Vibrant plant-based meals inspire lifestyle change for a leading agricultural family.
Anyone who knows them would call Tim and Dr. Selima Hauber change agents. He is a grower and she has a PhD in horticulture.
For over thirteen years, the two have quietly revolutionized Bahamian agriculture, first at Lucayan Tropical Produce, and then as founders of the wildly popular Field to Fork Community Farm. They recently joined the One Eleuthera Foundation, helping to revive sustainable, commercial agriculture on an island formerly known as “breadbasket of The Bahamas.”
The couple is passionate about strengthening national food security, improving the quality of food available in The Bahamas, and helping families discover economic, nutritious meals that support a healthy lifestyle.
They are active. After farming all day, Tim cycles and Selima salsas. For two years they have been homeschooling Johan, ten, and their eight year old twins, Yemaya and Makayla.
Tim grew up in Canada. His family were immigrants, something that shaped their perspective on culture and society. They didn’t choose to live like everyone else. Over the years, they discovered their own path as a family, one choice at a time.
The Haubers had settled in Southern Ontario, the fruit belt of Canada. Tim’s backyard was a peach orchard. Down the street, there were strawberry fields. He knew where food came from.
The children grew up picking grapes, making juice, and storing it in the cold cellar. They would fill a pickup truck with apples, take them to be crushed and strained, bottle the juice, and enjoy nonalcoholic cider for the next six months.
Selima’s family was deeply committed to education. Almost everyone from her parent’s generation was a doctor, lawyer, or teacher.
Her family was proud of their Cat Island roots. Selima’s mother, Ena Thurston Fox, is a retired school teacher who spends part of the year in Nassau, and the rest of the year back home on the island.
Ena sells her homemade bread, desserts and preserves at local farmers markets. She still receives conch, fish, and cases of ripe summer fruit on the mailboat. She tells her grandchildren what it was like to grow up going to the fields, and sharing fish around the community.
When Selima was in high school, Minister of Education, Dr. Bernard Nottage, gave a talk that changed her life. He challenged students to study something with the power to radically transform The Bahamas. His presentation on national food security motivated Selima to pursue horticulture, rather than the traditional sciences favored by aspiring Bahamian professionals.
Tim came to The Bahamas to head operations at The Adventure Learning Center. He later joined Lucayan Tropical Produce, the country’s leading agricultural innovator. Each year, he tested a variety of crops in the large, hydroponic greenhouse.
The work was extremely challenging. Each growing season there seemed to be new agricultural or economic challenges. By the second financial quarter of each growing season, he would already be making adjustments. He stuck with it for twelve years, and in that time, met and married Selima. They met at the small farm he started at New Providence Community Church.
Once they combined their gifts, passion, and expertise, Field To Fork Community Farm took off. After several years and three children, the Haubers decided to work their farm full time.
Given their backgrounds, education, experience, active lifestyle, and access to the best produce, what made them want to change the way they were eating at home?
Hear more about Dr. Selima’s journey in agriculture.
Going meat-free at home
“Our kids eat tons of vegetables and don’t question it. Many of our friends can’t believe how much our kids enjoy veggies. It’s their norm.
Several years ago, we decided to become a meat-free home. We are not vegans or vegetarians. We do eat dairy, cheese and eggs, but our meals are primarily plant-based.”
What made you decide to go meatless?
“It was an equally weighted decision. 50% of it had to do with health. We read enough articles and scientific papers showing that a primarily plant-based diet promotes better health.
The flipside is that for the earth and environment, life would be a lot more sustainable if we reduced the amount of meat produced on the globe. Reducing meat production by 90% would make all sorts of environmental issues go away.”
How did you go about adjusting the family diet?
“We started “Meatless Mondays” and the transition happened naturally. We did that for 4 to 6 months, then challenged ourselves to go without meat for a year. We still enjoyed meat when we dined out. What made it easy was deciding not to eat meat at home.
This decision dramatically improved our home culinary options. Selima, who was doing more of the cooking at the time, became even more creative. The quality and diversity of our meals just kept improving. We were inspired by the world of possibilities we discovered in Middle Eastern and Indian cookbooks.
It wasn’t a painful process at all. It became such a positive experience for our family.
