Farm Crush Friday: FairShare CSA Coalition’s Julie Garrett

Where do I even begin with this one?  Julie Garrett is a truly humbling person.

Julie is one of best people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She is warm and kind, soft-spoken and generous.  She puts her whole heart into her job and her family yet she still has the time to honestly care about every person she meets and spend two hours learning about their lives and their struggles.  She’d gladly give you the shirt off her back even if she just met you.  She is beautiful to the fullest extent of the word.

I had the pleasure of working with Julie three summers ago at the CSA coalition we mention below.  So not only is Julie one of the best people I have ever met, she’s also working on my team.  She’s a major advocate of local food, young farmers and CSA (all things very relevant to our lives).  As a farmer, I am so grateful to have people like Julie fighting for me and my beliefs; making the system better, stronger, and more complete.  And that is why she is my current (and probably forever) farm crush!

Oh and I’m sorry you can’t see a picture of her.  She’s so gracious that she offered up pictures of two of her favorite CSA farms (Tipi Produce up top, Roots & Shoots below) to be shared, instead of pictures of herself.  Most beautiful human being award goes to Julie Garrett.

veggiesYou are a wonder woman when it comes to advocating for the CSA style of farming!  Obviously a huge part of this comes from working with the FairShare CSA Coalition.  How did you begin your work with them?

Thanks for the kudos. You’re sweet!  My husband Doug went back to grad school to focus on renewable energy and change careers. When he finished his degree in biological engineering, the jobs were in the north. I resisted moving up here [from Florida]. But let’s face it, love moves. And so we both kind of did a midlife career switch. I was formerly a media relations coordinator for a college and I remember thinking [before the move], “maybe I can find a job working in the food movement.”  That was on a Saturday, and the following Monday, a friend in Madison emailed the listing for FairShare’s Community Program Manager. I got goose bumps when I read it. It was the only job I applied for here. Now there are studded tires on my bike 🙂

What would you say is your favorite thing about your job at FairShare?

Visiting the farms. Besides the beauty of their fields, the plants, the butterflies, etc. – and knowing it’s all organic !!! – it inspires me to see the farmers working so hard on their beloved piece of earth. Their commitment to their land and to feeding people, and the hard work and tenacity it takes to succeed as a farmer and small business owner – it really resonates with me.  I love the Coalition’s farmers, and I want to work hard to help them grow their businesses. We need more young agrarians, but we also need people on the back end helping to expand the market for local food and CSA. CSA can change people’s lives. I have had CSA members talk about their farms and tear up as they describe what an impact it’s had on their family – they are cooking together more, they feel better — one woman even said her eyesight had improved since adding more veggies to her diet. How could I not love this work?

That’s beautiful!  I couldn’t agree more.  Have you always been so passionate about food?

I like to eat! When I was a girl, eons ago in the 1960s, my mom would drive from Maryland to Pennsylvania to buy our produce at an organic farm. She was really into “health food” – that’s what they called it back then.  I have had an organic community garden plot for decades, and I shopped year-round at the farmers market in Florida. So yes, I have always appreciated good, healthy, clean food.

Tell me a little bit about the workplace CSA program.

We are bringing CSA into the office, saving people the time of going to a pick-up site, giving them the camaraderie of getting their shares in the company of their colleagues. We received a grant from Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin in 2014 to expand workplace CSA. We have a toolkit now that makes it easy for HR folks to get a program started. Last year, we helped 19 companies start or expand CSA programs!

Do you belong to a CSA?

We joined Tipi Produce in Evansville when we moved here, and have been very satisfied with their shares. The veggies are really gorgeous, and Beth Kazmar does a great job on Tipi’s newsletter and blog. I love reading about what’s happening at the farm, and Steve Pincus is a very well respected and experienced farmer. There are so many great farms, and more than 30 of them deliver to the Madison area. It’s tempting to farm hop every year, I get it.  But I want to be a loyal, long-term member. 

What’s your favorite vegetable?

Celeriac. {It’s what’s being harvested in the top picture!}.  It’s frumpy but yummy. The celeriac, potato, poblano pepper soup recipe in From Asparagus to Zucchini! Yum!

Do you have a favorite summer meal or recipe that you just can’t wait for?

It’s not summer so much as spring. When the spring greens start to show up again, when the early spring shares start, that is really my favorite time. I am so happy to get that ultra fresh food again. Garlic scapes. Ramps.

I’m not even a spring greens fan and the first vegetables of spring are still some of my favorites as well.  There’s something about the first fresh veggies after winter’s long slumber. Now for the last question.  The big one.  In your opinion, what can everyone do to help revolutionize our current food system?

We can all direct our family food budgets so that we purchase as much food as possible directly from the people who grow it. Let’s all eat more veggies (really, can you ever eat too many veggies?!). Let’s disrupt the industrial food chain and our for-profit health care system that profits from it!

Isn’t she just the BEST!?!

-Leek

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