Nasser grew up in a farming family in rural Palestine. He was raised in a traditional farming family of 13 members. They mainly lived from the farm generating their own home stock of the main food stables from their farming activities. The wheat and the bread, the grains, the animal feed, their dairy needs of milk cheese, and yogurt, their eggs and chickens, their meats, their oils, honey, and vegetables all were generated from their own farms. As youngster, Nasser raised working on the farm with his siblings and taking on more of the farm responsibilities at young age as his siblings left for education or starting their own new families. At age 16, he was the main caretaker of his fathers farms of produce and citrus orchards. His mother comes from the village of Burqin south of Jenin where olive orchards are the main crop in the village. He spent almost every olive harvest their at his grandparents working and taking part in the joy of the olive harvest. These early experiences and upbringing have shaped Nasser’s farmer character.
Nasser’s village (Al-Jalama) falls on the northern boarder of the West Bank. Nasser’s father lost over half of his homestead farmlands to Israel when it was founded in 1948 and was barred from it. Nasser grew up with a farmer/father who was perseverant, innovative, and dreaming to make agriculture bloom in the area, working hard in his land south of the village and always looking north of the village to watch what is happening in his stripped lands. While his father was trying to carry agriculture in Palestine through modernization, introducing tractors to area farming in early nineteen forties and modern farming techniques in the sixties and seventies, Nasser now sees the strength in Palestinian traditional regenerative agriculture and its proven success over long history of the land.
Nasser grew up on the farms in the nineteen seventies and eighties and the main limiting factors to his father’s and fellow farmers success then were not capacities to produce. Rather they produced some of the most delectable produce and fruits. But rather were market access, land access, resources access. His father always spoke of the days when the world was open to him as a farmer selling his produce to the market of his choice in Jaffa, Haifa, Beirut, or Damascus all with a day trip to the market. After living 20 years in the US, Nasser returns to Palestine with these barriers in farmers life still the same, except much more intensified. From here he build on his gained knowledge and experience to establish route to market and an innovative approach to addressing livelihood sustainability for rural communities in Palestine.
In 2004, Nasser identified olive trees as a way of giving Palestinian farmers a sustainable living and a voice at the same time. To that end, he developed a strong network of producer, commercialization, and research organizations working hand in hand. The project created a route to markets and a tangible medium to international companies and individuals to engage in the sustainability of Palestinian livelihood. Success encouraged Palestinian farmers to invest more in their stewardship of the land further strengthening their bond with the land and its sustainability.
The project is rapidly growing. At present it empowers more than 2,500 smallholder farmers in the West Bank.
Today, Nasser is leading the project towards Regenerative Agriculture, capitalizing on the monumental cultural inheritance that Palestinian farmers possess in their traditional farming practices and food culture. His vision rests on the fact that Palestinian cuisine has developed over millennia of Agri-culture practices, and produced some of the healthiest diets we know, and most sound ecologies on earth. An ecology that nurtured trees that produced food for more than 2000 years. Through Regenerative Agriculture, Nasser envisions preserving the health of the community through food health and security, soil regenerative capacity, original and indigenous landrace seeds, and the Land of Canaan cultural heritage. The flourishing of the Palestinian cuisine and agriculture will sustain Palestinian culture in the land that produces it.
“Giving a sustained future to people and agriculture in Palestine.” As his motto, Nasser deployed his passion to establish the “Canaan Project” which is a set up of four different organizations founded to economically and socially empower Palestinian farmers, including women producers, mainly through the promotion of organic farming and fair trade practices for main traditional Palestinian crops.
The Canaan Project consists of the following entities:
- Canaan Fair Trade Company, founded in 2004
- The Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA), Founded in 2004
- Canaan Center for Organic Research and Extension (CORE), founded in 2013
- Land of Canaan Foundation, USA, Founded in 2012
To continue the needed elements for a successful model, Nasser also founded Canaan Fair Trade, LLC in Wisconsin, USA 2005, and Canaan Europe BV, in Holland in 2016.
Nasser holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and International Development from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a published author on issues of landscape, sustainability, and ware and violence within political conflict.
Some of his publications:
Article: Land of Symbols: Cactus, poppies, Orange, and Olive Trees in Palestine. Identities Journal. Global Studies of Culture and Power. Vol 15, June (2008)
Book: The Making of a Human Bomb: An Ethnography of Palestinian Resistance. Duke University Press (July 2009)
Article: Alternative Trade Organizations and the Fair Trade Movement. Social Research: For A Better World. Issue 6, Spring (2013)
Nasser loves to cook, especially Palestinian dishes using fresh farm picked organic ingredients. He finds in cooking a social bond that connect us as humans and celebrate our diversity. His passion for Middle Eastern cuisine’s cooking is driven by his desire to sharing the culture experience of producing the food from the land and the social bonds the production and eating creates. Food is joyful experience that connects people cross all lines and opens a window for people to appreciate life, its connection to nature, and to other forms of life. Whether be it in other cultures or other natural species that hep produce the foods that we love.
Nasser has passion for cooking and sharing the balanced diet of traditional Palestinian recipes. He founded the Shish Café, in Madison Wisconsin in 1996 and he was a chef that shared traditional village dishes and loved to tell the stories of each dish in the Palestinian culture. Now he cooks for Canaan team at the company and cooks at events around the world. He cooks with Palestinian ingredients with other cultures chefs sharing with them local recipes and ways of cooking and eating and Palestinian food culture. “The food brings us together, as friends, as a community, as a heritage, as a culture, as farmers and producers, and as a business. Food is our celebration of sharing.”
Nasser leadership rests on the promoting vision and goals. Making sure everyone involved buys into the same vision and takes ownership in what they do. Whether it is at the Canaan team level, PFTA staff, farmers and producers, Nasser leads by promoting a philosophy, a system of beliefs and aspired goals, opening spaces for creativity, participation, and initiatives.
Nasser believes in making work an enjoyable and meaningful experience. He created a community that lives as an extended family, whether you’re working as an employee at Canaan or sister organizations, or working in one’s own farm within the project. Nasser promotes mutual benefit systems that join the community through exchanges and reciprocities, along with common goals that drive them collectively, and a system of governance that opens the space for, and nurtures individual growth. He promotes work ethics of self regulation that drive a team of motivated individuals, happy doing what they do, have a sense of belonging, and guided by a compelling direction.
Group meals are daily routine at Canaan. There are year-round events at Canaan and sister organizations; PFTA, CORE. There are also harvest festivals that join all the farmers and producers communities to celebrate ends of seasons. Nasser, founded these traditions and continues to be an active participant in all bonding with all members of Canaan value chain.
Nasser’s groundbreaking work brought him world-wide recognition displayed in the following awards:
2017 Finalist, One World Award. Rapunzel and IFOAM, Germany.
Nov 2015, Green Company Award. José Navarro Foundation, Spain.
Jan 2013, Leadership Award, Citizenship Category. Specialty Foods Association, USA
Dec 2010, Inspiration of Hope Award. Interfaith Peace Builders. Chicago, USA.