BY CHRISTOPHER WHEELOCK
Friday May 13, 2022
Nadifo Nur of Auburn blows bubbles Thursday beside a new
pavilion on Liberation Farms in Wales, where her mother will be growing crops.
Visit sunjournal.com to watch a video from the event. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
WALES — A warm, sunny day Thursday greeted members of
Lewiston’s Somali Bantu community at their new farm.
Years in the making, it has taken a community effort to
raise money and negotiate the purchase of the 100-plus acres that make up
Liberation Farms. In prior years, the community farmers have leased land,
putting them at the mercy of rising land prices, buyouts and other factors that
have forced them to find new land to lease and start from scratch building out
The new farm offers the Bantu community a permanent home, in
a world of uncertainties. It’s part community farm and part commercial farm,
known as Iskashito, a traditional Somali cooperative, where farmers work
together on one piece of land and equitably share the profits of their labors.
The family farm aspect will allow 225 individuals, who get
up to one-tenth of an acre each, to grow food for themselves and their
families. Many are struggling with food insecurity and a lack of culturally
appropriate choices of food.
In August 2020, with the help of the Agrarian Trust, the
Somali Bantu Community Association raised the initial $367,000 to buy the land,
which was an existing, multi-generational family farm. Contributions came in
from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations all across the country.
They also received help from from fellow farmers in Maine.
Thursday was all about the future, welcoming members of the
community and guests and friends to show off their new pavilion, a centerpiece
for the Somali community to gather, hold big events and meetings, weddings and
other ceremonies. It was all made possible by the Timber Framers Guild, Maine
Mountain Timber Frames, Hardwick Post and Beam, Foard Panel and the Quimby
Foundation. The massive eastern white pine structure was donated at a cost of
$100,000 and built on site by the groups in three days.
The farm has a new washing station, halal slaughter station,
greenhouses and what will soon be a farmers market store open to the public
starting in early June.
Farmers will start working the land and planting in about a
week. The farm says that the produce they grow is high quality, chemical-free
and includes some rare varieties not usually found in this area. One example is
Somali flint corn, which is stone ground and milled in Biddeford. The ground
corn is also made into tortillas, which are available at more than two dozen
food co-ops and natural food stores.
As the crops grow and are harvested throughout the summer,
customers will be able to buy their products at local farmers markets or direct
from Liberation Farms. For more information about the Somali Bantu community, the
farm and its products go to https://somalibantumaine.org/liberation-farms/.