Introducing Value-Added Cornmeal into Liberation Farm’s Agricultural Production

Project Overview

FNE20-958
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $10,527.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Somali Bantu Community Association
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Muhidin Libah
Somali Bantu Community Association

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn

Practices

  • Crop Production: other
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: farm-to-institution, farmers' markets/farm stands, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community services, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, quality of life

    Proposal summary:

    Liberation Farms’ Somali Bantu farmers are the leading experts in the production of African flint corn, a staple in Somalia but a novelty in Maine. Many of our farmers grow flint corn for their personal consumption, and often grind this corn into a meal to make traditional Somali dishes. One of our commercial market accounts, Torilleria Pachanga, processes our corn into popular tortillas, sold in over 30 locations around Maine. 

    Liberation Farms provides new American farmers access to culturally-appropriate resources for sustainable food production for their families and communities through farming, an integral piece of both Somali Bantu and Maine cultural heritage. This program has seen incredible growth from 20 to 137 farmers over 5 years, a testament to the ambition of the Bantu communities in Lewiston and Auburn, ME, and the imperative of familiar outlets for work and cultural practice for refugee communities around the state. 

    With this growth, SBCA is exploring untapped commercial markets by which to provide more farmers with opportunities for economic and food security. We plan to explore the potential for a value-added African flint cornmeal in Maine’s farmers markets and in Maine’s local, food-based businesses, where current research shows there is increasing market potential. We will advertise this work and our mission through the Portland public school system, where we have an existing and dedicated relationship, through our existing commercial market accounts, and by leveraging our relationships with parties in Maine dedicated to the revival of Maine grains in our food system.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to determine if unfamiliar varieties of value-added products, particularly African flint cornmeal, has a market in Maine. We will compare customer perceptions to conventional cornmeal, and their reaction to our chemical-free, local, more nutritious product. With this information, we will evaluate the product’s potential in farmers markets, local businesses, and our Somali Bantu community throughout Maine. We aim to answer the following questions: What is the familiarity with flint corn in Maine’s agricultural heritage? How much are farmers market, wholesale, and Somali Bantu customers willing to pay for the product? With what frequency do these parties predict using this product?

     

    If this project is successful, we will have the capacity to invite more farmers to access our programs, resulting in increased food and economic security in Somali Bantu communities in Maine, and more Maine-grown products into Maine businesses, farmers markets, and food pantries. Consequently, this growth will stimulate an economic boost in the economically depressed areas of Lewiston and Auburn. Additionally, this product would not only promote Liberation Farms, but also the products of other Maine farmers who aspire to reintroduce traditional Maine crops into commercial markets, food systems, and the food consciousness of Maine’s residents and customers. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.