Friday, January 22, 2021
8:30 - 9:45am PT
Learn what these leading ecological farmers do, why they do it, and what they’ve learned along the way.
Ben Burkett is a fourth-generation farmer in Petal, Mississippi. His family has been growing food on the same plot of land since 1889, when his great-grandfather received a homestead from the U.S. government just 24 years after the end of the Civil War. It was one of the first African American-owned farms in the state. Since then, the farm has grown to roughly 320 acres. Depending on the season, his fields grow okra, kale, turnips, rutabaga, watermelon, sweet corn, eggplant, and a wide variety of peppers. He sells his produce to restaurants in New Orleans as well as local grocery stores and farmers markets. Before Hurricane Katrina destroyed his fences, the farm also hosted livestock: Chickens, goats, sheep, cattle, hogs, ducks, and turkeys. In 2014, he won a James Beard Foundation award for his work to support family farming.
Althea lives and works in Atlanta, but her passion for Gilliard Farms keeps her traveling back and forth 4 hours each way on the weekends to make sure work gets done. When her brother suggested they get back to the farm together about 10 years ago, Althea was still on active duty. As soon as the opportunity arose, she dove head first into farm life out of a deep interest in serving her community. To Althea, the community interest is her personal interest.
Raiford grew up breaking the dirt and trading crookneck squash for sweet potatoes, raising hogs and chickens, and only going to the grocery store for sundries. After a military career then graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Raiford returned to the farm in 2011 to continue the traditions of his Gullah-Geechee heritage and to create an authentic farm-to-fork experience for locals. He received certification as an ecological horticulturalist from the University of California’s Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.
He served until recently as the program coordinator and associate professor of culinary arts at the College of Coastal Georgia. In 2015, Raiford, the former executive chef at Little St. Simon’s Resort, and his partner, Jovan Sage, a food alchemist, opened The Farmer and the Larder on Newcastle Street, helping jumpstart the revival of Brunswick’s historic downtown. Raiford has appeared in Southern Living, Golden Isles, Paprika Southern, and Savannah magazines, and is a frequent presenter at food and wine festivals throughout the country.
Blake and Stephanie Alexandre
Where the redwoods meet the sea in Northern California’s Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Blake and Stephanie Alexandre, along with their five children, work together as a family. Their primary focus is on health and starts with the soil. Their dairy cows and hens enjoy true outdoor living as they graze open pastures alongside each other. Blake and Stephanie started dairying in 1988 in southern California and in 1992 bought an existing operation in Del Norte County, converting their dairy to organics in the late 1990’s. Today, they operate four grass-based organic dairies with crossbred A2/A2 milk cows on irrigated pastures. They also grow a majority of their own hay on organic cropland in Modoc County, as well as raising organic pastured pork, and grass-fed beef. With five kids (and their spouses) who now run the farm alongside them – they have a 6th generation of Alexandre Family farmers!