Taghmees: Growing personal experiences through a citrus grove

A general view from Abu Tamer’s farm located in Waqqas, in the northern Jordan Valley near the Ammar Bin Abi Waqqas Shrine. (Photo: Jude Taha/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Reef Fakhouri and Dina Bataineh had a meeting of the minds when they launched Taghmees (“to dip”) Social Kitchen to encourage themselves and surrounding communities to break down and rebuild their relationships with each other, their environment, and food, in an effort to seek and create hope. اضافة اعلان

While hosting Orange Tejwal — a trip roaming around orange groves near Tal Al-Arbaeen, in North Shouneh — on January 22, Fakhouri told the 14 people on the bus taking us there that the purpose of the trip was to create “a learning mixture of experiences to grow our personal stories and explore our sources of knowledge and living”.

(Photo: Juliana Kaldany)

The two-hour ride from Amman to the first farm was marked by apprehension, as is the start of most trips with strangers, but the awkwardness was broken with the offering of dates and other foodstuffs by fellow passengers. The crowd was a mixture of long-time Taghmees members and newcomers.

Soon after we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by farmer Abu Tamer, who has been overseeing this orange grove at Amr Al-Zoubi’s farm for close to 10 years. Tangy scents and snippets of orange met us at the entrance, only to intensify as we traversed some of the 45-dunum (4.5-hectare) farm planted with a range of citrus trees.

Abu Tamer’s farm is located in Waqqas, in the northern Jordan Valley, more precisely, near the Ammar Bin Abi Waqqas Shrine. The farm is home to around 10–12 different varieties of citrus trees: some six types of oranges, different types of lemons, mandarins, and clementine. Citrus season usually lasts from July till March, with different crops growing at different times, Abu Tamer explained.

(Photo: Juliana Kaldany)

According to him, the most vital part to ensure a successful citrus harvest is irrigation, which needs to be done once a week. Yet, water is a common problem faced by northern Jordan Valley farmers, in addition to money shortages and export facilities.

Questions regarding the types of fruit, how they are harvested, challenges faced on the farm, and the nature of the job could be heard continuously while the group was meandering through the orange grove, and Abu Tamer and two other farmers eagerly answered them. Fakhouri’s initial promise of “growing our personal stories” was getting closer to being fulfilled as conversations among group members emerged and follow-up questions turned to a wide scale, enriching discussion about farming methods and ideologies.

The farmers, generous in their giving, showed us the correct way to choose and pick citrus fruit, which, by the way, is by cutting or twisting from the stem. Enthusiastically, group members picked and sliced different fruits and some mustard greens, and an exchange of dialogue and flavors occurred.

(Photo: Juliana Kaldany)

Fakhouri told Jordan News that she and Bataineh “lost hope in their connections with academic institutions and in the knowledge generated from academia while we have an abundance of sources and knowledge that we are not seeing or processing. Nor were they taking us to better places. Pollution is increasing, tree cutting is increasing, even human connections lost their value”.

Their envisioned solution is embodied in Taghmees, as even the most mundane conversations between the group and the farmers revealed the importance of our relationship with the land and the importance of conveying stories to each other to achieve a deeper understanding of each other’s experience.

(Photo: Juliana Kaldany)

The visit to Abu Tamer’s farm concluded with a cup of sweet tea, and the group, by now more familiar with each other, went back to the buses and conversations. Later, Fakhouri said that these conversations are the goal of Taghmees, as they seek to establish relatability on various levels by “borrowing each other’s stories and dipping ourselves into the moment and coming out with a new perspective or story to share”.

Our next stop was Abu Hamad’s farm near Tal Al-Arbaeen. Less focused — although still mentioned — on the process of farming, the types of fruit that grow on the farm, and the struggles they face, the farmer guided us through a large landscape of green, checkered with different trees, trails, cows, dogs, an apiary, and a beautiful view of the Jordan River, and Jenin and Bisan in the background.

Khubezeh leaves. Khubezeh is a local wild plant simlar to spinach. (Photo: Jude Taha/Jordan News)

At Abu Hamad’s farm, we were left to explore and meet Abu Hamad’s family. We picked khubezeh (a local wild plant similar to spinach) and oranges, met two cows, and admired Jenin from a distance. Abu Hamad’s family generously prepared lunch for us, an assortment of local savory dishes that we could “dip into” with homemade bread.

Dancing, singing, and introductions happened shortly after, and Abu Hamad spoke lovingly about his wife as his life partner and the role everyone in the family plays in maintaining the farm. The experience at Abu Hamad’s farm focused more largely on understanding the importance of family dynamics and the relationship between us, the land and the crops.

Eman Haram, an artist and a fellow tejwal member, believes that such trips in nature are necessary as they “rebuild our relationship with nature, ecology, and crops, as they are life and hold a life of their own”. Through her current research on oranges, she said, she was able to find a “history within itself through their migrations. They are sacred and are more than a resource … they are a gift from the land.”

Lunch prepared by Abu Hamad’s family. (Photo: Jude Taha/Jordan News) 

Fakhouri and Bataineh from “ahel Taghmees” (the Taghmees family) hold various other events centered on dialogue and learning, “with no age, gender, or experience limitations”.

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