The Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons is connected to a rich network of collaborative partnerships and organizations that support and stand with the Somali Bantu community, who make up one-sixth of the population of the Lewiston-Auburn twin cities along the banks of the Androscoggin River in Maine.
The Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons is located on unceded Wabanaki Confederacy land. The Wabanaki Nations—Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot—have stewarded the land in what is now known as Maine for thousands of years. We are committed to building reciprocal and meaningful relationships with the Indigenous people of this land and advocating for recognition and respect of their inherent sovereignty. We understand that justice and liberation for our people is not possible without justice and liberation for the People of the Dawnland.
The Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons is organized and shall be operated exclusively for the purpose of holding title to property, collecting income therefrom, and turning the entire amount, less expenses, to the AGRARIAN LAND TRUST within the meaning of Section 501(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”). Agrarian Land Trust, the parent corporation of Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons, is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(a) and described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Code.
The Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons is connected to a rich network of multiple partnerships and organizations, including the Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine (SBCA), Agrarian Trust, Cooperative Development Institute, Land For Good, Land in Common, Maine Farmland Trust, Slow Money Maine, and American Farmland Trust. Together, these organizations have guided the SBCA through a process of learning about land-tenure options and land seeking.
The decision to form this Agrarian Commons is the latest step in securing farmland tenure for generations of Somali Bantu agrarians to come. The SBCA chose the name Little Jubba Central Maine to describe their relationship to land: the Jubba River Valley is their ancestral farmland and Central Maine is now their home and the place where they can safely continue their intergenerational farming practices.
In the mid-2000s, approximately 3,000 Somali Bantus resettled in Lewiston, Maine, in the aftermath of their displacement by the Somali Civil War and subsequent relocation to Kenyan refugee camps. Central Maine’s Somali Bantu communities include three distinct cultural groups living in the Lewiston area, which are collectively referred to as Somali Bantu.
The SBCA formed in 2005 to advocate for the community’s well-being and organize to meet its needs through a variety of initiatives. SBCA’s executive director and cofounder is Muhidin D. Libah. Libah and all members of the organization’s board are Somali Bantu. Historically an agricultural people, the Somali Bantu in Lewiston-Auburn have mobilized to retain their agricultural skills and traditions as well as their connection to land.
In 2014, at the request of the community that the SBCA serves, the organization founded a farming program, later named Liberation Farms. Liberation Farms started out small—the organization leased just two acres in 2015 and supported 20 farmers. By early 2020, interest and participation in the program had skyrocketed, with six times the initial participants farming on over 30 acres of land in three locations.
As the program grew in popularity, the SBCA acknowledged the importance of secure land tenure. Farming on several smaller disconnected land sites, all with short-term leases, could not provide food security or the grounded sense of place that the community needed and desired. This is what prompted the community decision to form an Agrarian Commons.
Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons
The SBCA partnered with Agrarian Trust in 2019 as part of the organization’s search for permanent farmland. In 2020, Agrarian Trust supported the SBCA and the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons in raising $367,000 to acquire a 104-acre organic farm in Wales, Maine.
Maine farmers and residents were among the hundreds who contributed to this campaign, making secure land tenure a reality for the SBCA and Liberation Farms. The SBCA’s 99-year renewable lease to this farmland makes possible an opportunity to farm for the long term, investing in regenerative and sustainable management of the land and community well-being.
Agrarian Trust continues to partner with the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons in fundraising and administration of the Commons. We look forward to continuing to work together to grow the seeds of regenerative, community-centered agriculture in Maine. Click here to watch a webinar presented by Ian McSweeney on the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons.
Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine
Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine
Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine
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Liberation Farms is food justice in action. It is a demonstration of the success that is possible when communities have the opportunity to organize and lead themselves. It empowers new American families struggling with food insecurity with resources to grow culturally appropriate foods for themselves and their community. This investment in land nourishes body and soul as farmers ground themselves in familiar traditions and utilize their agricultural traditions and knowledge to build new roots here in Maine.
