When I asked Batula what was her favorite part of her farming business, she said: “First, the community, I love being part of the community.” She loves working with the public, making exchanges, and having a role in the local economy. Batula came to Maine in August of 2005 and was one of the earliest farmers to join the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project. She was one of three women who started farming together in Lisbon, and are today at the core of the program, often acting as role models for new farmers that are just starting out. Although Batula had a lot of experience with farming before coming to the states, she notes that farming practices are very different, and often more challenging and involved here than in Somalia. The main difference, she notes, is the steps we take here to plant a seed. “In Africa, you put the seed into the ground. Here you plant it first in the greenhouse, and you have to label every tray you use, so that you know where and how to plant things.” She has to familiarize herself with different types and varieties because “at the market, customers ask me what types of vegetables I have, so I have to learn them, then use compost and plant it outside. Because of the labeling I can learn how to test the vegetables, try out recipes and learn how to cook them.”
Batula’s children help out on the farm, and she thinks it is important to learn, as“farming is the future”. Of course they have a choice for work, since they have been partially or fully educated in an English speaking school system, but “this work is important, I am learning what I am growing, I taste the difference in my food and what is being grown in the supermarkets.” Because of the climate change, and the expectations of her customers, some of Batula’s food traditions have changed since coming here. Eggplant, broccoli, arugula, and Brussels sprouts are vegetables that she has not only welcomed onto her field, but also onto her table. Welcoming the new vegetables means also saying goodbye to some crops she remains nostalgic about. She found one of them in a Somali store, that is like corn but larger, but it did not taste like home.
Batula dreams of her own farm and land, where she can keep all her children and grandchildren safe and nourished. In addition to vegetables, she would also have animals, since “in our country we used to raise animals, to eat and to help with the process of farming”. When I asked for any last words, Batula wanted to say “thank you to the CSA customers, and all those people who live in the state who support small local farms” It’s a good system, difficult sometimes but a good system to be a part of.