With a boost from SDOP, Afghan ranchers in Virginia are raising cattle that meets Halal requirements
A connection with Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville
joined a ranching cooperative and the self-development ministry
by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Afghan refugees in Prince William County, Virginia, had two major needs: job opportunities and Halal food. There was experience in the community with farming and cattle-raising in the northern Virginia county’s Afghan community. Some refugees had pooled their resources to purchase cattle and secure land.
In March 2021, the Afghan Cattle Cooperative formed, and in October, the farm management group was organized and registered as Afghan Farm Associates LLC. The goal is to help meet the growing demand for Halal food, which is food permissible, cultivated and prepared according to Islamic law, for the local Afghan and Muslim community.
While the group has been able to start the Afghan Cattle Cooperative, it needed funding to manage the ACC in order to make it successful. A member of the Refugee Resettlement Ministry at Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia, recommended that the group apply for funding from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.
“Since we didn’t have enough budget to run our farm the way we wanted on our own, we needed external support to boost our efforts toward achieving our goals,” says Mohammad Shafiq Faqeerzai, general manager of the Afghan Cattle Cooperative. “Consequently, we submitted a grant application, and luckily it got approved by the generous management of SDOP.”
“SDOP’s assistance will be vital on the execution of ACC’s goals,” Faqeerzai said. “We have planned to expand our farm by purchasing up to 12 more calves and/or young cows and one bull and the required amount of hay for the winter season, and other necessities.”
He said there are a lot of people to work on the farm. The goal is to supply local Afghan markets.
That demand continues to grow as more Afghan families are coming to Virginia, as well as communities in states across the U.S., following the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Marine Corps Base Quantico in Prince William County is one of the military bases where Afghan refugees have been arriving in the U.S.
Faqeerzai says the farm is more than just a business. It is a place “where the Afghan refugee families get to gather and spend their spare time by working in the farm and enjoy being close to the cattle. Meanwhile, they are learning the modern farming system of the USA from the neighbor farmers of the community and other farmer members of Greenwich Presbyterian Church.”
The application process with SDOP was very easy, Faqeerzai says, simply involving submitting the materials online and then a follow-up meeting with SDOP staff and committee members on Zoom.
“We will continue our relationship with SDOP by submitting our farm pictures, videos and successful stories,” Faqeerzai says. “Meanwhile, we will appreciate further support from SDOP and other donors. SDOP is a generous donor. Without their support, it was not easy for us to achieve our goals.”