Last Thursday, in the heat of the day, over a hundred people gathered in a field just outside of downtown Lewiston. The occasion? A groundbreaking ceremony and celebration at New Roots Cooperative Farm’s new land.
New Roots Cooperative is comprised of four farmer-owners, all originally from Somalia. For the last ten years, the four farmers had been farming at Cultivating Community‘s nearby incubator farm, as participants in the New American Sustainable Agriculture Program. In 2014, the farmers determined they were ready to start farming independently, and began to look for land. MFT searched for land that met the farmers’ criteria, and eventually found a 30-acre former dairy farm within Lewiston city limits. “We were really fortunate to connect and make a deal with a farmland owner that had a property for sale right within the city, as well as an interest in supporting this growing demographic of Maine farmers,” said project manager Erica Buswell of MFT. MFT purchased the property is 2015 and now leases it to the cooperative.
People often say, “it takes a village,” and that was never more true or more evident than at the New Roots celebration. Family, friends, and supporters came from near and far, and from all segments of the community. The speeches the farmers gave thanked long lists of people and organizations that had been involved in making their farming dream a reality. Likewise, the many service providers who worked with the four farmers expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to help New Roots Cooperative Farm put down roots in Maine.
The celebration, complete with music and lots of Somali food, marks the beginning of a new chapter for four farmer-owners. Over the course of the next year, the farmers will convert the pasture into fertile fields to grow a variety of vegetables, and plan to open a farmstand, and sell vegetables to a variety of markets in Southern Maine. As the farmers put down roots at their new farm, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the cost of critical infrastructure needs, like setting up a wash and pack station, and putting in a driveway. You can help make it happen HERE.