UCAN Spotlight – Ms. Amatullah Abdul-Karim

The Oldest Plot Owner

Gardening is a way to engage people of all age groups. Out at the Catawba Trail Farm, we come together not only to plant foods and flowers but also love to learn about the history of our plot owners. Ms. Amatullah Abdul-Karim is one of the oldest plot owners at Catawba Trail Farm. She is 85 years young. 

Ms. Amatullah was born in South Carolina and was raised there until she was 10 years old. She was a member of a sharecropping family. She remembers how her mother used to raise chickens and they would harvest a bird when their parents left for the day. She never realized as a youth that she was poor. Upon the death of her mother, she moved to New York to live with her Aunt and Uncle. She loved living in New York! 

Ms. Amatullah’s Uncle with whom she lived, was the 1st Black teacher at NYU. She had the opportunity for a full ride at NYU but wanted to go to Morgan State instead. She stood her ground and was told okay you go to Morgan State but on your own. It wasn’t easy. Eventually, she completed her education by obtaining the following: LPN, RN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Masters in African American and American History, and a Masters in Islamic Studies. Ms. Amatullah has produced 2 TV programs on public access television with the first, starting in 1992, on Islamic Americans.

During her 85 years, Ms. Amatullah has traveled a lot. She has lived in cities and places such as Singapore, Egypt, and Sudan. This allowed her to engage with and learn about different people, of different ethnic groups. She says that she has enjoyed life and has been blessed. 

As we continue this discussion we would like to learn more with just a few questions.

What do you like about being a plot owner?

I love fresh vegetables. I enjoy digging in the soil to harvest my white potatoes. The eggplants in my bed were as big as your head! I love the idea of being able to sit on the side of my senior height raised bed at the farm, not having to do a lot of bending.

What are some of the things you grow in your plot?

I typically grow okra, tomatoes, peppers, and other things. It’s just wonderful to grow your food. If more people would do this there would be no hunger in this world. When you have a seed you have food.  

What is one thing you have learned about being a plot owner with UCAN?

It is a place where we need more people to come out. More people need to be encouraged to plant in pots, container gardens, on their decks/patios, etc. When I was in Singapore people would grow on their rooftops.

What would you say to convince others to get involved in gardening?

You should know what you are eating when you garden. When you grow it yourself you know exactly what you are eating. There is a difference in the taste. Everyone, especially children should acquire knowledge of gardening/farming. Children don’t know where their food comes from these days. There is much lacking from their education. It needs to include healthy eating and lifestyles, outside activities, and honest communication.

What does UCAN / Catawba Trail Farm mean to you as an African American senior?

I enjoy coming to the farm, being out in the open, laughing, and talking. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has kept me in a lot this year however I still love fresh vegetables!  

Gardening is an excellent lifestyle choice to make no matter your age. Take a moment to come out to Catawba Trail Farm anytime to chat with Ms. Amatullah.

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