One of our big influences was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a celebrity chef with a restaurant called River Cottage. At first Selima got a kick out of me geeking out on his material. The more we learned, the more we were convinced that making our own practical changes would impact global sustainability.
In order to teach our children about sustainability, we had to practice what we preach.
Recently, Selima developed a number of pilot videos and workshops to help other families make smart dietary choices and discover new cooking techniques.
Late this summer, we decided to shut down operations in Nassau, and partner with the One Eleuthera Foundation. We plan to relocate next year. Selima hopes to showcase her specialties at their Tea Room. She’ll invite others to learn, taste, and experiment with her, using educational videos. Maybe we’ll call the series, “Selima’s Kitchen.” We believe that presenting new ideas as a mom will make the information accessible for other families.
Our family is also conscious about moving away from processed foods. We try to go one step closer to the earth with everything that we eat. We buy flour and have been making our own bread for nine years.
We make our own almond and oat milk. We soak the nuts overnight and strain them. It’s one step less processed. In commercial products, there are 4-5 ingredients added for stability and “perfection.”
We buy potatoes and cut them ourselves for fries.
We do buy pasta, but try to be intentional. Instead of prepackaged kits, we buy pasta, and add our own garlic and onions. It is more economical because you are not paying for branding.
We are still working on that side of things–figuring how to save money on nuts and dried fruit. We haven’t found any real time-savings between a plant-based vs. meat diet. It takes time to make good, healthy meals.”
Kids in the kitchen
“All three of our kids love cooking. During the pandemic we were pretty conservative about TV and video games. One of the things they were allowed to do was be in the kitchen. They’re remarkably comfortable there. They do their own prep. They know how to use knives properly. They are comfortable cutting onions and carrots, and sautéeing vegetables.
We started teaching them the basics when they were six year old: fried eggs, oatmeal, and one-step meals. Now that they are 8 and 10, they are preparing much more complicated recipes.
The kids watch their mom cook every day. They sit around the kitchen while she is cooking. They love hanging out with us. I cook outside on the fire with them. We cook in a cast iron pot, roast vegetables, and experiment.
We make kombucha (a fermented tea with health benefits), homemade salsa, and preserves at home to sell at our farmers markets. Manufacturing helps the kids understand how food is made. There’s no miracle factory that pumps out what we eat. Our son, Johan, reads labels to check the ingredients. Preparing food has raised his level of consciousness.
If we go to a mediocre restaurant, the kids can tell whether or not the food is good. They eat so well at home that it’s hard for them to appreciate an average meal. They find typical steamed vegetables boring. If we have broccoli, it will be slightly grilled with some balsamic vinegar.
We usually spend the month of July in Canada. At the end of the growing season, we plant cover crops, and get off the island to rest.
Most of our vacations involve food or farming. There’s a certain intelligence they have when we visit a farm. They never get bored. They remember what we sample in our travels. The other day I overheard them chatting with their Bahamian grammy about one trip of our adventures. “Grammy, you gotta taste what a real plum tastes like.”
That same grandmother is a fabulous cook, serving up traditional Cat Island meals like bean and rice, and crab and dough. With all the rain this spring, the crabs were really running. We cleaned and fattened some of them in a cage, then made a big pot of crab and dough. The kids sat around cracking shells and dipping dough.
When we spent the summer at home this year, we took advantage of mango season. We visited the Maillis farm in Adelaide three times. We sampled 8 or 9 varieties of mango. Everyone analyzed the flavours. One type had piney notes, another was super sweet. We made refreshing lassis (an East Indian smoothie), desserts, even mango crumble over the fire. We had fun exploring a fantastic local orchard.
Agriculture gets stuck when it is just theoretical. At the end of the day, what drives farming is making money. We want our kids to experience that for themselves.
They understand that we worked hard to grow our tomatoes, took them home, made salsa, that people were super excited to buy them, were disappointed when they sold out…and we went home with money in our hands.
Whenever I give farming workshops in schools, I encourage students to sell what they grow. It’s a powerful lesson.
