EAST TENNESSEE NWIAA CHAIRPERSON
Vivian Williams was raised on a farm in Cuba, Alabama where she and her family currently raise vegetables and are working toward conversion to goat husbandry. She resides in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Vivian is a child advocate, who worked for Project GRAD and the Knox County School system until her retirement in May, 2013. She is an active Cub Scout leader with the Boy Scouts of America where she uses her time to educate boys about production of healthy food and agricultural skills.
Vivian’s objectives as the Tennessee Chapter chairwoman include outreach, workshops, farm tours, and addressing the local food desert. The National Women in Agriculture Association has provided contacts and resources to make these objectives a reality.
Vivian is currently pursuing her Doctoral Degree in Ministry and serves as Associate Pastor at the Mount Zion Baptist in Knoxville, TN. She is an accomplished organizer, community leader and advocate for Jesus Christ.
EAST TENNESSEE NWIAA CHAIRPERSON
Dr. Ogbeiwi-Risher, known to many as Dr. Eziza, is the owner of Goddess of Healing Herbals and Director of Gardens Art Life, a non-profit. She describes herself as a planetary healer who teaches about our need to be good stewards of the earth through the use of agriculture, art and healthy lifestyles. She is currently Chairman of Healthier TN Neighborhoods Supergroup, Steering Committee member with Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience, Family and Community Rep with TN Dept Children Services, Garden Director for Klondike/Smokey City CDC Community Garden. and a 201718 ArtUp Fellow. Before starting both the for profit business and non-profit, she spent 14 years with The State of Tennessee where she retired in 2011.
She graduated from several Colleges and Universities, including Tennessee State Univ., Meharry Medical College and Clayton College of Natural Healing and Emerson College of Herbology. Her studies include Medical Laboratory Technology, Health Care Administration and Planning, Herbology and Naturopathy. Additionally, she spent two years in Nigeria West Africa studying Traditional Medical Techniques. Dr. Eziza holds the title of Tennessee Master Gardener.Dr. Eziza enjoys gardening, painting, herbal formulation and jewelry making which she considers to be her therapy in a world filled with new adventures. She enjoys creating from the herbs and plants she grows as well as educating others of their benefits.
TENNESSEE NWIAA CHAIRPERSON
Co-Project Director & Southern TN Chairleader
Darlene Gunther Biography (1955 - present)
Vanderbilt University, Masters of Science degree
Born in West Virginia, my family relocated to Nashville, TN due to the declining economy in WVA. I grew up with a forest in my back yard (neighboring land), horses, vegetable gardens, fruit and nut
trees, a small plantation upon which to play, which was a private-access site. There was a small creek that bordered this land on one end. In the woods, was a very nice spring that had a concrete-wall area that we kids used for swimming in the hot summertime. While our own house had a large back yard that my family used for gardening in my early years. When I was maybe 8 years old, I grew my first crop - gourds. I was so proud of this.
This foundation in nature has kept me outdoors throughout my life. In my early years, I followed generally acceptable paths in office management and corporate retail. During this time, I spent
recreational time at the beach in southern CA, where I lived for ten years. I moved to Washington State where I embarked upon learning the machine shop environment. During this time, I was
spending my weekends as a white-water river guide, camping out every Friday and Saturday night and running the Rivers every Saturday and Sunday. Outdoors is my first Love. I eventually returned to TN and continued to struggle with indoor ‘careers’. I returned to college and obtained 2 Masters Degrees, one in Physics, and the other in Interdisciplinary Material Science
or what’s happening at the quantum level with materials. As such, I have a few scientific publications and many scientific presentations. It was during my time at Vanderbilt that my Mother spent her last years on the planet, a loss that was rather difficult to process. I came out of college and tried teaching high school at a socially disadvantaged school. From there, I joined the agriculture department at TN State University, first working in organic agriculture and then in extension, where I organized and conducted outreach workshops, the Small Farm Expo, research that advanced Hemp in the state and established hydroponics in some of the metropolitan schools around Nashville. Our partnership with the local schools included summer camp for the kids and Professional Development for the teachers. Before I retired, I was able to establish the college student chapter of NWIAA and work the TN Dept. of Agriculture to train farmers on the rules, regulations and best practices for growing Hemp in TN.
Retired life is the best! I am the current owner of 7 acres in rural Tennessee, which I am expanding to include a nature trail through the woods (in planning stage-2021) for educational herb
walks. It has the added benefit of leading to my spring house, which furnishes all my water needs. My current plans include the addition of a hoop house (2021) for germination of various vegetables and herbs. My current vegetable production is about 1800 square feet. Future plans also include establishing walk-through gardens along the creek bank, along with horseshoes and corn-ho game areas. I am developing partnerships at the time of this writing, with local school teachers to provide educational field trips aimed at introducing children to the medicinal value of vegetables and herbs, flowering plants for pollinators, and creek habitats (crawdads, minnows, fish, snakes, turtles, rocks and erosion). I also have a small wetland and pond on the property, which offers other insight into frogs, tadpoles, snakes, and wetland plants. I am also working with NWIAA Chairwoman, Vivian Williams, Knoxville, TN to develop partnerships with University of TN extension and TN State
University Extension. Together, we are working to reestablish the NWIAA Student Chapter at TN State Univ. and develop projects at the college as well as visits to the farm. My main interest is in
lifestyle. As an elder, I want to teach the young people how to view food as medicine, how to identify and use herbs and respect wildlife habitats and coexist with wildlife and wild plants. We are all healers - self healers. Our bodies are wise and we must learn to appreciate, respect and listen to our bodies, a lost art in modern society. Nature has everything we need. Sadly, we have forgotten much of the wisdom once known to humans. Yet, nature awaits our willingness to coexist and experience
true love, found in harmony. Although I am not USDA certified organic, all my practices are aimed at sustainable, best practices for living in harmony with nature.
I utilize herbs to produce value-added products such as herbal creams, salves, vinegars and oils. My sales include seeds, seedlings, some vegetables and herbs. I also offer workshops on the farm and herb walks through the forest.