2020 Community Organizations:

This season, over 275 farmer changemakers grew and harvested more than 23,000 pounds of produce on 8.5 acres. This produce was sold or donated to their families, their communities and other Western New Yorkers impacted by food insecurity. More than 2,200 individual beneficiaries residing in food deserts in Erie and Niagara Counties accessed the produce. Through farming at PFC, farmers cultivate increased access to fresh and culturally appropriate foods (free or affordable); mental health benefits; strengthening of the community through participation; connecting to agricultural traditions/cultural practices; meaningful exercise through farm work; youth benefiting through learning agricultural traditions and how to grow food; and income earned for individuals and/or community.

 

Liberian Community Farm: a project of the Liberian Association of Buffalo
An interview with chairman Dao Kamara (center)

Most of us came to the US in 2003 and 2004. There was a civil war in Liberia that lasted for 13 years. We ran away and lived as refugees for 13 years. We were resettled in the US to get our life back and to be able to send our children to school and to make ends meet for our families.
I got my Master’s in Social Work in 2012 from the University of Buffalo and work as a social worker for Independent Living Inc.
There are about 400-500 people in the Liberian Association of the City of Buffalo. We have six or seven families farming here right now and we hope to get more people coming out.

What are some cultural traditions?
Our major food is rice. Back home, we had a big rice farm. We also grow corn and eggplant, those are all part of our traditions. And we love hot peppers! We are growing some ghost peppers but we couldn’t even find enough!

How is farming different here than in Liberia?
Farming is a whole different thing here – we used to have to clear out all the brush (slash and burn), so it is easier here than what we are used to.

Why is farming important to your community?
Farming is very important because it helps us to be self-sufficient and independent. Farming is dear to us because it makes you healthy, you can grow original foods, they have the original nutrients and vitamins – we believe eating from the soil is healthier than eating from the market. If you don’t need to go to the market to buy collard greens, okra, or peppers, it also saves you some money.
I want people to know that we are from West Africa and agriculture is how we make our living. It is a way of life for us. This is an opportunity for us to prove that we can still farm for ourselves. We care a lot about the education of our children. We want this place to be somewhere our children look forward to coming to with their families – we want to take them out of the house, off the street… it is meaningful for them to find a purpose for life, a focus for life, to talk to family outside of the city.

Congolese Farming Project: a project of Congolese Babondo Buffalo

An interview with Etando Omari

I came to the US in 2016 from Nairobi, Kenya, where I was living as a refugee. I fled my country (Congo)  in 2010. My case was finally approved to come to the United States of America in 2013, but the process wasn’t finished until 2015. I am a student, but I am working on getting money so I can continue studying nutrition at Buffalo State College. 

I am a project leader of the Congolese Farming Project. We are 50 people and we have many people on the waiting list who want to join us next year. 

I started farming when I went to high school. During the summers, I would visit relatives in villages outside of the city where they were farming. I started doing my own little farm in 2002 in Congo. 

What are some of your cultural traditions?

Most of us depend on farming back home because of lack of employment, some people might go to school, but you have to be creative. One of the easiest creative jobs is doing farming. We grow “hotcatcher” crops that can be done in about three months such as tomatoes, cabbage, amaranth, onions, cassava, and Central/ East African maize.  We also grew trees for building.  Agriculture is one of the main activities in Congo.

What are some differences between farming here and in the Congo?

The farming timeframe is so limited because of the weather – back home, we have plenty of time for farming activities. There were only two seasons: rainy and sunny, but here, we were trying to import seeds from Africa but it became too late to plant some things. We are not used to fertilizing the soil, either – back home, our soil is too rich in plant material. In most parts of Congo, we never fertilize. We would farm manually, we never had access to things like tractors that we see in East Aurora. We are used to farming on much bigger plots of land, too. 

Why is farming important to your community?

