Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard

Halieth Talks Gardening from Burundi to Clarkston

One of the highlights of the “It’s a Greens Thing” episode was meeting the women of Umurima Farm in Clarkston, Ga. Umurima is part of the Global Growers collective of farms that serve “people from diverse cultures who grow fresh food for their families and for local marketplaces.” Many of the growers are part of Clarkston’s vibrant refugee community. All five of the women who tend Umurima’s lush plot of land hail from Burundi, a small country in east Africa. Halieth Hatungimana was prominently featured in the greens episode, showing Vivian around the garden, picking cassava greens, and making an abundant meal featuring fufu and stewed cassava greens — dishes traditional to her homeland. We checked in with Hatungimana (with assistance from Ash Dawson, Farm Education Coordinator at Global Growers) to see how the farm is faring during Covid and find out what the women are currently growing.

How is Umurima Farm doing right now? Were you and the other women affected by COVID-19 at all? Are there things you are doing differently?

The farm is good. Everybody's family is good. After coronavirus, now we are selling, but we sell less things because we do not go to market.

When do you think you will return to the market?

Ash Dawson: Our return to market is to be determined at this point. Currently, we are working on building and supporting our new point of sale via online orders with a safe, direct , no-contact pick-up option. We offer pre-ordered mixed veggie bags weekly. Things have been going well so far, and our customer base is steadily increasing.

What do you miss about selling at the market?

We sell more food at the market. I also miss selling the bags I can sow, I can earn more money selling things there.

We’re so happy to hear that everyone is doing well. We visited you in the fall of last year, which means you are probably growing different things than when we met you. What are you growing at the farm right now? What are you harvesting?

Right now, we grow onions, peppers, peanuts, tomatoes, cassava, beans, and eggplant. We harvest everything, but peanuts need more time to grow up.

When will the peanuts be ready to harvest?

Peanuts are a Fall crop and will be ready for harvest near the end of September.

What is your favorite produce to grow in the summer?

I like to grow cassava, beans, and corn. It is hard to find these fresh in the winter.

Do you preserve them for the winter? If so, how (do you freeze them, can them, etc.)?

Yes, when I cook a lot of cassava, I put it in the freezer to save for the year because it's hard to find fresh here.

How are summers in Georgia similar to summers in Burundi (particularly in terms of what you can grow). How are summers different?

Georgia is more hot in the summertime. For summertime in Burundi, we can grow rice on the water in the garden. We like to grow amasaka to make fufu.

What is amasaka?

Ash Dawson: Amasaka translated in English is sorghum. It is a grain crop with a few health benefits. Halieth tells me that amasaka is a crop they use in various ways. She said they use it to make fufu and to make a semi-sweet, chocolate-like drink they give to babies.

What are Burundi summers like? Do you get a lot of thunderstorms? Is it rainy? Dry? 

Summer in Burundi is very dry, there is no rain. We walk to go get water for the garden and bring it back.

What is a fruit or vegetable you like to eat directly out of the ground or off the vine at Umurima Farm?

I like African eggplant. When you cook and cut it up small-small, you take out the vitamins. When you eat it like this, it's good for you. Sometimes it's sweet.