‘We can free ourselves:’ Why a refugee mom in Phoenix became an urban farmer

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‘We can free ourselves:’ Why a refugee mom in Phoenix became an urban farmer
‘We can free ourselves:’ Why a refugee mom in Phoenix became an urban farmer

A group of people, mostly women, gathered on the back patio of Ibado Mahmud around a cart overflowing with tangled sweet potato green vines. Mahmud’s friend Khadija Farah wore bright red oversized gardening gloves that contrasted with her light gray garbasaar, a scarf worn by Somali women from freshly harvested eggplants, both the long, slender Japanese variety and the squatter, more common variety. Kevin Peart used a wheelbarrow to roll in more boxes of food from other farms: fat yellow lemons and bright oranges, burgundy potatoes lightly speckled with dirt, yellow onions, and sacks of spinach leaves. On this sunny and crisp autumn morning, they will share this rainbow of fruits, vegetables and roots in paper sacks and deliver them to families across the valley. Mahmud, one of the founders of Drinking Gourd Farms, has a homestead farm in her backyard in Phoenix and every Saturday she and other volunteers meet to harvest and distribute food. For them it looks like they are regaining part of the food system. “We reap and we give to the community,” said Mahmud. “We don’t sell them. We don’t do it to make money. We do this to provide healthy food to our community. ”How did Drinking Gourd Farms start? Ibado Mahmud poses in her backyard garden where she grows fruits and vegetables for Drinking Gourd Farms in Phoenix on November 13, 2021, was one of hundreds of concession workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on leave during the pandemic when air traffic broke down. Mahmud said she had become an active part of the African American community through her involvement in the UNITE Here union. as well as local refugee services. She worked at the airport for almost 20 years, she said. Nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic hit black households disproportionately harder than white households, even considering socio-economic disparities prior to the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau. In the first year of the pandemic, black Americans also died more often from COVID-19 than white Americans, The Atlantic reported. History Continues Personally, Mahmud knew many people who had lost their jobs. People were sick or old and couldn’t go shopping during the pandemic. She envisioned a way not only to bring food to the people, but also to provide the community with seasonal and organic products grown by the community. That vision became a reality after she met Chapman, a local activist, through her son, a union organizer. He helped her find resources like farming workshops, and they passed her knowledge on to other farmers in Phoenix, including many African refugees like themselves. In November 2019, Mahmud and Chapman Drinking Gourd Farms, a network of black and African American homestead farmers in the Phoenix metro. A homestead farm refers to a piece of land, usually smaller than a commercial farm, where farmers live and grow food to support their families. Drinking Gourd is mostly made up of African Muslim women who came to the United States as refugees. The name is a reference to the hollowed-out pumpkins that American slaves drank from, as well as another name for the Big Dipper – the constellation that fugitive slaves followed to flee north to freedom. By 2020 there were more than 20 active homesteads and Mahmud’s group of volunteers were delivering nearly 200 bags of products to families in Phoenix each week. The group mainly serves black and African American families as these households are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, but Drinking Gourd Farms will help anyone who asks, said Mahmud’s daughter Nemo Kahsai. New Traditions: Arizona Shellfish Digging Is Deep For Cambodian Families was so great during the pandemic that they received additional food donations from Golo Family Farm Organic Farms, a commercial farm in Waddell run by a Liberian refugee couple. including their own. “It all started here,” said Ken Chapman, a volunteer who came that morning to cut the sweet potato tendrils. You don’t usually find sweet potato greens in the supermarket. The leaves taste a little bitter when eaten raw, he said – but not after they’re cooked, Farah agreed. “Most people have no relation to what we eat,” said Chapman, we don’t know what it looks like and then we don’t understand the seasons. If you go to the store and buy a watermelon in January, you understand you don’t, oh, watermelon is actually a summer fruit. ”On November 13, 2021 in Phoenix, volunteers help pack the shopping bags for families in need with a breakfast of scrambled eggs with diced peppers, sweet potato greens, tomatoes, zucchini, aubergines, onions – almost all of them Mahmud’s garden, and the meal was served with crusty bolillo bread and Mahmud’s popular shaah, a Somali tea flavored with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Mahmud’s husband topped his eggs with thinly sliced ​​peppers for extra spiciness and noticed that the peppers