Written by Casey Willson, Fair Farms Intern
This post is the third in a series of conversations with our Farmer Advisory Council members to learn what books inspire them and inform their farming practices.
Fair Farms sat down with Taffy Gwitira to discuss the books that have been influential in her path from a corporate career which focused on policy to one that merges the worlds of agricultural policy and practice. Taffy is not only a full time farmer at Tele Farm, which specializes in growing heirloom and ethnic crops, apiculture, mushroom cultivation, multilingual farm-based education, and advocacy on local and global sustainability, but also a full time Community Building Strategist working with organizations such as Future Harvest and Farm-Based Education Network. Not to mention, she is a valued member of our very own Fair Farms Farmer Advisory Council.
Taffy counts Robin Wall-Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass as an important piece in her library as it validates the traditional knowledge that she grew up around with her family in Zimbabwe. The book takes the knowledge that has been formed by generations of indigenous groups in North America and puts it on par with the scientific knowledge that is more valued and accepted in our society. She explains that it is important for younger community members who might be struggling to try and prove that they have a strong scientific knowledge base to not forget the indigenous knowledge that has been passed through generations. Taffy recommends this book to those who need a reminder of who they are and how that identity has helped shape them and their pursuit of knowledge.
Another book that Taffy credits as influential is Well-Being: Expanding the Definition of Progress which was published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This book is about social determinants of health and economics as well as holistic wellbeing. The most important thing that this book does, according to Taffy, is beg the question of what kind of ancestor you want to be. Taffy explained that this is common framing in her culture and a question that she began to ask herself about her farming practices when she was just beginning. This has led Taffy to explore and rediscover ancient grains from Africa and more truly ethnic varieties of crops that she has had a hard time finding in the United States. She has become more interested in growing crops that are not as popular but that she believes are more important to grow because they are in danger of being lost. She has gotten started on this by growing heirloom seeds from Iraq that were largely destroyed during the U.S. invasion. Part of this work is creating recipes that use these ancient grains in modern ways. Her hope is that demystifying their uses will lead to more mainstream use and familiarity.
We are so grateful for this opportunity to share Taffy’s wisdom. Be sure to keep an eye out for her name in our newsletter and blog posts in order to stay up to date on the work she is doing. You can learn more about the work Taffy does with Tele Farm on their Facebook page.