; Finding Hope in Farmland | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Finding Hope in Farmland

Maryellen Wiley and Bonnie Collins


CCE Oneida County (CCEOC) has formed a strong working relationship with a local Somali Bantu refugee community. The community is made up of roughly 3,000 people and it is located in a part of the city of Utica in Oneida County, an area noted as a food desert. While CCEOC started by providing resources and information to the community about gardening, we learned of their needs, interests and desire to farm to support their community with fresh, local, affordable food. Over time, community connections were made, and eventually funding was secured to begin the Somali Bantu Community Farm and the Women & Children Empowering Center’s Market and Garden.

The community farm is an inter-generational community effort, where members are learning to grow food, prepare food and sell food. The garden provides an opportunity for Extension to support educational activities in growing and selling while encouraging interest in the potential of next-generational farmers. The market provides an avenue of income for the nonprofit organization, the Somali Bantu Women and Children Empowering Center. The market development also provided fresh produce to an area of much need.

The Somali Bantu Community Farm and Market has thrived. As a community, the Somali Bantu families worked together, harvesting, washing, and preparing the product sold at each market. Over 500 pounds of product sold during nine markets. All surplus produce was given to those who volunteered their hours at the farm and markets. With the outpour of community support from consumers, fellow farmer camaraderie, and the Oneida County Public Market, the Somali Bantu became a trial vendor at the public market in 2020 and named as a key vendor in their 2021 season.

During this time the pandemic brought new challenges for CCE’s work with the Somali Bantu Community Farm, particularly when in-person meetings were not allowed. We worked together to find a communication strategy that would work for the community and staff and began using WhatsApp – which allowed for video and photo messages, as well as text. This worked well, allowing the Somali Bantu to share information beyond their community farm and with other farmers, other Somali Bantu community members in Oneida County and the surrounding region and with family and friends in other states and Africa.

CCEOC has received inquiries about this initiative and looked into sharing its story locally, regionally, and nationally. CCE was able to secure funding to design a video to communicate and interpret the story of this refugee population and their success in growing and developing the Utica Somali Bantu Farm Market, in the city of Utica.
This 15-minute video will assist other groups and organizations to learn from our program model, its successes, and our recommendation for achieving positive outcomes for similar projects. 


2022 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference