Farmer grows familiar foods for Maine’s African refugees

September 5th, 2014 by admin Leave a reply »

Directions to Alfred Matiyabo’s farm in South Portland are not of the usual turn-at-the-big-red-barn variety: Take a left into a housing development, park next to his beat-up Dodge sedan (with 195,000 miles) and duck into the nearby underbrush. It’s like heading into some teenagers’ secret party lair. Or a homeless encampment.

But at the end of a narrow, well-trodden path is nearly an acre lined with Matiyabo’s vegetables: 1,000 tomato plants, 850 habanero chiles, rows and rows of amaranth, some pumpkins snaking their way across the ground and 500 eggplants.

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Alfred Matiyabo harvests amaranth Wednesday on land he farms in South Portland. He plants the crop specifically for Maine’s growing community of African refugees.

Matiyabo sells his produce under the brand Africando.

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Congolese farmer Alfred Matiyabo tills land he farms in South Portland.

The tomatoes came from your average FedCo seeds, the habaneros are noteworthy mostly because they’re blazingly hot. But the pumpkins, the amaranth and most of the eggplants are African varieties, the kind he remembers from his native Congo, their seeds ordered online. And these plants, cleaned, cut and packaged under his brand – Africando – in the commercial kitchen of a church in Portland, are crops specifically planted for a growing community of African refugees, Matiyabo’s customer base.


Maine is filled with farmers experimenting with techniques and crops, but Matiyabo is an agricultural entrepreneur with a very particular niche. He

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