Thursday, October 16, 2014

Know Your Farmer - Seynab Ali

Each week we profile one of the CSA farmers who grows your food. You can also get to know your farmer by visiting him or her at a farm stand or farmer's market, or by visiting our farm sites during a monthly Friday Farm Tour.

This week your featured farmer is Seynab Ali. Seynab provides CSA shares at McAuley House and at Munjoy Hill. She also sells her produce at the Damariscotta Farmers' Market and the Kennebunk Farmers' Market.

In addition to providing CSA shares, Seynab pools her produce with other Fresh Start Farms growers to provide wholesale quantities of vegetables for schools, summer camps, specialty markets, restaurants, and larger distributors.

From Seynab - I came to the United States in 2004 and started farming with Fresh Start Farms in 2006. I was one of the first members of the program and continue to teach and encourage new farmers. When I arrived in the US, my English was zero. I’ve found that farming is a common language I have with people here in Maine. Although farming is my common language, I have learned new ways to work with this new land and grow in a new climate.

In Somalia, people don’t get trained in farming, they know what farming is, they wait for the rain and 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 I have carried with me here and I continue these traditions. I have become accustomed to many new vegetables here though! Some I grow are beets, arugula, spinach, radishes and lettuce. I eat everything except the radishes.

Another difference is the languages of markets, the way things are sold and what customers expect. In Somalia, we put a couple tomatoes on the table. Here they have to pile the tables high! Though I know countless ways to cook delicious collard recipes (I’m a fantastic cook) I have a hard time communicating my recipes to customers at market. This part of the business is still difficult.

I want my customers to know that my process of farming, though difficult and challenging, is simple without any sprays or pesticides. I start the vegetables in the greenhouse, then at the end of April, we all begin to plant our seedlings in the ground. Everything I sell to my customers is freshly harvested. Everything is grown naturally without chemicals or pesticides, the way it was done in Somalia, and the way it should always be done here.


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