Tahz Walker’s interest in farming took hold during a search through his family history. As he learned about ancestors who were sharecroppers, he started wondering how he could deepen his own connection to the land.
He spent many years working on small organic farms in North Carolina and Kentucky and organizing community gardens. Raised in Atlanta, he now owns part of a 50-acre farm near Durham, with beehives, orchards, vegetable fields and chickens.
Tahz is also project director for the Come to the Table project, where he helps congregations and farmers form connections to sustain local agriculture and relieve hunger in their communities.
A joint endeavor between RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) and the North Carolina Council of Churches, Come to the Table is best known for hosting regional conferences across the state for faith leaders, hunger relief advocates, farmers, and farmworkers. The Duke Endowment provides the funding.
At one recent conference, a rural youth development group learned from a master beekeeper, and then launched a successful beekeeping program. Several church-based farmers markets now welcome SNAP EBT customers thanks to conference workshops.
“It’s important for church and farming communities to be at the table together, having conversations not just about challenges but innovative solutions,” he says. “It’s not easy, and we have to be willing to be uncomfortable – to offer a place where people can work across lines of difference.”
The father of two, Tahz often thinks of the legacy he will leave behind. He envisions a food system where farmers are made up of many races, backgrounds and genders, where all people can have a voice in the food they consume, and “where there is honor and justice in putting your hands in the dirt.”
Registration is now open for the Come to the Table Conference from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 16, at the Durham Convention Center, 301 W. Morgan St., Durham, N.C. This year’s event will focus on the history and present state of our food system, including how and why food is produced and distributed the way it is, and how faith communities can support both farmers and consumers. The keynote speaker is Jason Brown, a former NFL lineman who now owns First Fruits Farm in eastern North Carolina.
Kristen R. Richardson-Frick