are barely hot. “Never trust an Ethiopian when they say it’s not that spicy,” warned Chapman. The sound of the friendly chatter was enhanced by a Somali song with an upbeat synth tune – “Isii Nafta” by Nimco Happy, a song that went viral on TikTok. someone was excited to mention it. Farah circled the group and offered a handful of okra. She bit you with a satisfying crunch. “She’s the queen of the raw food,” Kahsai said with a laugh, lovingly referring to Farah as her aunt. With a few pumpkin seeds, she turned it into what she calls her “jungle corner”. In the meantime she has set up raised bed planters. Ibado Mahmud cooks some of the fresh vegetables from the garden to prepare breakfast in Phoenix after the harvest on November 13, 2021, a few years ago when her mother became interested in growing her own food. There have been many failures. You don’t know what grew in which season, said Mahmud. Little did they know that local pests like pumpkin beetles or the soil in their garden needed additional nutrients from compost and natural fertilizers. “I grew up where everything is natural and you don’t need any fertilizer. You just put it in the ground and give it water and then it comes out, ”said Mahmud. Mahmud grew up near the south coast of Somalia, a predominantly Muslim country in the Horn of Africa. In December 1990, during the Somali civil war, Mahmud, her husband and three children moved to a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya. Tigrinya, the mother tongue of her Ethiopian father; Swahili, the most widely spoken language in Kenya; and Oromo, another language mainly spoken in Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya.Southwest Black Ranchers: An Arizona Couple Realizing Their Dream Ranch The family moved to Phoenix in 1993 with the help of an organization now known as the International Rescue Committee , I was very, very lonely, “said Mahmud. “Don’t know what to do. Don’t speak english. I have three young children, just me and my husband … I threw away most of the food they brought me because I didn’t know what it was. Is it pork, not pork? I do not know. Alcohol, no alcohol? ”Mahmud said she was lucky enough to meet a neighbor who, despite the language barrier, helped them get through their first days in Phoenix. Now she wants to help new African refugee families in Phoenix to know that they are not alone. Drinking Gourd Farms is a way to reach out to people, whether it’s showing families how to cook vegetables they’re unfamiliar with or teaching them how to plant their own gardens, she said. Her real dream is to buy land for a larger farm and invite former prisoners to grow food. One of her own sons is grappling with misdiagnosed and abused mental illness that has brought him to and from prison. She said she saw how difficult it was for him to find a job. Eden Welltinsae and Tsega Woldemichal will separate the okra pods in bags for roll calls on November 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Kahsai said. It can be difficult for people to adjust to the freedoms of life outside of prison, especially when faced with hurdles like finding work, shelter, and transportation. This makes people prone to end up back in prison, she said. This cycle makes it difficult for people, especially young blacks, to establish themselves in society, Kahsai said. Black Americans are nearly five times as likely to be incarcerated in state prisons across the country as white Americans, according to a report by The Sentencing Project. Growing can be meditative because as you grow food, your mind grows too, she said. The Freedom Food Alliance, which was founded in New York, and the Tiger Mountain Foundation, south of Phoenix, work closely with former inmates and other organizations to address food justice. Growing food to nourish one another is a form of liberation, Kahsai added. It’s a concept that forms the basis of the book Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, written by the prominent Black Kreyol. Farmer’s wife Leah Penniman was written. The book provides insight into starting a farming business, but also looks at farming as a way to heal trauma and build a movement for justice. Black farmers played a central role in the civil rights movement, coordinating repeal campaigns and providing food and safe havens for activists and displaced tenants, Penniman writes. “There is a history of oppression of blacks in the US,” said Kahsai. “Access is a form of oppression for black people – which neighborhoods have which grocery stores, the prices determine which groceries they buy where. We want to empower black people and refugees to grow our own food so that we can free ourselves. ”Details: Pumpkin Farms, trinkgourdfarms.org. To get involved, contact Nemo Kahsai at instagram.com/drinking_gourd_farms or nemo@drinkinggourd.org. Back to the Country: How this Chef Shares Navajo Food Culture. Reach the reporter at Priscilla.Totiya@azcentral.com. Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to azcentral.com today to support local journalism. This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Drinking Gourd Farms: These Refugees Grow Food and Justice

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