Education is a big part of Tara Firma Farms and one of the primary reasons for the tours. When thinking back to the beginning of Tara Firma, Founder Tara Smith recalls, “I grew up in a strip-mall area outside Detroit, never been on farms, didn’t know anything about food. I didn’t shop organic, I got what was cheap in the store, we ate a lot of processed food … We wanted to make sure that we could provide free education to the public, for them to learn what we learned.” In addition to public tours, the farm offers school tours yearlong as well as camp sessions.
Tara Smith graduated from college with a degree in computer science and worked at Microsoft before changing to Long-Term Care Insurance, which is the field she and her husband Craig were working in when their son came home in 2008 with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma to read. Tara read the book and was stunned at the horrors that abound in industrial food systems.
Three months later, one of Tara’s friends admitted that Tara and Craig had become fixated on the process of food in the United States and it had begun affecting their interactions. Tara remembers her friend telling her, “You guys are fanatical right now. All you talk about is how bad the food is … and you never give us any solutions, you just talk about how bad it is, so you aren’t doing anything about it.” This was the challenge Tara had been waiting for. As Tara says, “She threw down the gauntlet, so I hung up and said, ‘Fine! I’m doing this myself,’ and I pointed at my husband and said, ‘you find the land!’”
After a long process and many properties, Tara and Craig found the land for Tara Firma Farms, where they began by following Joel Salitan’s books on rotational grazing. “At 47, going from corporate, sitting at the desk on the phone … to physical work outside is something different,” says Tara. As with any big change there were many challenges and new experiences at the beginning but Tara Firma Farms now has about 1,200 members and 15 employees and is still working to bring people closer to their food and educate them about the food process.
Here is a short video we found on their website.