Mohamed Abukaris orignally from Somalia.When Mohamed arrived in Lewiston, he
was told about the NASAP program and was immediately drawn to it. “Since I
already had the knowledge and the experience, if there is a farm here, I will
grow on it.” But his experience and knowledge of farming the land in Africa
proved very different. He learned a new system for preparing the soil and
planting in addition to other new techniques for farming in Maine. If he had
started growing here the way he did in Africa he states, “it would not have
made any sense. In this country, you have to make the soil healthy and you
don’t have to do that in Africa.” From1992
to 2004, Mohamed lived in a refugee camp in Kenya, on his time there he
says "I tried to start a farm there, and it took me two years. By the time
my vegetables where growing, I had to leave.” On farming: Mohamed comments that it is an automatic process
for him, "Here, no matter what, I have good fresh food. If I were
somewhere else, I would still be farming."
Earlier this summer, the Packard-Littlefield Farm in Lisbon, ME was visited by the BBC News, which was putting together a story on the Somali Bantu population in Lewiston, Maine. The story ran last week and was even featured on the front page of the BBC's website.
NASAP's Outreach Coordinator, Hussein Muktar, is interviewed in the program about his perspective on living in Lewiston, with the farm fields providing the backdrop.
The work of Fresh Start Farms provides a powerful vehicle to help integrate refugees into the broader Maine community. We're thrilled to see farmers included in this news clip!
Cold nights have arrived in Maine! A few nights ago, the basil and late plantings of green beans grown in low lying fields at the farm received their first cold-weather damage of the season. The farmers with fields on higher ground were spared the cold damage.
Many of our farmers sold their last harvest of tomatoes as "canning tomatoes - not so pretty but delicious" at their farmers markets this past weekend. On Saturday, volunteers from Bowdoin College helped many of the farmers uproot finished tomato plants and the stakes that have held their vining sprawl off of the ground since they were planted in June. Having grown up in the deep South, I am still surprised every summer by how short tomato season is. Despite 10 years of farming in Maine, I still expect tomato season to stretch on endlessly like it did in my childhood. I guess that the ephemeral nature of tomato production in Maine is what makes the short few weeks they are available so special.
If you haven't already received them, your CSA shares should soon be weighted down with winter squash, leeks, and some small funny looking sweet potatoes. It wasn't until a few years ago that farmers in Maine even realized that it was possible to grow sweet potatoes in Maine. By any stretch of the imagination, it is hard to say that they grow well in our northern latitude. Like most professionals, farmers in Maine attend many conferences about growing food. The vast majority of conferences in Maine in the past few years have contained a session about growing sweet potatoes. The grand conclusion thus far is that no one is quite sure what combination of soil type, temperature, variety, soil fertility, pest management, rainfall/irrigation, planting date, harvest date, and curing time reliably results in big delicious sweet potatoes.
The Fresh Start Farms farmers have begun to dig their sweet potatoes. They will put their sweet potatoes in the greenhouse for a week or more to cure them (sweeten them up with the extra heat of the greenhouse) and then you will find them in your CSA shares. The sweet potatoes that I have seen emerging from dark brown soil this week have ranged from almost-grocery-store-size to tubers the size of a hot dog with tapered ends. If you receive some unrecognizable tuber-like "things" with either orange or white skin in your CSA share, it is safe to assume that they are sweet potatoes. Even if they are sweet potatoes of the hot dog variety, they are delicious and edible, skin and all. Roasted them as you would a large sweet potato but for less time. Enjoy!
My name is Santa Loca and I am from South Sudan. My parents taught me to farm when I was very small and I love it! It is very hot in Sudan but the rain helps with the heat. I found out about NASAP from my friend, Christine. She is a farmer too. I started going to farming classes in 2010. This is my third year as a farmer in Maine. I really love being outside. I love being busy, busy, busy outside. In Maine I learned to eat spinach. God, I love spinach! And carrots—they are good for your eyes. I love kale,and Swiss chard! I hope that I can spend the rest of my life as a farmer. I love growing, selling, and eating my vegetables. I really like being part of this program. It helps me a lot with my farming.
Try one of Santa's recipes!
Come visit Santa at market!
You'll find her in Portland with tons of fresh vegetables with a smile on her face and probably singing, laughing or dancing :)
Deering Oaks Farmers' Market - Saturdays 7am-12pm
Riverton School Farm Stand (1600 Forest Ave) - Thursdays 2-5pm