Abdul has been an integral part of the farm these past several months. He came to the farm to complete an internship as he pursued his Masters in Horticulture from the University of Minnesota. I am honored to share a piece he wrote below about his own life and experiences on the farm.
Abdul Internship Experience in the Stone’s Throw Urban Farm
My name is Cabdulqaadir Faarax, in short call me Abdul. I am a graduate student of the University of Minnesota, majoring Horticulture with Sustainable Agriculture minor. I am concentrating Horticulture Marketing and Sustainable Food Production. I am in final year and I am expecting to graduate on fall 2014.
In my background, agriculture is my long time career as well as my family heritage. Both my father and my grandfather were small scale farmers in the South Somalia. Somalis named my grandfather “Faarax Dhulqod” which means “land digger” because majority of the Somalis are nomadic pastoralists that raise different livestock such as camel, cattle, goat and sheep and they less value land cultivation and see farmers as second class.
When I completed my middle school, my father registered me into agriculture high school instead of general high schools. Four year late, I graduated from agriculture high school, and I started working in the Ministry of Agriculture in Somalia. My job was planning and monitoring of the government funded agricultural projects. Two years late, I decided to continue my agriculture study and I registered college of agriculture in the Somali National University. My plan was to run my own farm after I finish my bachelor degree. But unfortunately it would not happen, because Somali civil war broke out as soon I finished my program.
I fled from my country to Kenya as refugee. Then, at the end of 1999, I came in the United States of America, Minnesota State. For coming and living a new place is not easy; the first thing that comes your mind is how to survive, how to feed yourself, how to get shelter and how to adjust your basic life. For survival, I started full time work in printing company which I didn’t know anything about it. I did bindery, packing, feeding and helping machine operator for 4 years. After 4 year, I feel that printing is neither my profession nor my family heritage. Then I decided to back to the school and continue my agriculture profession while I am still working full time job.
In the fall 2004, I tried to apply College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Science in the University of Minnesota. But, most programs are full time morning classes which I could not go because I wanted to pay my bills and living.
After that, I applied Metropolitan State University because it was only the place that work and study can go together. It took to me four year to get my second bachelor of biology. Finally, I graduated on May 2008.
Two months before my graduation; I lay off my printing company’s job. It was that time, when I fully decided to align my agriculture career. I applied master of horticulture in the University of Minnesota which I am currently finishing it.
Although, I had many years of agricultural schooling, but I was feeling that I am missing something in my career. Because my agricultural experience was limited to the farm demonstration, green house experiment, and lab test. I wanted changing my book studies into a real practical application”. “It is the time my hands get dirty and go into a real field experience”.
Luckily, on May, 2014, I got an internship at Stone’s Throw Urban Farms in the Twin Cities. I met Alex and Robin, members of farm owners. They welcomed me very well. When I explained my internship, they told me that their job is tiresome and dirty. But, I told that I tired learning agriculture theory books, and now I am looking for a hard work and hand dirty experience.
I remember first day of my internship at Galtier and Sherburne site in St Paul, with Alex, Eric, Robin, Kristi, and Ann, we started transplanting many heirloom tomato varieties. I knelt down on composted wet soil and I put my hands in dirty soil, whispered myself “this is what I wanted be done for so many years ago”. I left that night while my clothes and shoes were wet, dirty, and muddy and my backbone was alarming.
After week of transplanting and land preparations in different sites, my body muscles soared badly because I didn’t have enough physical exercise and hard work like this before. However, after weeks of continues work, I became farm commandos and my body become normal.
During my internship, I worked at 14 different sites in the Twin Cities- 7 in St. Paul and 7 in Minneapolis. Almost every day when I call Alex or Eric, they were working in different sites, roaming corner to corner in the Twin Cities. Stone’s Throw team is wonderful people, if you work with them; you will not like to go another place. They taught me how to prepare compost, till soil, transplant, direct seed, weed, trellises, irrigate, harvest, postharvest cleaning, and attending Mill City Farmers market.
In my internship in the Stone’s Throw farm, I learned how to grow sustainably following vegetables and herbs; tomatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, garlics, lettuce, mixed salad, arugula, kale, chard, radish, spinach, cucumbers, basils, thymes, sages and many more.
Also, Stone’s Throw Farm allowed me to carry my little experiment for their sites in Minneapolis. I tested two varieties of cowpeas in Minneapolis site. These two varieties were preferred by Somali Communities in the Twin Cities. Therefore, I want to see how well these varieties grow in Minnesota soil.
Back to Stone’s Throw, I had five months practical experience which is better than five year book studies. I keep my heart with Stone’s Throw Team; Alex, Robbin, Eric, Kristi, Caroline and John. Also, I don’t want to forget volunteer Anna and intern Angela for their friendly team work.
In addition, I will not forget Stone’s Throw Urban Farm for their fresh tasty vegetables and herbs. I remember I cooking kales, chards, radishes and making raw salad from mixed salad, arugula, lettuce and green tomatoes. Also, adding at evening soup for peppers, thymes, sages, basils to relieve my family cold and allergies.
My family and I had enough experience of having a nice taste of fresh food from the Stone’s Throw Urban Farm.
Finally, I want to thank all Stone’s Throw team and I hope for them to have a good season with good production. I hope for them to get more customers and more large vacant land.
In near future, I want to become a sustainable farmer, extension outreach, freelance researcher and part- time teacher in a small agriculture college in Africa.
In addition, I would like to solve world food problem for contributing what I learned and make world better place without food injustice and hunger.
Many thanks for reading. We hope to continue to collaborate with Abdul and are already scheming with him about ag. development plans in Somalia.
The Mill City WINTER Farmer’s Market starts this weekend. The market runs from 10 AM to 1 PM and is located inside the Mill City Museum. We will have a wonderful abundance of fresh produce.
Lastly, we are asking friends, supporters, and farm stakeholders for their political support as we negotiate with the City of Saint Paul to gain long-term access to our site on 625 Dale Avenue.
As a farm we recently received $60,000 in funding through the Knight Foundation’s “Greenline Challenge” to build an existing farm site at 625 Dale St. into a Saint Paul farm hub. Given its large size and proximity to a commercial thoroughfare, the site has great potential to model the the benefits of farming in the city. We plan to erect 2 hoop houses, a greenhouse, a permanent market stand, and welcoming pedestrian space on site. Our hope is to create a space that will innovate how food is grown in urban areas and also serve as an amenity to the neighborhood.
The city planning department has expressed concern with implementation of our vision, as we do not have long term control over the site. We are working closely with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association to negotiate a lengthened lease, and possibly to put forth a proposal to purchase the site. To help open negotiation, we are asking farm allies to reach out to City Council Member Dai Thao’s office and express support for this project.
We want to keep messaging fairly simple and positive at this point. We think it would be most effective for folks to:
1. Introduce themselves (identifying their connection to Saint Paul and/or Ward 1)
2. Express enthusiasm for our project
3. Follow with any supporting reason that they are excited to see farming and small business in Frogtown.
Dai Thao’s office can be reached at (651) 266-8610 or via email at: email@example.com
Many thanks for reading and for your ongoing support. We are cleaning up fields, planted garlic last week, and moseying towards winter. As always, we love to hear your ideas, critiques, and other musings about this farm and food production in general.