I am a big believer in holistic learning. Selima and I always explain things to our children. We have found the best way to teach math and science is by incorporating lessons from everyday life and work. We are a bit nerdy that way. I will sit and question them, why are we covering the soil over the seeds? …because seeds need to be moist in order to grow.
We have been homeschooling our children for a while. Everything we do is about education, whether numbers, science, or history. Recently, I have been down the rabbit hole about African crops. We have had a fair amount of discussion around race, slavery, and stories about Africans smuggling seeds to the New World in their hair. There is so much history and culture to learn through food that we try to share with our children.
Our kids don’t do much gardening work, but they definitely explore the garden through taste. They connect what comes from the ground with food. Exploring various tastes gives them pleasure. They do not need permission to taste the earth’s goodness. It is natural.
What else are they learning from their exposure to agriculture?
The kids learn resilience when our carefully nurtured tomato plants snap off in a freak wind storm, or when the chickens are killed by our dogs. They have learned about loss and grieving. They find words for the hurt they feel, but learn that life goes on.
I am so grateful for our yard. The kids love climbing trees. The two hammocks in our front yard became the most occupied space at home during the pandemic. Even in the heat of summer, under the shade of the trees, the kids were comfortable. Spending lots of time outdoors is teaching them pace and balance.
They’ve watched us build things. The kids know I am not a builder, so they ask, “Daddy, do you know how to do that?” I tell them, “Nope, but I’ll figure it out.” Whether we are in the garden or cooking together, home is a great place to practice a growth mindset. The kids see what I don’t know, and it’s not a big deal. Over time, we figure it out.
When Selima comes home with new ingredients, they ask, “What are you going to do with that?” Often she says, “I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.” They see her researching a topic. They see we don’t have all the answers, but we can pursue things.
Our kids learned about having a growth mindset from their studies, and now they call us out when our self-talk is not kind or forgiving. It keeps us accountable.”
Your advice for families who want to cultivate a healthier lifestyle?
1 – Expand your repertoire of daily meals.
I’m more passionate about cooking with vegetables than about gardening at home.
Tell your family, “We are going to learn together. We are going to practice cooking as a family.”
There are many lessons to be learned. There will be health benefits. There will be cost savings by buying raw ingredients rather than processed foods. Cooking together creates learning opportunities. Your children develop independence.
2 – Challenge yourself to push some of your personal boundaries.
Ask whether you can incorporate more healthful ingredients in your everyday meals.
3 – Don’t stress out about the organic piece.
Adding affordable, enjoyable plant-based meals is more important and sustainable than restricting yourself to costly organic vegetables, especially since food is so expensive in The Bahamas.
4 – Don’t wait until you know how to grow your own veggies.
Frankly, we are not very good gardeners. We are good farmers, but gardening is a whole different thing.
To be a good gardener, you have to be disciplined. You can’t ever set the garden aside or treat it like a hobby. You have to water consistently, and weed properly. The garden is a living thing that needs attention. Although we have the technical skills to succeed, we are just as busy as everyone else.
People want to start growing at home, but they have misconceptions about what is involved. There is a growing season, even in this country. At certain times of year, extreme heat and moisture will destroy whatever you plant.
People romanticize growing because they have no idea how difficult it is. I always tell people, “I’m a farmer, not a gardener.” Gardening is a lovely way to commune with the plants and the earth. Farming–when your livelihood is connected to plants–is a big fat stress. Any one thing out of your control can take your business. When you garden at home and a crop fails, you shrug your shoulders and go to the grocery store. If something fails on the farm, you can’t pay school fees.
5 – Start simply.
Don’t plan a master garden at first. Try a 2 by 4 foot plot.
Start short term, leafy crops rather than fruiting crops. We all love tomatoes, but you have to nurture the plant for three whole months before you even get one piece of fruit.
This lifestyle has been good for our family. We don’t earn as much as others, but we are able to homeschool our children. We cannot afford health insurance–but we don’t need it, because we are so healthy.
What is one of your family’s favorite meatless recipes?
We make Bosh’s Vegetarian Bolognese every week. One of our tips is to swap savory vegetables, like mushrooms, for meat.
Can you recommend some inspiring vegetarian cookbooks?
Henry Firth’s Bosh! Simple Recipes
Sally Butcher’s The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian
Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg Every Day