Liberation Farms assists Somali Bantu family farmers by coordinating access to land, seeds, training, technical assistance, and marketing. Each farmer stewards one-tenth of an acre to grow food for themselves and their families. Some choose to grow commercially and self-organize into Iskashito groups. Iskashito is a traditional Somali method of cooperative growing where farmers work one piece of land and equitably share the profits of their combined labor and efforts. You can learn more about how to purchase from these Iskashito farmers on Liberation Farms’ website.
Watch Dream Purpose—Somali Bantu Community Association from Duran Ross, and Somali Bantu Community Association Find Farmland—Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons by Alexander Sutula to learn more about Liberation Farms.
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Top left to right: Osman Hassan (SBCA farmer), Hassan Barjin (SBCA Farm Manager), Ethan Miller (Land in Common), Jim Hanna (Cumberland County Food Security Council), Kristina Kalolo (SBCA Markets Manager), Jesse Saffeir (Land in Common), Ian McSweeney (Agrarian Trust).
Bottom left to right: Habiba Salat (SBCA farmer), Lana Cannon Dracup (SBCA Farm Operations Manager), Erica Buswell (formerly of Maine Farmland Trust), Muhidin Libah (SBCA Executive Director), Abby Sadauckas (Land For Good), Ashley Bahlkow (SBCA Program Advisor/Land Acquisition Project Lead), Bonnie Rukin (Slow Money Maine), Catherine Padgett (SBCA Farm and Markets Coordinator).
Farmers participating in the SBCA’s Liberation Farms Program
Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good
Bonnie Rukin, Slow Money Maine
Erica Buswell, (formerly) Maine Farmland Trust
Bill Toomey, (formerly) Maine Farmland Trust
Catherine Besteman, Colby College
Julia Harper, Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn
Jesse Saffeir, Land in Common
Ethan Miller, Land in Common
Francis Eanes, Bates College
Jason Lilley, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Jonah Fertig-Burd, (formerly) Cooperative Development Institute
Mark Fulford and Tristan Noyes, Maine Grain Alliance
The Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons encompasses five counties: Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, Sagadahoc, and Kennebec. This region was chosen because Lewiston-Auburn, twin cities built along opposite banks of the Androscoggin River in Androscoggin County, is home to the Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA), a central partner in the development of this Agrarian Commons. Lewiston-Auburn totals 101 square miles and is home to about 60,000 residents, roughly 60 percent of the county’s population.
Nationwide, American farmers are struggling to hold on to their livelihoods. The lack of sufficient or adequate federal support creates prohibitive barriers for new farmers who are trying to start small. Farmers from socially disadvantaged groups—specifically, African American, Latinx, Native American, women, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ farmers—face an even longer list of barriers, including structural socioeconomic inequalities and a history of discrimination in credit markets, state and federal farm programs, and real estate. This is the context in which the Somali Bantu Community Association’s (SBCA) Liberation Farms program exists.
AMOUNT OF FARMLAND
ACRES FARMED ORGANICALLY
TOTAL NUMBER OF FARMS
AVERAGE ACREAGE PER FARM
# OF FARM OPERATORS/PRODUCERS
PREVIOUS # OF FARM OPERATORS/PRODUCERS
AVERAGE AGE OF FARMER
# AVERAGE YEARS ON FARM
AVERAGE FARM REAL ESTATE VALUE
White farmers: 13,086
Farmers of color: 452
American Indian or Alaska Native farmers: 39
Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish-origin farmers: 124
Black farmers: 146*
Asian farmers: 33
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander farmers: 8
Female farmers: 5,859
Male farmers: 7,555
*This number does not include the families who participate in the Liberation Farms program.
According to the USDA, Maine has the seventh-highest rate of hunger in the nation and the highest rate of child food insecurity in New England. As of 2019, 13.6 percent of Maine residents are food insecure, including 6.4 percent who are experiencing very low food security.
For the SBCA, food security is inherently tied to land security. Through the Little Jubba Agrarian Commons and the Liberation Farms program, farmers can grow their culturally preferred foods, strengthening not only food security but food sovereignty in the region.
Farmland loss: 146,491 acres (2012–2017; 10 percent of Maine farmland)