Honoring Amanda Cather, 2004-2014
By Claire Kozower & many other voices
This past week I signed 40 Community Farms Outreach paychecks, 24 for Waltham Fields Community Farm and 6 for our crew at Lexington Community Farm. Wow! Forty staff involved in our agricultural production and programs, not to mention all the contributions from volunteers, work sharers, and supporters. We’ve grown tremendously over the last ten years, with our Farm Manager, Amanda Cather, at the helm of so many decisions enabling increases in fresh food assistance, CSA shares, educational connections, and partnerships with other local farms. Amanda’s departure is a loss for each of us that interacts with her regularly on a personal level, but her passion, dedication, intelligence, systems development, productivity, and dignity has positively shaped this organization and created an incredible work culture that will no doubt live on successfully thanks to her many years of service and leadership.
Not only does Amanda leave this organization in a better place than she came to it, but the same is true for farming across the region. While steering our ship, she has also worked tirelessly to network, share knowledge with, create opportunities for, and learn from other farmers and experts in field. This is largely evidenced by her coordination of the Eastern Massachusetts Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, participation in UMass Extension research and Integrated Pest Management efforts, and collaborations with Chestnut Farms, Picadilly Farm, Autumn Hills Orchard, Farmers To You, and the Pioneer Valley Grain Share. Kim Denney, Farmer/co-owner of Chestnut Farms, sent these words along recently: “What an incredible gift Amanda has given the entire agricultural community in MA - I don't think she realizes just what a pioneer she has been - but I certainly remember meeting her in the Arlington parking lot very early in our farm business and connecting over lots and lots of farming issues - at that point CSA's were still rather bohemian and farming was seen as a sideline for those of us without a focus or "real career". The level of professionalism, connections and support that Amanda has emanated over the years has served as a linchpin for transforming the Boston food shed. She is an amazing woman and an even better farmer and community builder.”
Thank you, Amanda!
Over the past few weeks, a number of staff members have also shared thoughts about what they’ve learned from working with Amanda. Here’s what they said.
"It feels like a lifetime ago that Amanda started at Waltham Fields; because it has been. For nearly all of her son Jonah's and all of daughter Sadie's lives have been at the farm. It has been a privilege to watch her family grow in tandem with the organization and with Amanda's abilities as a grower, teacher and leader in the farm community.” - Marla Rhodes, Volunteer and Development Coordinator
“It's hard to quantify what we've learned from Amanda over the course of working with her for seven years. As a farmer, she's a keen observer, constantly aware of subtle changes in the crops and fields and always curious and energized to figure out the whys and hows of those changes. Even in the frantic weeks of July and August, days are full of intention and vision, with gratitude for the successes of each season and an indefatigable effort to improve on the challenges. We will miss her contagious smile, her deep strength, her immeasurable kindness, but most of all just the pleasure of her company.” – Dan & Erinn Roberts, Farm Managers
“Amanda has gifted our community with her incredible leadership, vision, skill, compassion, humility, and grace. She has mentored so many incredible farmers and put a cornucopia of healthy veggies on our plates. I am so grateful for her mentorship and friendship.” - Zannah Porter, Farm Manager
"Simply stated, Amanda changed my life. First, by growing me exceptional food to eat and then by teaching me how to grow it. I am so thankful for all that she has done for me and my family and the WFCF community. She will be missed tremendously." - Naomi Shea, Farm Assistant
"It has been such a wonderful learning experience working with Amanda. She has been remarkably patient and helpful with all of the information she has to offer." - Alex Lennon-Simon, Education and Outreach Coordinator
"When I found out this year she was leaving us, I made it my personal goal to absorb as much of her knowledge and experience... as humanly possible in the short time I had left with her. She's a great leader because she communicates so well and genuinely cares about other people's opinion (and more importantly makes you think for yourself).” - Lauren Trotogott, Distribution Coordinator
“Absolutely inspirational. I will never forget seeing Amanda doing farm work while pregnant! I will miss her wit, wisdom, and compassion.” - Rebekah Lea, Bookkeeper and Office Coordinator
"When I think of Amanda, I picture her sprinting through beds, between fields. Sometimes to pass a message along, or avert disaster, but often just to answer a question or help us finish our work on time. I’m humbled by her passion for her work and her commitment to the rest of us, no matter our role. Amanda is someone you want to work for. She pushes all of us to be faster, have higher standards, develop our own sense of the work and its purpose, and enjoy being part of such an earnest and valuable organization." - Ruby Geballe, Field Crew
"Amanda is an amazing farmer, mentor and genuinely wonderful person. I have been extremely blessed for the opportunity to work with and get to know her." - Daniel Clifford, Field Crew
"Amanda is such a strong force, a wonderful role model of a woman being in charge, lovely to work alongside of and so encouraging as a manager." - Rae Axner, Field Crew
"Amanda has such a can-do attitude and her constant good mood is infectious. She keeps everyone going and is a rock for the crew." - Alisa Feinswog, Forest Foundation Intern
“Amanda’s positive outlook and dedication is admirable and she is an amazing role model in all aspects of her life. I’m so thankful to her for showing me how fun and rewarding working on a farm can be.” - Cassie Baker, Forest Foundation Intern