2021:A descendant of the Freshwater Gullah Geechee of Coastal Georgia, Matthew Raiford grew up on land that has sustained his family for seven generations; Gilliard Farms, purchased by his great-great-great-grandfather Jupiter Gilliard in 1874, is now in the hands of this sixth-generation farmer in Brunswick, GA. He, alongside his wife Tia (nee McDonald, AOS ’98) are also owners of Strong Roots 9, a lifestyle brand which is dedicated to creating products and experiences for Americans to reconnect with the nation’s natural heritage, from the perspective of the people whose ancestors helped build it.

Matthew is the author of the celebrated cookbook Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth Generation Farmer. In addition to being a CIA alum, he holds a certificate in ecological horticulture from University of California Santa Cruz and The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Matthew has over 30 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry, including serving as the director of culinary at the College of Coastal Georgia and the executive chef of Little St. Simons Island and Haute Catering in Washington, DC at the U.S. House of Representatives. Matthew serves on the Chefs Collaborative board of directors and is an active member of Slow Food USA, the Board Chair for Georgia Organics Raiford was named a 2018 semi-finalist in the James Beard Awards Best Chef in the Southeast category. and has been featured in The New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, and The Huffington Post, and has been a featured chef at food festivals across the country Matthew enjoys traveling and experiencing other food cultures from the agrarian to the cooking and loves teaching whether it be cooking or gardening in the backyard or creating compost systems for larger farm life. His passion lies in creating food memories for others by preparing local, organic, and flavorful foods.