communities in Missouri’s large cities. In the late 20th and early 21st century, however, industries have drawn new populations to the state’s rural areas. Noel, a two-square-mile town with a population of about 2,000 people, has experienced rapid growth over the last two decades. Latinx immigrants as well as refugees from Somalia, Sudan, and Myanmar have settled in the town to work at the Tyson Foods chicken processing plant. The shifting demographics have also changed Noel’s built environment. In 2009, residents established a Mosque and an African Grocery store a year later. Located in Noel’s Main Street, the two provided an important gathering space for the community before they were destroyed by a fire in December 2020.
Although immigrants and refugees comprise a significant percentage of Noel’s population, they have not necessarily been welcomed. The newcomers have experienced discrimination, acts of vandalism, and racism from public officials. Individuals and organizations, however, have helped new residents navigate their life in rural Missouri. Founded in 2017, Refugee And Immigrant Services & Education (RAISE) provides social services, education, and assistance to help refugees settle in Noel. RAISE also advocates for this population through grassroots projects such as this community garden. The garden provides agricultural and nutritional education while creating a space that can foster relationships and bridge cultural divides amongst Noel’s residents. As rural Missouri becomes increasingly diverse, community efforts like RAISE are critical to addressing the region’s challenges.
Categories: Agriculture, Cities & Towns, People
Subject: Community gardens.
Contributing Institution: Springfield-Greene County Library District
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Photographer: Ben Divin
Photography Date: 2021