Garden City Growers: Kaya Juda-Nelson


Kaya Juda-Nelson lives and works the River Road Farm as the new caretaker, but her journey with Garden City Harvest and farming started when she was just out of high school. It was the summer after she graduated that she decided to volunteer at the PEAS Farm.

“It was love at first work,” Kaya said. She instantly fell in love with the work farming allowed her to do. She loved the feeling of physical labor and beamed after that first day knowing she had a real passion for farming and that her work had real effects.

Kaya grew up gardening with her dad in Missoula, but never really knew much about farming before her internships.

“(Working on the PEAS Farm) was my first introduction to meeting people who were interested in some of the same things I was,” Kaya said.

After her gap year, Kaya moved to Boston to study medicine. She realized during this time that she was much more interested in nutrition, eating well, and helping others eat well.

When Kaya realized she had a passion for farming and that she was not as interested in medicine, she moved back to Missoula to enroll in environmental studies at the University of Montana with a concentration in sustainable agriculture and minor in climate change studies.

Kaya interned at PEAS Farm one spring, summer and fall while working on her degree.

After graduating, she worked on the Youth Farm for 2 years. Garden City Harvest partners with Youth Homes to employ teenagers coming out of foster homes. The Youth Farm prepares those teenagers for life on their own.

Mixing social work and farming is where her strongest inspirations come from. After learning and experiencing the therapeutic effects of farming in her work at the Youth Farm, the instant satisfaction and sense of purpose she felt in the moment became her passion.

Although Kaya does miss working with the kids over at the Youth Farm and hopes to do more of it in the future, she is loving her time at the River Road farm and learning so much.

She loves that she gets to work outside and in different seasons. “You become so tuned in to how the seasons change,” she said. One day it could be rainy and another could be perfect for farming. Either way, Kaya has learned how to be flexible in these natural changes.

The River Road farm also hosts the Garden City Harvest office. The mix of office staff and farmers integrating and getting to know each other is a unique aspect that Kaya enjoys being a part of.

“The farm wouldn’t be around without the office and the office wouldn’t be around without the farm,” she said.

Kaya enjoys working for Garden City Harvest because she believes it’s a great combination of community involvement, commitment to sustainable food and food education.

She loves that she has the ability to give CSA members food that they may not buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market and teach them how to use certain veggies.

When she’s not farming, Kaya makes music in a band called Westfork. She plays banjo, fiddle and sings. She also teaches yoga and recently discovered she has a love for surfing and the ocean.

Another one of Kaya’s passions is cooking. “I’ve really noticed in the past month since we’ve started CSA, how much more inspired I am by food,” she said.

Her latest favorite recipe is cooking radishes with a honey, miso and butter glaze. “It would probably be my last meal,” she said laughing.

Kaya’s goals this season:

Keep learning, growing confidence in my competence and trusting what I know.

Tips from Kaya:

CSA Members: Be open to trying new recipes and new things. People get daunted by all the greens at the beginning of the season, my advice is to put greens in everything that you’re eating.

Community gardeners/gardeners: Be present and attentive, focus and pay attentions to watering and weeding. There are days when I’m distracted and I screw something up or miss something. You really have to be present and attentive. And that’s part of why I love doing this so much.

Jazzie JohnsonComment