By Bonnie Rukin
Another dream has come true for Liberation Farms in Wales, which opened the doors of its farmstand to the public for the first time on June 1. The Suuq (a Somali word that means “market”) offers all kinds of healthy food and merchandise: bountiful fresh vegetables; cornmeal; milk (goat and cow), yogurt, cheese, and eggs from other local farms; and caps, totes, and stickers.
The Suuq is the product of months of cooperative planning. First was a feasibility study initiated by Holden Turner, who began working as an intern at the farm after his graduation from Bowdoin College in January. By mid-March, with enthusiastic endorsement from the Somali Bantu community, 12 people had met twice to determine the design of the space and which products to include in the market. Participants were from the Somali Bantu Community Association staff, as well as farm members.
Food serves as a lens to the world – and is a reflection of our surroundings.
The group used moveable pieces to consider various layouts, and eventually decided to include displays of fresh vegetables, packaged farm products (cornmeal), handwoven baskets, along with fresh eggs and dairy products from nearby farms, with posters on the walls describing cultural details in words and photographs. Muhidin Libah, executive director of the Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA), and Hilowle Ad served as translators. The next months required gathering materials, physically setting up the space, and training staff.
Maryan Mohamed and Amblya Bule manage the Suuq. They work part-time, and take care of sales and restocking inventory. Mohamed said she is both pleased and amazed that the community now has a Suuq. She said she “never imagined having the opportunity to create a Suuq like I knew at home in Somalia,” and added that she is delighted to be working there. Advisory Board members on the Farm Committee are Habiba Salat, Muhamed Ali, and Ahmed Baraki.
The shared dream of all those involved is to serve farm members and nearby communities with locally grown, healthy food, break even or make a small profit, and develop more social connections with the wider public. Turner said he feels buoyed by the staff, and by farm community members who have brought this project to life with their skills and cooperative spirit. “Food serves as a lens to the world – and is a reflection of our surroundings,” he said.
Right now the Suuq is filled with beautiful and abundant fresh vegetables. Hours are noon – 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, at Liberation Farms, 1002 Gardiner Rd., Wales.