Meet Your Farmers: Abukar Haji & Mohammad “Mato” Juma

By Micah Anderson, Education Manager – Seattle Tilth Farm Works
Interpretation graciously provided by Lule, Mohammed Juma’s daughter

Abukar Haji and Mohammed Juma show off their impressive farm plots

Abukar Haji and Mohammed Juma show off their impressive farm plots at our Seattle Tilth Farm Works farm in Auburn.

“Morning! Ahh, good morning!” exclaims Abukar with a broad smile and deep laugh.

Abukar is the first to arrive on this particular harvest day, and he makes long, confident strides towards the fields to begin his diligent work. Mato appears not long after, strutting down the path with a wheelbarrow.

“Squash. Farm. Cooler,” he informs me, dropping the wheelbarrow for a moment to articulate more completely with his hands before resuming his trek. Mato and Abukar farm proudly. They work hard and excel at their craft.

Farming is an integral part of their identity, their shared history and friendship. They grew up farming in Jilbi, Somalia, where they cultivated bananas, mangoes, corn, beans and tomatoes. Their fresh produce was in high demand in the capital, Mogadishu, and other big cities. Mato recalled that “the president of Somalia — who demanded fresh fruit and vegetables from farming areas like ours — ate and enjoyed the produce we grew.”

Fleeing the war in Somalia, they moved their families to Washington as refugees. Mato and Abukar sincerely appreciate the opportunity to continue to use their farming skills and distribute the delicious produce that they grow. Abukar said that farming with Seattle Tilth Farm Works is the only thing that reminds him of being back home. Mato agreed saying, “Farming keeps us strong and youthful. It lets us provide good food for our family and give back to the community.

The extra income helps, too, allowing Mato and Abukar to purchase clothes and school supplies for children and grandchildren, to fix broken-down cars, and to travel to visit friends and relatives in places like New York and Kenya.

Both men have been farming with Seattle Tilth Farm Works in Auburn since it broke ground in early 2011. They enjoy farming in a diverse community and have begun taking on leadership roles, mentoring new farmers and assisting more experienced farmers.

They share a friendly farmer rivalry: both compete to raise and sell the most produce each year. Mato concedes the 2015 summer season to Abukar, but promises that next season “Insha’Allah,” it will be his time to shine.

 

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