Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Farmer Story ~ Seyanb Ali

      Seynab knows that everything is harder without English, and when she came to the US, her English was “zero.” She didn’t know what she would do, but she soon found common ground when she heard about this program; farming the land was a language she knew. Seynab has been at the core of the program since the beginning and is a role model for farmers new to the program.   Although farming is a common language, Seynab noted that while her English was improving, she was also learning new ways to work with this new land, new climate and new marketing opportunities.

      The language of this earth had new subtleties. In Somalia, people don’t get trained in farming, they “know what farming is, they wait for the rain, for the river to flood the banks, and they know when it is a good time to plant. There is celebration to mark all these passages, before planting and after harvesting”. This is something that has carried over, and the traditions continue. Another difference in the languages of these two countries is the markets, the way things are sold, what costumers expect. “In Africa, they put a couple tomatoes on the table. Here they have to pile the tables high!” She shakes her head in amused confusion.

        Seynab has become used to new vegetables here: beets, arugula, spinach, radishes and lettuce. And she eats everything, except the radishes, and she knows there are people out there with a similar aversion! (We laugh together). Parts of her business are still very difficult. Though she knows countless ways to cook delicious kohlrabi and collard recipes (she is a fantastic cook), she has a hard time communicating this at the market. She wants her costumers to know that her process of farming, though difficult and challenging, is simple without any sprays or pesticides: “we start the vegetables in the greenhouse, then at the end of April, we put the vegetables in the ground, and harvest for our costumers when they are ready”. Everything is grown organically, the way it was done in Africa, and the way it should always be done here.

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