By Stef Tschida
In response to the global health crisis, My Founder Story partnered with BankCherokee to launch Fueled by Purpose micro grants. Every week through June, we awarded a grant to a female-founded small business in need.
When she was a girl growing up in Somalia, Naima Dhore’s mother often sent her next door to trade the vegetables they’d grown in their garden for eggs from the neighbor’s chickens. Another neighbor would provide milk in exchange for produce. At an early age, Naima began to understand the power of food to connect people and meet their needs. Years later, after immigrating to Minnesota due to the civil war in Somalia, that appreciation for food inspired Naima and her husband to grow microgreens in their tiny apartment. They were surprised with the results and began to wonder what they could grow in a better environment.
When not working at her full-time job or chasing after her two young sons, Naima started watching YouTube videos to learn more about growing produce. She eventually transferred her microgreens to a community garden plot and started growing other vegetables. Through her online research, Naima learned about Big River Farms in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, which offers land access and education in organic agriculture for immigrants, refugees, people of color and others who have historically faced discrimination in accessing farmland, markets, education and farming support. Though their lives were already full, she and her husband decided to participate in a program on how to produce food and run a successful business.
Five years later, Naima’s Farm sits on eight acres of land at Big River Farms. Naima has developed a passion for exposing people to new produce. She’s introducing the Minnesota market to leafy greens native to Somalia, many similar to spinach or chard. And she’s introducing Somalians to new vegetables like turnips and beets. Through a nonprofit she recently launched with her husband, the Somali American Farmers Association, she supports immobile Somali elders by donating fresh, organic produce that a partner organization delivers to their door.
Naima will earn her master’s degree this year, which is focused on youth development in urban farming. She hopes to introduce a new generation to the joys of growing produce and feeding others. She’s also looking to purchase a larger piece of land through the USDA Farm Service Agency. While Naima never dreamed that an immigrant Black woman could own her own land, she’s working hard to make it a reality so she can have an even bigger impact in her community.
Naima will use her Fueled by Purpose grant to upgrade her website to facilitate online workshops and the CSA she plans to launch next spring.
To learn more about Naima’s business, visit Naima’s Farm.
To learn more about and apply for a Fueled by Purpose micro grant, visit our grants page.
Photo: Naima’s Farm
About the author: Stef Tschida is a former corporate communicator and lifelong storyteller. Stef’s WHY became clear when she worked at her daily campus newspaper. She realized she didn’t want to ask tough questions as a reporter—she wanted to help organizations answer those tough questions. She’s been doing that work ever since.