Fabia Hossain puts a face mask on under her hijab and shoulders a familiar Alabama sun, following a well-traveled path to the Montgomery Urban Farm where she has been volunteering for over a year. A happy voice emerges from behind his mask.
But that was not the plan.
Born in New York to immigrants from Bangladesh, Hossain moved to Montgomery, Alabama as a child and learned to love the city, but harbored bigger dreams. In March 2020, she was completing a marketing degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, ready to leave her adopted hometown.
Then the flights stopped. Companies in Texas and Georgia have canceled two endgame job interviews and his plans have evaporated.
“I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do next,” Hossain said. “But I too, with COVID, took a step back. “
A distance learning internship led her to find a local farmer who needed help with marketing. It awakened his long-standing love for the Earth. Eighteen months later, the 23-year-old takes a hiatus from his job search to pick produce at the non-profit EAT South farm in the city center.
The farm doubled in size during the pandemic as it shifted from education to production. Gardens that once hosted field trips now grow fresh produce for pantries.
Over a thousand pounds of food has been donated to the needy so far, thanks to a growing group of volunteers like Hossain. There is a new crop of Asian vegetables that she helped start, vegetables that are being distributed to communities in South and East Asia here.
Hossain still pursues these big dreams.
But today, she works on the farm and thinks of her mother, a longtime gardener who always finds joy in celebrating her friends and family with food grown on the spot. This is something Hossain has come to understand.
“It was a way for my mom to show love,” she said. “… It’s not just a way to fill our stomachs. It’s also a way to connect and bring people together.
One and 100: Click above to read more stories about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the South.