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From Nepal to Truro, with love

From Nepal to Truro with love, April 2018 Cape Cod LIFE |

Digree poses with her favorite flower in the garden, a yellow Dinnerplate Dahlia.

Truro’s connection with the Nepalese couple began with Nancy Pease, a neighbor of Down Home Farm. Bhala explains, “I was her porter in Nepal. Nancy had been trekking there many times, and I worked with her on four or five trips.” Pease later invited Bhala to come work for her in the United States, first in California, then at her second home in Truro. Beginning in 2006, Bhala worked for Nancy in the summers and returned to Nepal in the winters. This led to Janice Allee hiring the Rais on a full-time basis. An artist, Allee converted her studio—appropriately located in an already-renovated barn—into a home for the Nepalese couple and their son David. As they had done for Nancy, Bhala and Digree’s work for Janice Allee and Ron Singer involved odd jobs around the property and landscaping. Digree’s flower gardens brightened the hillside and began to draw the attention of Francie Randolph, director of Sustainable CAPE, the Center for Agricultural Preservation & Education.

Established in 2009, Sustainable CAPE is, according to Randolph, dedicated to “creating a deeply rooted food system.” The timing of Digree and Bhala’s gardening for Janice Allee was perfect, as Randolph actively sought farmers to help drive the agricultural program forward. With Randolph’s encouragement and the dedication of Singer and Allee, the Nepalese couple began growing vegetables along with their flowers. In 2015, they became regulars at the Truro Farmers’ Market, and they built a farmstand outside the office of Sustainable CAPE, where customers can purchase vegetables seven days a week during the summer and fall. Like the traditional houses in their district of Nepal, Digree and Bhala gave the farmstand a grass roof. The following summer, they expanded their operation to sell produce at the Provincetown Farmers’ Market as well.

Down Home Farm began from earth that Digree and Bhala turned completely with hand tools, using nothing but shovels and hoes. As the vegetable beds have expanded down a gently sloping hill, the Rais have used some machinery—a rototiller and tractor—but the bulk of the work remains manual. Nepal, a country that covers about the same total area as the state of Wyoming, is divided into districts. Digree and Bhala come from Khotang, a district in the eastern part of the country, about 160 miles from Kathmandu and roughly 110 miles south of Mount Everest. This is a hilly, rural part of the country, about 4,000 feet above sea level. Terraced gardens like the one they have built in Truro are common. Some of the vegetables that they grow are also familiar, though Janice Allee provided advice and recommendations about the varieties of produce that would have the most appeal to customers at the farmers’ markets. Digree says that some favorites have been greens such as “Bok choy, arugula, kale and Swiss chard.” In addition, they grow everything from garlic and leeks to squash and pumpkins to nightshades and root vegetables.

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