Farmer Spotlight: Cat Janda
Cat Janda, Operations Manager, is responsible for the farming and education about our work here at Finca Tres Robles.
In this interview, we talk New Zealand, career, and her life purpose.
How did you learn about Finca Tres Robles and what made you want to join?
I got to know about Finca Tres Robles because I worked with one of Tom’s brothers (Tom Garcia-Prats is one of the founders of FTR) when I left my career in coaching to go farming in New Zealand, so the connection kinda rolled together.
When I came back from New Zealand I looked for Urban Farms and this was literally the only one. When I sat down and talked to Tom about what he envisioned for outdoor education here, it was basically the same as what I’d been inspired to do through my work in New Zealand!
What was your experience in New Zealand like?
While I was in New Zealand I did this thing called WWOOFing, where I would stay with a family and would farm with them. There was no money exchange, but they would provide my room and board and I’d work-- mutual benefit, cultural immersion, and an easy and cheap way to travel. Seeing how much more connected those kids were with their world, I felt very much at place.
I think that is one of the most important things in our society right now, getting kids aware of where their food comes from and where the earth is. The earth is not the concrete, the earth is not the tiles of the supermarket. This (gestures to the farm) is the earth. Its magical to me to watch kids have those realizations that they can pull something out of the soil and eat it!
What’s something you think would surprise people about your day to day?
It’s not all just farm work. There’s so much extra organizational power that goes into it, so much to remember. We’re busting our asses on the field AND trying to figure out the most efficient ways to do things. There’s so much brain power that goes into it. There might be a connotation against farmers about not needing to use many intellectual tools and everything we do is physical.
People don’t seem to realize that this is a business, and that the people working here are also businesspeople and entrepreneurs. Because it's under the guise of a farm people don’t make that connection.
Yes! I especially want kids to make the connection that a farm is just as important of a business like a store, gas station, or an office building.
What would you say is a challenging aspect of your work?
On a superficial level, it’s waking up in the morning at 5:15 am to ride my bike here. On a deeper level, it’s the place where we are in our society. People come here and think it’s cute! They don’t walk into a whole foods and think a Whole Foods is cute, they go in and see it as a source of food and a very valuable place in their community.
The handful of people that are here and are involved coming out-- I'm not worried about them ( I love them!). I’m worried about the people who have never, ever gotten food other than at a restaurant or grocery store. It’s not necessarily a challenging part of my job, but sometimes it's challenging connecting with the general population because we’re in different worlds at this moment.
Why do you think it’s so important for people to come out here versus a restaurant or grocery? What does the farm offer that a restaurant or grocery can’t?
It’s incredibly important for people to be connected to where their food comes from, how it was grown and who grew it. Besides being organic, fresh, and delicious, it's grown in incredibly healthy soil—making each vegetable that much more nutritious. Just the connection with the earth makes you a healthier person in general. The endorphins that mother nature is giving us just sitting out here having this interview is better than sitting in the container and having the interview. If everyone came out to grab weekly produce, it would be like a triple benefit: healthier food, greater connection with the earth & farmers, and endorphins!
What are the biggest rewards of working here?
For me, it’s the absolute peace, happiness and connection. All the people that work here are phenomenal and in it for the right reason.
There’s this Japanese form of finding your purpose called the ikigai, and you draw 4 circles-- what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what the world needs. They all overlap at one point, and so for me it’s this. It’s being outside, in the soil, being active, teaching kids, being organized, being extroverted, and so-- this works, it’s perfect.
What does community mean to you?
The way I see it, we have our rings. So for example, the farm is a sacred spot of the bigger community, but for me, it’s where I get my food, my money, my purpose everyday. It’s my center.
For some people a farm is not on their radar at all. I remember in school when we would draw maps of our community and you had your school, your home, and your church but you never had a farm or garden in the middle of it. That’s one of things we’re trying to change by bringing field trips out here.
But yes, this is the center of my community. It means where I belong.
What’s the mission of the field trips?
It’s to let kids experience the farm first-hand and have them realize that carrots don’t just grow on shelves. That soil is different from dirt. You’re not dirty, you have nutrients on you! It’s a good thing to have soil on your fingernails and it’s ok to eat if your hands are a little bit dirty. All these things make us stronger because they’re good microbes that are working for us.
That’s an interesting point, carrots don’t grow on shelves they come from the earth! It’s so obvious but the funny thing is most people probably haven’t seen a carrot outside a grocery or restaurant.
The only reason I did was because my mother forced me to do it! We were blessed to be able to grow some of our own food
What foods do you like that you've grown here?
My favorites are coming! Tomatoes, but they're not quite ready yet, and I’m so ready for cucumbers. And watermelon. And squash. I just can't wait to get my hands on the summertime fruits.
What do you do outside of work?
I go with the flow, so if somebody texts me I almost always say yes. So whatever comes up with that, normally it’s to go kick it at a bbq or ride bikes somewhere, or play soccer. I love playing soccer, running & doing art. But now I go to bed early.
You touched on this a bit earlier, but what are your core values? What’s something you won’t compromise on?
Work hard, be kind. And I will not work inside!
Really? Not at all?
If I have to, I’ll do it sometimes. Potentially, maybe like, a day a week. I really have to be outside. I have to be with people who love what they do and do what they love. I have to love what I do and do what I love. Maybe it's not about other people, and maybe it’s about me (laughs), but I like to be around those people.
And then just work hard, I can't cheat when I'm working. I will put in my full effort. If I know I can do something to help somebody, I will do it. If I’m not doing it to my 100% it means something is holding me back, but I always try to fulfill my potential. I can’t live below my potential.
How do you practice wellness?
By staying active and positive. I am always moving, and trying to smile. If it’s not my body moving, my mind is moving. It’s exhausting, but it keeps me well.
I fall asleep when I’m tired. I only eat till I’m full. Just little things! I ride my bike here, I try to do some form of workout activity daily. Eat well, sleep well, keep busy.
If you could have a message broadcasted to everyone in the world, what would you like to say?
Everything that just ran through my mind sounded so cliché (laughs). I really think the world would be a better place if we just loved each other instead of seeing each other with negativity.
When you see somebody needing help, help them! It’s finished! It’s that simple. That covers every single base. For example, I’m here right now because I want to help this society, I wanna do this interview right now because I’m assuming it will help you and your job and the farm’s publicity, I wanted to harvest fast this morning because it would help Zay get those tubs done sooner.
That’s what I would tell everybody, in all their languages. If your eyes are open and you see somebody that needs help, help them. That’s it.
Think with love, speak with love, act with love. If we all did that we would be just fine. Maybe better than fine.