Within just a few minutes of speaking with Chaz Daughtry, owner and proprietor of Sweetwater Farms in his hometown of Houston, Texas, one gets the sense that it takes a lot to get him to slow down. Even for his conversation with Consensus, one wonders as he unspools everything he is juggling and has accomplished: where does he find the time?
Daughtry runs the six-acre plot in an urban food desert in Houston, where its main focus is not only on growing but educating young people about sustainable farming and healthy living. He also owns SoulFitGrill, a seasonings company that boasts options with an “all-natural, low sodium, non-preservative, vegan, and paleo-friendly with a healthy southern twist.”
Daughtry begins to tell the story of Sweetwater Farms, and predictably, it started while he was pursuing other goals because it seems he is always moving and working.
“So 2014, I was applying to law school. And basically, I just kind of needed a stress reliever while I was studying for the LSAT. And I started, just kind of, you know, backyard gardening,” Daughtry said.
“I kind of got inspired by seeing my grandfather’s garden. We had kind of a small garden on his farm, and I was like, this seems pretty cool. And then we just kind of started buying some plants with some seeds.”
“And I started doing that while I was studying for the LSAT,” he said. “So, when I needed a break, I kind of, I would go out there and just kind of, you know, tend to the plants and just kind of make sure everything was needed and watch things grow.”
A conversation with his mother about his newfound distraction and hobby led to bigger ideas and things.
“My mom, who started a nonprofit 20-something years ago, was saying, ‘oh, we have some land; let’s put some raised beds on there and have a community garden’,” Daughtry said. “And the garden, you know, it wasn’t in the best neighborhood. So it was in a food desert. You know, but people would definitely be interested in learning how to grow their own food and also getting educated as well.”
Not long after this family project started, Chaz and his mother realized that the raised beds they had installed were acting as more of a proof of concept than producing enough to take home or share. So, naturally, they decided to expand.
“And so around 2018, we switched it up from the urban garden to urban farm. And we kept the urban garden part of it with our nonprofit, and that’s where we teach the youth about agriculture,” Daughtry said. “But that’s where Sweetwater Farms was born.”
“So, we started focusing on maybe four or five crops. Right now, we grow seasonal vegetables,” Daughtry said.
“We focus on four or five crops that we can teach people. We also sell to farmers markets and also sell to some local restaurants.”
The mission of Sweetwater Farms and SoulFitGrill, as Daughtry sees it, is simple. Both aim for healthier, less processed, less manipulated, fresh food for all, especially those parts of society that don’t have easy access to it.
“Growing up in the inner city where it’s not nice, you know, you don’t have grocery stores, we don’t have access to, you know, the healthy food places. We don’t have a salad place around,” Daughtry said. “And so, when that garden idea I did with my mom to basically put it on our own land that we have that’s in the middle of Houston. You know, it was a great idea. Because, you know, people wanted to know how they can bring food to their table without having to travel so far.”
Pausing just slightly here, Daughtry seems to smile a bit and sums up his and Sweetwater Farms’ whole mission in one brief statement: “The best thing we can do is to teach them how they can do it.”