By Bonnie Rukin
With all that they already have accomplished, and so much activity on the farm every day, the Somali Bantu community seem like they have owned Liberation Farms in Wales for years – but this is actually their first summer. Here is some of what has been happening:
Over 200 farmers are tending community growing plots and feeding their families with the produce. Favorite crops are corn, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, squash, and onions.
Farmers are selling their bounty at three markets this year, in Freeport, Norway, and Yarmouth. Response has been friendly and sales have been brisk.
The community was given 18 lambs in the springtime, and these were slaughtered in the new Liberation Farms’ halal facility. They distributed the meat to families in the Somali Bantu community.
In early June, farmers planted rice seedlings in eight, 100-foot-long rows, but the seedlings did not thrive due to drought. Plans are underway to set up a drip irrigation system for a more constant water supply.
The Suuq, or farm stand, is doing well, with plans in the works to put signs on the busy road to alert customers, and to add an EBT machine to benefit community members in financial need.
The Kasheekee program, a Somali Bantu cultural program for children, launched with 30 participants. The program is based at the Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA) office in Lewiston, but the children make weekly visits to the farm, where they are growing their own crops in boxed beds that have been prepared for their use.
The high tunnels built during the winter are overflowing with ready-to-harvest kale and chard plants, along with abundant tomatoes. The produce will be used for community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares and commercial accounts, notably with Preble Street in Portland.
Meanwhile, off the farm, renovations to the SBCA location in Lewiston are complete, with four separate offices and bathrooms, as well as meeting spaces for staff and community members. Children and adults are making daily use of the expanded facility.
Summer 2022 is a busy one at Liberation Farms. All are welcome to stop by and visit. For more information or to plan a visit, see somalibantumaine.org/liberation-farms/.