At Åmot Farms in Dededo, Saina Bernice Nelson has a collection of over two hundred beautiful plants from achote to rosemary to hibiscus and roses and even strawberries. But her farm isn’t a typical farm. Saina Nelson grows åmot, traditional medicine, from the Marianas and around the world.
Saina Nelson is dedicated to teaching our island’s community of the power of plants. From golondrina to atmagosu to hibiscus, these common everyday plants have medicinal properties that can heal. Some of these plants may look like weeds at first glance, but the trained eye of Saina Nelson can identify them and list the ailments that they treat. As we walk around the farm, she tells us which are good in teas, in ointments and oils, eaten raw, or squeezed for their juices. For the fruiting trees on her farm like the mangoes, soursops, and manzanitas, she makes them into jams to preserve the bounty of what the land gives.
Åmot Farms is a place to learn about the plants healing properties and how to cultivate them in and around your house. Saina Nelson says it’s possible to plant medicinal plants in your home, and sometimes they are already growing naturally in your yard. Saina Nelson may also give you seedlings and cuttings so that you can have them in your house to treat yourself and your family. Also, if something did happen to her farm, she knows that she can come to you to regrow her plants too.
Åmot Farms is a culmination of her role as a yo’amte and her passion for cultivating plants. This passion stems from Saina Nelson’s childhood in Saipan and the centrality of her grandfather’s farm to her family. “There’s nothing we don’t have,” she recalls. On harvest days, the entire family would gather together and work to cook, preserve, and share the large harvest. Various members of the family had their tasks and responsibilities and shared what they had made with the rest of the family. She’s saddened that the village life no longer exists on island.
Although she is a yo’amte for her family and close friends, Saina Nelson’s calling is to educate the island’s population on the importance of traditional medicine which is unfortunately disappearing. She continued, “The farm is education and bring back the culture.” “My garden is not to do it for you. My garden is for you to learn to do it” she says. “I teach you how to make your own medicine and everyone else in your family. Because if I’m dead tomorrow and that medicines helps you, how are you going to know what’s inside?”
Saina Nelson reminds us to listen to yourself and to the people around you, form deep connections to the earth and to plants, and preserve and carry-on ancestral knowledge.