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UIX: From farm to arm, Jenna Weiler's Tater Tats are locally grown

Jenna Weiler







With Tater Tats, a project aimed at increasing vegetable education and supporting local food projects, Jenna Weiler has launched the newest in farm fashion -- seasonally themed temporary vegetable tattoos. Carrots, beets and all, Matthew Russell has the delicious story.

Vegetables have made such a mark on Jenna Weiler that she often wears a carrot on her arm. And she’s hoping this promotion of produce catches on.

With Tater Tats, a project aimed at increasing vegetable education and supporting local food projects, Weiler has launched the newest in farm fashion -- seasonally themed temporary vegetable tattoos. There are spring (sugar snap pea, lettuce, radish, and asparagus), summer (tomato, eggplant, pepper, and carrot) and fall (leek, butternut squash, pumpkin, and beet) collections, each coinciding with the correct growing season.

The story of Tater Tats began in 2014 when Weiler started the Salad Club, a lunch club emphasizing local and healthy eating. Members of the 4-6 week club meet with Weiler on Thursdays, when she makes a healthy meal using seasonal produce from Groundswell Farm or sourced using Farmlink, from a recipe contributed by local chefs or home cooks. Attendees get to keep the recipes and hopefully keep up the healthy cooking when they enjoy them.

“It's a great community activity and a perfect way to ensure you eat one local and healthy meal a week,” Weiler says.

Salad Club is held in the summer, Soup Group in the fall and winter, and a third culinary club is held at Our Brewing Company in downtown Holland. The lunch club has since been more a labor of love than a highly profitable business, Weiler says, although she is working hard to make it sustainable.

“I started selling market totes to help offset the cost.” Weiler says.

The totes, emblazoned with a proclamation of "Kale Yeah," sold well at farmers markets and helped offset the cost of running the lunch clubs, so Weiler thought to launch other products to support and encourage healthy eating.

“When us farm workers were out on the field picking beans, we would always have discussions about how big the green beans need to be in order to be picked. It was jokingly suggested that we tattoo the correct size bean onto our arms, then we would be super accurate bean harvesters,” Weiler says. “The Tater Tat idea was born out of lots of funny jokes, but the more I thought about it, the idea of temporary vegetable tattoos sounded like it could be a great educational tool.”
While local artists Zoe Keller and Emilie Eklund contributed their talents, Weiler launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the first round of inventory for the project and to “see if people liked the idea.”

The campaign was fully funded on March 6 with over $7,000 pledged--well over the $2,000 goal--and Tater Tats are now in production. Weiler hopes to sell Tater Tats at shops, markets and cafes that are growing, serving and promoting local food.

“I would love to work with farms and non-profits, and offer Tater Tats as a fundraising option,” she says. “I would love for all the salad club products to support the local, sustainable food movement. Both through developing a revenue stream to launch new food projects, and through getting folks excited about veggies.”

The fact that the seasonal packs show a bit of what vegetables grow during which season help them educate kids and adults on how to find the freshest produce.

“A big dream is for them to be used in conjunction with farm-to-school education, and as students learn about growing they would be able to have a take-home to help them get excited about vegetables,” Weiler says.

Weiler's tats aren't just helping educate people on vegetable identification, but supporting local farming and food organizations, too.

“We give back 10 percent of profits to the farmers and food projects that inspire us. We also want to sell wholesale to farms, markets and other positive impact food organizations to help them raise funds by selling these seasonal tats to their customers,” Weiler says.

The giveback money from items purchased through the Kickstarter campaign was split between Groundswell Farm and Full Hollow Farm.  
Jamie Wilbraham - Full Hollow Farm
“We hope these funds will give the farms a little bonus money for seeds, equipment or marketing, helping to expand the reach of healthy sustainable farming,” Weiler says.

Previously known for founding Ambrose, a youth-oriented design project now under the operation of WMCAT, Weiler says her involvement in the farm world started when she joined a CSA, then working a farm share, and then working as a farmhand at Groundswell, where she’s been for the last five years.

“I love working at Groundswell because the people are so great. There is a great working culture, popsicles on really hot days and I've learned so much along the way,” Weiler says. “Groundswell has been so supportive of me launching these creative food ventures, and I hope it will get people excited about local food, and more likely to try a CSA share.”

One of the things Weiler has treasured about working with farmers is their generosity and willingness to help each other out.

“So many industries can be competitive, and I love being a part of one that really works together,” she says. “Farming is such hard work, but so many folks are willing to go the extra mile to help you launch your new farm, dream, or project.”

To learn more about Tater Tats, Jenna Weiler, and the Salad Club, visit 
http://www.thesaladclub.org/

Matthew Russell is the Project Editor for UIX Grand Rapids. Contact him at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com. 

Photography by Steph Harding 
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