Have you ever wondered who is behind making the Airlie Organic Garden both beautiful and bountiful with fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers? Meet Katey Wietor!
Hailing from Romeo, Michigan, Katey always had a garden. After high school, she went to Western Michigan University to pursue an art degree, and then changed lanes to pastry, graduating with a degree in pastry arts from Macomb Community College in 2012. During the transition, she worked as a waitress at Michigan’s first organic restaurant, Mind, Body & Spirits, and experienced daily interactions with local farms. She also worked on a lavender farm, participated in the beginnings of the Michigan Young Farmer’s Coalition, and on a few occasions helped cook for a weekly breakfast salon (Selma Cafe) in which the proceeds went to providing loans to local farmers.
In late 2013 Lisa Jaroch, the owner of Cold Frame Farm, offered Katey a short-term part-time position and encouraged her to apply to the Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University. This intensive nine-month certification focused on diversified vegetable and livestock farming including hands-on experience on a 10-acre farm in addition to lectures and assignments. After completing the program, Katey became interested in flower farming, and landed a temporary position at Greenestone Fields in Loudoun in 2015. When her time at Greenestone was coming to an end, she found Airlie and was excited to get back to growing vegetables. She joined Airlie as Head Gardener in April 2016.
What is your favorite thing about Airlie?
The people. I enjoy being a part of a large team and being able to interface between departments and sectors of the property where everyone has different experience. I worked at a hotel in Michigan while doing pastries and enjoyed it but didn’t realize how great it was until I arrived at Airlie.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I’m learning how to play the banjo. My boyfriend is a seasoned fiddle and banjo player, and is giving me lessons. I also enjoy canning, making desserts and flower arranging.
Why do you love your job / being in the garden?
I love being outside, growing things, and developing a relationship with the space. I’m immersed in the environment and have started to notice things like bird schedules, for example. I’m experiencing nature in a deeper way.
What’s your favorite book?
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It’s a collection of his poetry. The way he talks about the natural world is appealing. He wrote about many topics spanning from personal, to natural, to political, but his poems about nature are rambling, unique, and spellbinding.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It has a pure, raw, and natural beauty. The lakes look like oceans, you can’t see to the other side most of the time. Being a Michigan native, the lakes are a strong part of my identity.
Thai food. Panang Curry with Tofu. I love to cook, and while it is sometimes a laborious effort, it is worth it to make your own food.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
Right now my friend and talented flower farmer, Casey VanNest likes to remind me to “stay scrappy”- meaning do what you have to do to get the job done well, using what you have.
Who is your hero and why?
Anyone doing the work and putting the hours in to make something great…it inspires me to keep hustling.
Meet Katey in person at our Chillin’ & Grillin’ event on Friday, August 26th from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Click here to learn more on our website.