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Monday, June 27, 2022

Popular Leeds gardener speaks on raising his kids outdoors and racism in the horticulture community

A creator that has over 35,000 YouTube subscribers has spoken out about the importance of children connecting with nature and the abuse South Asian gardeners face in the horticulture community online and in-person.

A popular Youtuber in the online gardening and horticulture community from Leeds has spoken out about the racist abuse he and other gardeners face.

Mothin Ali, 40, from Leeds, has over 35,000 followers on his YouTube channel, My Family Garden and has racked up more than 2m views.

The YouTuber documents his work in the back garden, growing all sorts of plants, fruit and vegetables, as well as sharing gardening tips, and his favourite traditional Bangladeshi meals to cook at home using ingredients found in his yard.

Mothin Ali juggles work as an accountant, an Islamic teacher, three kids, and a YouTube career.

An accountant during the day and an Islamic teacher at night, Mr Ali spends his weekends dedicated to family, gardening, and producing content for his YouTube channel.

Mr Ali said: “I started the YouTube channel over three years ago. The whole family is involved in the gardening, so we decided to get it out on YouTube and let the world see what we are doing.

“As soon as it started, it has taken off massively. During the pandemic, because a lot of people were stuck inside and struggling, I thought I would put out more content to keep people entertained.”

Mr Ali’s passion for gardening stems from when he helped his dad in his allotment as a child.

The keen gardener said: “My father had an allotment when I was a little boy, and they were the happiest times I can remember and I’m trying to replicate that for my children.

“My favourite memory of that time is just running around and watching what my dad was doing. At an early age, I learned how to do a process called trench composting, and I remember what they were doing, how they were digging and dealing with manure and then covering it over to use in the year after.”

The Youtuber over 100 plants last year and aims to double it in 2022.

Mr Ali has three children, his eldest, a daughter, is eleven and his two little boys are nine and four, all of whom help in the garden on the weekends.

The YouTuber added: “Our children enjoy helping out, absolutely. Since we moved here, they have all been outside with me helping me out with pretty much everything I do.

“We have a rule in our house, if it is not raining then you must be outside. I think kids nowadays are lacking contact with nature and contact with wildlife.

“My daughter loves playing with the chickens and my two boys love helping me dig and doing their own experiments. I like turning it into a learning experience, we do quite a bit around soil, about what it is in soil and what makes good soil, they really like the science that I do with them.”

Mr Ali and his family currently have six chickens that reside in a custom-built chicken coop that Mr Ali painstakingly put together in November using reclaimed materials.

The content creator added: “Balancing three children, two jobs, and the garden is the hard part. I feel like I am battling time and it is not easy, but having a structured timetable is key.

The internet star launched DigItOut, an anti-racism campaign in the Horticulture community.

“Work time is for work, teaching time is for teaching and the weekends are for family and the garden, everything has to have structure otherwise I would never get anything done.”

Last year, Mr Ali launched DigItOut, a campaign to raise awareness surrounding racism in gardening and horticulture. Mr Ali says since uploading to his channel, he has been “bombarded with racist trolls” from extreme and violent comments to trolls using “the typical stereotypes.”

He said: “Last year I had enough of it, I made a video about some of the comments I get. In the video, I used some of the cleaner comments I’ve received because I’m not comfortable with repeating some of the graphic stuff.

“As soon as I made that video, I got loads of people responding saying they get the same thing but they’re getting it in person, at garden centres and in allotment societies, and in the jobs, they are doing.

“From there, I launched the DigItOut campaign, where I can help people based on my experiences.”

People who have experienced racism in various settings are encouraged to report it to Mr Ali who then gathers the facts and evidence to advocate on people’s behalf. One case he is building is for a person who experienced racism within a gardening setting in Keighley.

Mr Ali’s three children also help out in the garden.

He added: “I will investigate and gather evidence and once I’ve got a picture of what is going on, I will write to the Council, or the allotment society, or the club, whoever it is, to try and advocate on behalf of the victims, and there have been occasions where we have won and got people to back off.

“Sometimes, people want to know they are not going crazy. British racism is very underhand, it is not the overt type of racism where people are saying slurs, but it is sly looks or subtle different treatment. When you confront them, they often gaslight and that can cause insecurity in people and make them feel like ‘is this really happening? Or am I going crazy?’

“People need to be reassured that it is discrimination, and it is one of the forms that it takes, and people are very clever, or they think they are very clever, with hiding it.”

Mr Ali has faced this type of discrimination on YouTube, he says. “A lot of YouTubers do a lot of collaborations with people who are in the field, and they do work with other creators but when I reached out to a few people about racism, they have completely brushed it off”, he said.

He added: “The Youtubers said, ‘Yeah, just ignore it. You put yourself out there, you deserve it.’ If you look at the way other creators collaborate, no one will work with me or get involved and very few have very recently started working with me now I’ve got the massive following and recognition.”

Before Christmas, Mr Ali launched his first products made with ingredients from his garden. The three types of achar, garlic, chilli, and mega achar, has been a “massive success”, says the accountant-turned-YouTube star.

The Naga chillies are Mr Ali’s favourite.

“I’ve just started growing some young chillies. I think I grew 100 plants last year and I’m looking at doubling it this year.

“I’m Bangladeshi so my favourite thing I’ve grown is the naga chilli. There are hotter chillies, but there is nothing like the heat and the flavour and fragrance with the naga chilli. We’ve been very successful with the products we’ve launched so far.”

Mr Ali grew up working in Indian restaurants, working his way up from a pot washer in a takeaway at the age of thirteen. So, there is no surprise that Mr Ali enjoys getting creative in the kitchen.

He said: “I like to share old recipes on my channel. What you eat in a restaurant is nowhere near what you would eat in somebody’s home.

“It is a great way of sharing culture especially if two people from different backgrounds share a meal, you will be best friends by the end of it.”

Mr Ali’s favourite non-traditional meal to make with his children is pizzas, making the dough from scratch and adding different toppings. His favourite traditional meal is his mum’s lamb and potato curry with a bit of rice on the side.

For more information or to report an incident of racism within a gardening or horticulture setting, you can contact Mothin Ali on Facebook or Twitter. To subscribe to his channel, My Family Garden, visit here.

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