Matthew Raiford’s love for healthy foods grew just as organically as the vegetables on his family farm. “I grew up eating our own fresh peas and corn. I didn’t know any other way to eat,” said Raiford, who is now the sixth-generation farmer on Gilliard Farms, the land his family has owned in Brunswick, Georgia, since 1874. “It pushed my appreciation for good food.”
Raiford calls himself a CheFarmer – part chef, part farmer; his love for growing and cooking healthy foods permeates his life. His day starts at 5:30 a.m., walking his property to check the crops by first light. After feeding the chickens and ducks, he harvests the eggs for the farm store and his restaurant, The Farmer & The Larder, where lunch preparation begins at 9 a.m.
“At the farm, we are committed to organic, sustainable and responsible farming,” said Raiford. “The restaurant allows me to help promote healthy living by bringing homegrown recipes to the table.”
His inspiration stems from his family. His parents have always encouraged him to “do good work.” At 95 years old, his grandmother is still getting the first taste of the vegetables from every harvest. “I want to ensure my children’s children have good food. So I try not only to grow what works well in this area, but also to educate the community on why certain vegetables can grow here and how they can be used in their daily diets,” he said.
Raiford and his fiancée, Jovan, educate the community by hosting cooking classes at the restaurant and having one-on-one conversations at the farm. They serve up to 350 people every week in the 28-seat restaurant. They also publish recipes and educational content on their website and blog. “You have to have a conversation with the community about what it needs to become more healthful,” he said. “It needs to be an open forum.”
Raiford says the biggest misconception people have about healthy eating is the cost. “Even if you live in an apartment and have a balcony, you can create a container garden,” he said. “Take two five-gallon buckets, and fill them with $10 of top soil and good compost. Add a pack of carrot seeds for $2.99, arugula for $2.99 and a tomato plant for $2.99. And just like that – you have a great salad.”
Matthew Raiford is a sixth-generation farmer and chef whose focus on organic farming allows him to bring local, sustainable, flavorful meals to the table.
Throughout his more than 19 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry, Mr. Raiford has worked and traveled extensively. He has served as executive chef of Little St. Simons Island, a private resort located off the coast of Georgia; executive chef of Haute Catering in Washington, D.C., at the House of Representatives; and executive chef of Galaxy Diner, the employee dining facility at Gaylord National Hotel in Maryland. Most recently he held the position of program coordinator and associate professor of culinary arts at the College of Coastal Georgia. Mr. Raiford also has taught culinary arts at colleges in Maryland and Texas.
In 2011, Mr. Raiford returned home to Brunswick, Georgia, to become the sixth-generation farmer on land that has been in his family since 1874. He is currently launching The Farmer & The Larder, a family-owned culinary retail space specializing in educational adventures in taste through culinary classes, kitchen retail and a weekly supper club.
Mr. Raiford serves on the Slow Food USA board of directors and Slow Meat Steering Committee. He has a Bachelors of Professional Studies degree in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz and The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Learn more at farmerandlarder.com.