The name of her nonprofit says a lot about Katherine Juhan-Arnold, the force behind Baby Katie's Pharm & Kitchen.
Baby Katie is Juhan-Arnold herself, named after her great-grandmother, Katherine Elizabeth Etchison-Hampton. Her great-grandmother died the year she was born, but Juhan-Arnold said her skills in preserving food must have come from this family matriarch, just as her gardening skills came from her grandmother. “It just seems to be in my DNA.”
Pharm is pronounced “farm,” and represents Juhan-Arnold’s philosophy that food is medicine — not just medicine for the body, but medicine for the soul.
And, the kitchen part? That’s where the whole thing started.
Pharm & Kitchen was born when Juhan-Arnold was waiting at the school bus stop with her son, Anthony Juhan Smith. “The kids were talking about how they couldn’t wait to get to school, and wondering if there’d be strawberries or tacos for lunch,” she said. “I realized, for many, these would be the only meals they were going to have that day.”
Since many of her Snellville neighbors were on limited budgets, she wanted to show them how they could grow their own food. “I started hosting dinners in my backyard serving food from our garden.”
Juhan-Arnold was renting a house in Snellville’s Rosedale neighborhood — a house with the biggest yard in the neighborhood. But, like many renters, she had to start over when the owner put the house up for sale.
Wanting more space for growing, she connected with the owner of property in Deepstep, a tiny crossroads west of Milledgeville. She and the owner farmed 2 of the land’s 14 acres together. But, then the owner married and deeded the property to her daughter, who is putting it up for sale.
“It’s hard to start all over again,” Juhan-Arnold said. “But, this is a common problem for minority farmers. Farming is hard enough, but good farmland is expensive. You almost have to inherit it.”
Now, she is working to get a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to buy her own land. “I’ll have something I own, and it will be a place where I can help people, and my son and I can be stable ourselves,” she said.
Helping people through Pharm & Kitchen is a multi-faceted project. She was donating produce to families in the Deepstep area. “Many families have a hard time affording produce, and what they could find was produce that had traveled many miles,” she said. “It had little shelf life.”
That was one reason families just didn’t eat fresh food, she said. “Why would they spend money on something that would go bad in a few days?”
She wanted to help people see that they could spend $200 of their limited funds to eat out, or they could spend $75 at the grocery store and prepare their own meals. So, she focused on helping people become financially secure. “I find families through the schools,” she said. “If they’re interested, I put them on a six-month plan, with a strict budget and meal plan.”
So far, she’s worked with 57 families.
“I want them to understand that eating right is so important,” Juhan-Arnold said. “I strongly believe that if we give children the nutrients they need, and the knowledge they can grow their own food, we won’t have to correct so many problems later in life.”
Seasonally, usually beginning in mid-March, she offers juices as a fundraiser. It’s called Juice Drive, and it’s a way to use some of the produce she grows, as well as a way to entice children to enjoy getting their nutrients. “One of the things you see if you have lunch with students is how much food they waste,” she said. “And the food they’re wasting is often the good stuff, like salads. Juicing uses that good stuff and puts it in a form that tastes good.”
She also has teaching-garden space in raised beds that front Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Stone Mountain.
Juhan-Arnold’s boundless energy doesn’t stop there. Among other things, she’s hosting seed swaps, raising funds for Operation Spin-Off, to work with 4,500 children and teach them what she calls “the joys and science of agriculture.”
And, then there’s her biggest push, turning a bus into a greenhouse and food truck that she will call the Beeline/Grow Bus. It was her son, 10 years old now, who told her this should be a priority project for them. “He is my best helper and he said, ‘The time for this is now,’” Juhan-Arnold said. She is fundraising for the more than $150,000 required to renovate the bus.
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