My father, Francisco ‘Chiigo’ Smith, an O’dham farmer, grew many traditional crops on my mother Margaret’s ten acre allotment located near Sacaton, on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. My mother was an herbalist and traditional healer. My father grew corn, chiles, tepary beans, various types of squash, gourds, Pima wheat, melons and sugar cane. Together, they taught me the value of our traditional foods to our daily nutrition and way of life.
My husband Terry and I began farming on that very same allotment in 1974. Our first crops were barley and alfalfa. After expanding a few years later, by leasing land from my relatives and other community members, we added cotton, corn and wheat.
In the late 1970’s, some community elders asked us to grow the Bafv (tepary bean), which had nearly become extinct due to the lack of water that put many of the local subsistence farmers out of business. We discovered that my father had left a few seeds of the white and brown tepary beans in glass jars in a trunk in the old adobe house that I grew up in. It became clear to us, especially with the urging of our community elders, that it was to become our mission to ‘bring the bafv back’ to the community. We were able to get started with those few seeds of each color and learned how to produce the beans on a small scale. Once we perfected our production techniques, we were able to develop our bean project into a larger enterprise and now market our beans in the local community and surrounding areas, in different colors and package sizes. We also offer other wholesome American Indian grown traditional, heirloom and non-traditional food products.