5/26/2022
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Somali community celebrates new farm, planting season


BY CHRISTOPHER WHEELOCK
Friday May 13, 2022

Nadifo Nur of Auburn blows bubbles Thursday beside a new pavilion on Liberation Farms in Wales, where her mother will be growing crops. Visit sunjournal.com to watch a video from the event.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

WALES — A warm, sunny day Thursday greeted members of Lewiston’s Somali Bantu community at their new farm.

Years in the making, it has taken a community effort to raise money and negotiate the purchase of the 100-plus acres that make up Liberation Farms. In prior years, the community farmers have leased land, putting them at the mercy of rising land prices, buyouts and other factors that have forced them to find new land to lease and start from scratch building out the infrastructure.

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The new farm offers the Bantu community a permanent home, in a world of uncertainties. It’s part community farm and part commercial farm, known as Iskashito, a traditional Somali cooperative, where farmers work together on one piece of land and equitably share the profits of their labors.

The family farm aspect will allow 225 individuals, who get up to one-tenth of an acre each, to grow food for themselves and their families. Many are struggling with food insecurity and a lack of culturally appropriate choices of food.

In August 2020, with the help of the Agrarian Trust, the Somali Bantu Community Association raised the initial $367,000 to buy the land, which was an existing, multi-generational family farm. Contributions came in from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations all across the country. They also received help from from fellow farmers in Maine.

Thursday was all about the future, welcoming members of the community and guests and friends to show off their new pavilion, a centerpiece for the Somali community to gather, hold big events and meetings, weddings and other ceremonies. It was all made possible by the Timber Framers Guild, Maine Mountain Timber Frames, Hardwick Post and Beam, Foard Panel and the Quimby Foundation. The massive eastern white pine structure was donated at a cost of $100,000 and built on site by the groups in three days.

The farm has a new washing station, halal slaughter station, greenhouses and what will soon be a farmers market store open to the public starting in early June.

Farmers will start working the land and planting in about a week. The farm says that the produce they grow is high quality, chemical-free and includes some rare varieties not usually found in this area. One example is Somali flint corn, which is stone ground and milled in Biddeford. The ground corn is also made into tortillas, which are available at more than two dozen food co-ops and natural food stores.

As the crops grow and are harvested throughout the summer, customers will be able to buy their products at local farmers markets or direct from Liberation Farms. For more information about the Somali Bantu community, the farm and its products go to https://somalibantumaine.org/liberation-farms/.



 





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