People from my community are used to eating vegetables that you cannot find here. To have land that we can grow vegetables we are used to makes us so excited and happy. Some of us were not eating any vegetables, and they are a good source of vitamins, but they wouldn’t eat what they couldn’t recognize, it didn’t taste good to them. Eating what they are used to helps them get these vitamins.

Too many people don’t get enough exercise. Some people cannot even go out and work because of the language barrier so they stay in the house all the time. Body sugar is too high. They’re being told they’re at risk of diabetes. Cholesterol is high… coming to PFC has helped them get rid of some of the sugar and oil (fat). It also helps them get rid of stress. They see a new environment, they are breathing more oxygen, they could hear the birds, they said: “Oh my god, I’m back home.” They felt connected. 

I want people to know that this project is very important for immigrants, not just for the Congolese. We appreciate all of the support and donations to keep it sustainable because we want it to continue forever. 

 

Incubator Farmers:

Six incubator farmers, all from the Somali-Bantu community, are farming a 1/6 acre each this year.  These farmers are currently being interviewed and information on their farming journeys will be shared here!

Bwedo Farm

(cooperatively farmed by Mahamud Mbwera, Ali Macheremo, and Nurta Abdullahi)

Mahamud Mbwera 

People call me Mo. I’m a board member of the Somali Bantu Community Organization and farm manager here at Providence. I’ve been in Buffalo since 2006 and never lived in another state. We started farming here about three years ago. We like to grow spinach, Swiss chard, maize (African corn – not sweet!), onion, and tomato.

I never had a farm – I just listened to people. We went from Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya when I was ten years old, there was no farm, no nothing. I was in Kenya about 14 years before coming to New York.

Why do you like to farm?

The reason why I like to farm is that our grandfather comes from farming – we never had the opportunity to farm in the camp. When I got here, the elders in our community kept saying that we need to get a farm. They identified problems in our community and asked if I could help by getting involved in this organization. Lots of people eat frozen food, some people cannot eat it or have health problems, and that’s why we started this.

What is your vision for the future?

My dream come true would be to have my own land and start farming, growing whatever I want, and having a goat, cow, chicken, whatever! I want lots of land for myself and the whole community. My future would be for the Somali Bantu to have whatever they wanted, maybe even a butchery. If I started raising a chicken or goat, I could make money for the community – our people like goat and chicken meat a lot.

I would just need to say that I need people to come over and volunteer so we can reach our goal, not only for the Somali Bantu, but for Providence Farm, they did a great job with the different communities – we meet different people like the Congolese, the Burundi people, Burmese, Liberian, it’s a collective – we need more people involved in this project! We need to inspire people, show them what we’re doing, people may love what we’re doing. Staying in the city, there’s too much noise over there. Here there’s fresh air!

 

Abdi Sundi

I’m from Somalia but I grew up in Kenya since I was 7 or 8. I left Kenya when I was about 25 years old (2004) and came to Buffalo. I’ve never lived anywhere else in the States. I’ve been working with this community for about three years. We are growing corn, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and watermelon. My favorite is the corn. There is a bean dish we call maharagwe – that is my favorite Somalian meal. 

Why do you like farming?

I like to farm because when I grew up, I saw farmers in our community. My mom would take me to the gardens. Most of the time, everybody was good when we were working in the garden. Those are some of my fondest memories. 

I’m a little competitive – remember, when you do good, you’re going to have a good place in the future and you’re going to have good help in the future. When you do bad, you can’t get help – we want to set a good example here so people want to help each other.

What is your dream for your future?

I’m trying to learn more and know more. I have three kids – they want to know what we were doing before we came here, they want to know our history. I don’t have pictures to show them, but at this farm, I can show them and teach them. I like to be farming because you don’t have to buy a lot of food, you make your own food. I want to be a big farmer later. 

My mom is 69 and loves to farm here and at home, but I don’t want it to be too much for her.  In the future, I would like to be a big farmer and farm by myself so she doesn’t have to work so hard!