A Somali Bantu refugee farmer thrives in Maine

Liberation Farms supports Somali Bantu refugee farmers to develop viable farm businesses
By Jocelyn Ruggiero Globe correspondent, August 1, 2023

WALES, Maine — Seventy-two-year-old Ahmed Baraki leans forward, his back parallel to the ground, and vigorously rakes his “yaanbo,” or hoe, loosening the weeds that cluster around the young cabbage and Boston lettuce sprouting in long, straight lines on the narrow half-acre plot he shares with four other farmers. He regularly pauses to yank clusters of greens and dirt from the ground and the yaanbo’s blade. There’s a light breeze on this cloudy and unseasonably cool June day, and the air at Liberation Farms smells like manure and compost. As is the Somali Bantu custom, Baraki takes his sandals off and lets his feet sink into the earth before continuing to slice the short end of his blade at the ground, carefully avoiding the drip irrigation tape. Soon, he stops his work and drives his mud-splattered orange SUV to the back of the 42-acre property, where, on a smaller plot of land, he continues with another pressing project: seeding flint corn that will eventually be ground and sold as Liberation Farms cornmeal. As in Somalia, Baraki places five seeds in each hole, using his bare feet to sweep soil over the top. It’s not just traditional farming practices that Baraki retains from Somalia; the seeds he plants are the descendants of seeds he brought with him when he fled his home 40 years ago. Although the setting is different, Baraki spends his days in Maine farming just as he did in Somalia. In his new home, however, he’s learned skills that augment his traditions in transformative ways. Read Full Article.