Red Fire Farm in Granby shows appreciation for workers with Somali Bantu cultural celebration

MassLive, July 29, 2017, by Brian Steele

GRANBY – Red Fire Farm celebrated Somali Bantu culture on Saturday in recognition of its workers, some of whom are refugees from the east African nation.

The event served as an open house for the Somali Bantu Community Organization of Springfield. The farm’s owner, Sarah Voiland, said refugees should be able to feel welcome in the country, and in their own communities.

“We need to show our support as much as possible,” said Voiland, “and make an opportunity for people to come meet the (refugees).”

Rumbila Abdullahi, 19, of Springfield, works with the Somali organization and said the event pushes back against negative stereotypes. When President Donald Trump announced in January a suspension of refugee resettlement in the U.S., Abdullahi said refugees in Springfield were “pretty hurt.”

“A lot of us, our families are still back there in the refugee camps,” she said. “We’re more than what you’re told about.”

Her own family came to the U.S. from Kenya, which borders Somalia.

The event featured traditional Somali music (Abdullahi said it was “what our parents listen to”), food such as chicken and sambusa, henna tattoos and a Somali game that’s similar to Jacks.

The Somali Bantu Community Organization of Springfield supports local refugees, teaching English to non-native speakers, offering citizenship classes and providing other assistance with a goal of self-sufficiency.

Adan Abdi came to Springfield with his family as a Somali refugee in 2005. He said that before the Somali workers arrived at Red Fire Farm, “they didn’t have workers who were so committed.”

“That’s why we are trying to organize an annual event here,” said Abdi. “Today is just a start.”

Red Fire Farm grows certified organic vegetables, fruits, flowers, and bedding plants, and runs farm stands in Granby and Montague. Voiland said they’re known for icebox watermelons and growing more than 100 varieties of tomatoes.