From the Farmer's Tractor
April 28, 2013
Althea Raiford, 41, farms 5 acres (including 2 as pasture for animals) on 25 acres of land called Gilliard Farms in Brunswick, Georgia, along with her brother, Matthew. Althea and Matthew are the sixth generation to farm this land, which has been in their family for more than one hundred years. Althea retired from military service two years ago and joined her brother to help pick up where their family left off – living off the land and building a stronger community.
How did you get into farming?
This land has been in our family since 1874 and has been farmed. As children we were always at the farm it seemed.
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
That is a very interesting question because we are certified organic and our family has never used chemicals on the property. I think what has changed is the amount that we are trying to do, and in adding things like compost and the hoop house/high tunnel production (pictured).
How will farming evolve in the next five years?
I believe there are going to be more opportunities opening up for people to create businesses to help farmers with things like seed saving, composting, and fish fertilizer.
What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?
The greatest challenge I face is time management. Not only do I need to do work on the farm, but there is also the paperwork and record keeping necessities.
How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
Farmers have to reach out to restaurants and stores and ask what is needed. Farmers also have to be able to step out of their comfort zone and experiment with different vegetables and fruits that may grow well in their climate and soil. A good example of this is we are trying our hand at growing callalo and malabar spinach this year.
What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?
We are looking at ways to combine permaculture on our property and we are trying to make sure nothing leaves the farm in the form of waste unless we just cannot recycle it.
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?
We are starting to go to markets and stores this summer. We just reached out to farmers markets that we wanted to be connected with, and the store that we are connected with is a local fresh vegetable store. We are in negotiations with them now.
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
I have to say it is a mixed reaction. Sometimes people ask me what my husband is growing this season. Or what exactly do I do on the farm. Once I explain who I am and what I do on the farm they are usually excited and curious about what made me get into farming and what is the future of our farm.