Guild Members Support Somali Bantu Community Association Project

May 9, 2022

Somali Bantu Community Association Builds Outdoor Community Gathering Space

A two-year collaborative project with members of the Timber Framers Guild comes to fruition this month in the form of a 200-person pavilion at Liberation Farms.

Wales, Maine - The Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA), in partnership with several local and national organizations, is raising a large pavilion for community gatherings at its newly-acquired land in Wales, Maine, called Liberation Farms.

The pavilion will host up to 200 people and address a vital need in the Somali Bantu community for a safe public gathering space for cultural and religious celebrations. This structure will also be used by SBCA for its Kasheekee youth program and as a place for over 220 farmers to rest and eat while working at the farm. Office Manager Farah Ibrahim said, "It is very important to the community to have a place for multiple generations of Somali Bantu people to come together and get to know each other, have celebrations with dancing and meetings for years to come."

The 104-acre farm is located about a dozen miles northeast of Lewiston and thus serves thousands of people of Somali heritage who live in Androscoggin County. This project is partially funded by the Quimby Family Foundation and is made possible thanks to in-kind donations and two years of partnership with the Timber Framers Guild, with the design and construction directed and to be completed by member companies Maine Mountain Timber Frames, Hardwick Post & Beam, and Foard Panel. These companies are based in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and have sourced the timber harvested in New England for the pavilion from local businesses. These include the family-run Woodell & Daughters in Langdon, New Hampshire, celebrating its 47th anniversary; Gallan Lumber in South Paris, Maine; and Parent Lumber in Mechanic Falls, Maine. 

The partnership between the Timber Framers Guild and the SBCA began in June 2020, when Katherine Carlson of Maine Mountain Timber Frames reached out to SBCA to see if donating an outdoor structure would be supportive of programming. SBCA Advisor Ashley Bahlkow and Farm Operations Manager Lana Cannon Dracup took the lead on coordinating with Carlson, conducting visioning sessions with members of SBCA about what sort of structure would serve the community's needs. 

Guild members then began designing the structure, seeking architect approval, and ordering materials. The Guild, SBCA, and contractors local to the Wales area then collaborated to prepare the site and lay the groundwork for the pavilion to be raised during the week of May 9. Larry & Sons, Inc., completed the ground preparation and drainage system; J&N Foundations Company, Inc., poured the concrete foundation; and JTK Construction will be completing the metal roof construction once the pavilion timber frame has been erected. This group effort is a testament to the long tradition of timber framing bringing communities together and creating enduring structures. 

SBCA was founded in 2005 with a mission to provide vital transitional services, advocacy, and food production. Through these program goals, the organization empowers members of the Maine refugee community to uphold cultural identity and pursue economic well-being. There are over 3,000 Somali Bantu living in the Lewiston-Auburn area, and many struggle to access green spaces and land to grow food in the city. Liberation Farms was started in 2014 to meet the community's need for land on which to grow familiar foods through traditional farming practices.

The Guild was founded in 1985 with a mission to revive, support, and expand the traditional ways of constructing wood-framed houses, barns, bridges, and other structures. Several entrepreneurial firms in southern Maine were among the early leaders in this effort, and today there are thousands of firms across North America who use mortise and tenon and other timber joining techniques to build frames that, if properly cared for, will last hundreds of years. 

For the first six years of Liberation Farms, land tenure was often uncertain and insecure. The program was forced to grow on multiple parcels of land and move its operations nearly every season. SBCA took inspiration from leaders in the food and land justice movements - such as Soul Fire Farm, the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance - and began to search for its own land in January 2018.

Thanks to the support of the national nonprofit Agrarian Trust; local partners including Land in Common, Land for good, Maine Farmland Trust, the Cooperative Development Institute, and Slow Money Maine; and a robust crowdfunding campaign, SBCA was able to find and purchase the farm in Wales in October 2020. The land was designated as the first farm in the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons through a collective land ownership model coordinated by the Agrarian Trust. 

Staff and farmers at Liberation Farms now have the ability to make investments in the property and determine how they will interact with the land. SBCA is excited to raise a pavilion with organizational partners as they celebrate the program's journey to land security. to honor this new chapter for SBCA, a party will be held on the farm for members of the Somali Bantu community and invited guests on May 12, where we will share food, music, and prayer under the new pavilion. We hope it is the first of many joyous celebrations to come on the new land. 

Media Contacts:
Sarah Robinson
Office & Finance Coordinator
Somali Bantu Community Association
(207) 749-4494

Eric Howard
Executive Director
Timber Framers Guild
(603) 843-7721


Published on May 9, 2022

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