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In honor of Mother’s Day, we spoke with Kat Mitchell, a mama and farmer at Ironbound Farm whom we deeply admire. As a new mom, Kat tells us about her son Bodhi, how she got started as a farmer, and how she’s balancing it all with the help of her team.
What led you to become a farmer?
My husband wanted to learn to grow food. It was just one of the many skills he wanted to pursue. He found this beautiful little farm in San Diego (Wild Willow Farm - still one of my favorite places on earth) and started bringing me on weekends to volunteer. I quickly realized the vast impact diverse farming could have on a community and its members.
At the time, I was frustrated with the red tape I was seeing in the nonprofit field I worked in. It was so hard to get anything done. But food....that brings people together. Feeding people and bringing people back to nature's playground - now that’s helping others in a tangible way.
You have a background in social work and your experiences have transported you from Jerusalem to Columbia. How has that work impacted your mission at Ironbound Farm in New Jersey?
Ironbound Farm believes a business can be viable, contributing in the local economy, while also doing good. In school, I studied the systems and quirks of running nonprofits and was so discouraged with the way they operate on such volatile funding sources. Many nonprofits don't know if they'll still be able to pay their workers or service their clients next quarter - that’s no way to work and no way to service the community.
The experiences that led me to Ironbound Farm showed me the importance of establishing yourself as an individual and a business so you can be there and be depended on for the long haul. My contribution to Ironbound over the next several years will be as a farmer and a social worker as we develop programs to help fill the needs of our community.
In your opinion, what do farming and motherhood have in common?
Nurturing a farm and nurturing a new human have a lot of similarities. They’re both crazy, unpredictable, overwhelming, meaningful, fulfilling, exhausting and exciting. They’re also the two hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but I couldn’t see my life any other way.
You have these two incredible responsibilities, growing food to nourish your community as well as raising the next generation. How has becoming a mother informed or changed your perspective on farming?
Honestly, so far Bodhi’s made farming a chore. I'm incapable of working at the same capacity as while I was pregnant. I'm limited in when and how I can walk about the farm and what tasks I can tackle. Thankfully, I work with an incredibly hardworking and compassionate few who have helped me out a ton.
Bodhi’s only six months old, so he still relies heavily on me and requires a significant amount of pampering. I don't want to wish time away, but I can't wait till he can help with chicken chores, play in the dirt, run with the dogs and become eager to learn about the food the earth gifts us. Right now, it's hard; but I am thrilled with what the farm has to offer all of us as a family.
Do you have aspirations for your son's relationship with the farm?
My husband and I have talked about this a lot. There are so many life lessons to learn on the farm and we want to help Bodhi experience each one. If those lead him into a life of farming, I'll wish him good luck.
What is your favorite time of day on the farm and why?
Sundays - I rarely actually take the day off, but the work tends to be very enjoyable. I usually take time on Sundays to walk around the farm and soak it all in.
What is your favorite vegetable to grow?
It's always changing. But for now it's Head Lettuce.
What is your favorite vegetable to cook?
What non-local plant do you wish you could grow?
What veggie do you wish more people would eat?
What farm chore is your favorite? Least favorite?
Favorite - Weed whacking
Least - Emails