Seona Ban misses the large open cooking fires. She misses the intense flavor of fresh maize after roasted on an outdoor fire. “People here prefer the soft-kernel corn,” she says. “In my country, we feel that the best flavor comes from the hard kernel.”
It’s been three years since Seona Ban, originally from Bamenda, Cameroon, has tasted the hard-kernel corn of her homeland. Seona left Cameroon in 2003, and was able to eventually settle in Lowell, mainly through the efforts of her brother, who had immigrated 12 years earlier. Seona now provides childcare for her brother’s three and four years-old children, and while other members of Seona’s family are also in Lowell, her parents, three sisters, and a second brother still live in Cameroon. She keeps in touch with friends and family back home by phone.
Seona, like many people living in lesser developed countries, used to work on her family’s farm. She explains that, “since opportunities for employment are limited … everyone farms.” She graduated from the New Entry farmer training program in February, 2006, and began farming on New Entry managed land in May, 2006.
Seona feels that farming in Cameroon is much easier than farming in Massachusetts since, “there are only two seasons in Cameroon: its either rainy or dry. The rainy season lasts for nine months.” These conditions allow for a longer growing season, and apparently a more predictable climate than we experience in New England. Average temperatures in Cameroon are in the 80′s. Seona grew cassava, cocoyams, black beans and corn.
When Seona arrived in the U.S., she was amazed by the abundance of grocery stores and corner markets. In Cameroon, she had no shopping alternatives. The choice was either fresh food, or no food. Bamenda contains only one single large open-air regional market. This market attracts both local residents and people from surrounding towns. Those who live outside of town utilize the market as a wholesale supplier, carrying larger quantities back to their towns for resale to their neighbors.
Seona now farms independently on a .5 acre farm plot in Dracut, growing snap peas, Irish potatoes, slicing tomatoes, collard greens, pea tendrils, and sweet potatoes, mostly for the World PEAS CSA as well as theLowell Farmers’ Market. Seona Ban transitioned to an independent farm site this year