Gillard Farms is a family-run organic farm, growing under the watchful eye of sibling farmers Althea Raiford and Matthew Raiford. Gilliard Farms was first established in 1874 by Althea and Matthew's great great great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard. The farm has never used chemicals to grow any crops and is a member of Georgia Organics, Coastal Organic Growers and Georgia Grown. Althea & Matthew Raiford are the sixth generation to farm this land.
Jupiter Gilliard - Our Roots
The State of Georgia required all male qualified voters to swear an oath of allegiance to United States government under the provision of the 1867 Reconstruction Act. The State applied this voting requirement to all adult-male Georgians who had been citizens of the Confederacy, Euro-descended and freedmen, alike. The post-Civil War migration of freedmen was rare before the chaotic and devastating conditions of Georgia at the war’s end in 1865. Therefore, freedmen who swore allegiance in 1867 in Glynn County were, in all probability, freed in Glynn County.
Jupiter Gilliard swore his allegiance in Militia District 27 of Glynn County, Georgia. In 1870, the census enumerator for the US Population Census listed Jupiter Gilliard, born about 1812 in South Carolina, in the Brunswick District where he lived with his wife Riner, born about 1820 in Florida.
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.
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.
“This part of Brunswick is rural, and the stores for groceries are on the other side of town. We want to feed the people nearby good food and affordable food,” Althea says. “We try to make it as accessible and affordable as possible, selling at farmers markets and being involved in the SNAP program [formerly known as food stamps].”
To Althea, the community interest is her personal interest. Farming after the military was a way to come home to both be better and to do better.
“Farming gave me a purpose. For a lot of us veterans, we feel kind of lost when we come back. Some of our skills don’t really translate into the civilian world. You have to find a new method. That’s one thing I learned in the military that translated into farming: adapting and overcoming.”
This proved a useful skill when a severe windstorm seriously damaged their hoop house and a large portion of their chicken flock. They needed to think of something to do with a smaller flock and a ruined hoop house. By throwing a shade cloth over the hoop house, they created a coop for their chickens and ducks.
“There’s always going to be something that’s unplanned for you to get around. Get your farm hack on and make it work!” she says.