You can see the hard work and pride that goes into Dodo Farms just by looking at their farmstand at the Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park, Maryland. There you'll see Olaniyi Balogun brimming with passion for farming, a pursuit he brought with him from Nigeria in 2016. Read below to learn more about his farming journey.
Where do you farm?
I grow at Dodo Farms in Brookeville, MD.
For how many years have you been farming?
I have been farming in Maryland for 4 years, since immigrating here from Nigeria, where I ran a large commercial farm for 13 years. We grew cassava and maize. Here in Maryland, I grow vegetables that are popular here--potatoes, kale, collard greens and more.
How did you first get into farming?
I’ve been farming since I was 12 in Nigeria. I used to follow my brother in law to the farm and over time I grew to love it--growing food that people will eat. I came to the US knowing that I would farm.
My favorite crop to grow here is collard greens. They grow well. I never grew them before moving here. I love that when you pick them, they grow back.
Michael Protas (left) of One Acre Farm, also Certified Naturally Grown, with Olaniyi Balogun.
Please tell us about any farming heroes or mentors of yours.
My farming hero and mentor is Tom Farquhar of Sandy Spring Gardens, another CNG farm. I met him through a friend. Our farms are 1.5 miles apart from each other. I go to him for advice. And he’s always asking if he can help. He’s a great man.
What does it mean for you to work on the land?
One of the things I love most about farming is the feeling of satisfaction from seeing my farm clear of weeds. In Nigeria, they say “A poor farmer always has weeds on his farm.” I remove all of my weeds by hand and with hand tools. I love seeing the rows of crops when they’re fully grown. I love planting seeds too, and watching them come out of the ground.
How did you come to have a commitment to sustainability?
It's important to me to grow food that is naturally grown food free of chemicals. Food should heal and nourish the body, not hurt, harm or inflame it. Therefore, we do not use GMO seeds, pesticides, toxic synthetic chemical fertilizers, or other harmful substances.
We are responsible benefactors of the earth. It gives us so much, so we in turn treat it with care.