We had the good fortune of connecting with Christa Leonard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christa, is there something you believe many others might not?
While driving over the holidays I was looking back on 2020 as a whole and my life as a whole and as the Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime states, “And you may ask yourself, well, How did I get here?”. And so when I hear this question I think to myself, who started giving the advice that being emotional around work was not a strength? Do I want to be conventional? Esther Perel says “We want our love and our work lives to give us a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, a sense of self-worth, a sense of purpose.” And conventionally, we’ve been told to leave our emotions out of the “board room”. Traditional ways look down on the profoundness of feeling. But, our world is no longer traditional. We are lacking our typical social connection, work remotely, and really this is the time to realize conventional advice is so 2018. Take risks, trust your gut, be creative, love what you do, be in awe as much as possible.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Each career I have had was from being in the right place at the right time with the willingness to say yes. Working as a therapist was a great job, but I am not very good at being impermeable. With farming, I just went to volunteer, and fast forward I have been working, creating, and managing farms for almost 9 years. Farming is easy and hard at the same time, but calling and view are that a farm embodies life. It’s never the same, always challenging, and for someone who gets bored easily, that’s a check in the box. Moving to Atlanta and starting my career with Greenleaf Management was the biggest investment I made in myself. The farm world is completely different from the corporate world. I walk into the corporate office and I don’t speak the same language. Greenleaf really embodies one of my main values and that is innovation. I get to create. I get to be with people. I get to push the envelope. Was it easy? Absolutely not. I realized how much I needed to learn to listen and be adaptable to new ways of working. I have built, with the help of residents of Greenleaf multi-family residents, 4 farms that provide free produce to our communities and also developed a business-aware side of myself that had not existed. It feels really good to grow and learn. I now hold the position of Farm Development Director. I ultimately took cues from the universe to look outside just onsite Greenleaf properties, but within the communities that our residents live in. After writing a grant through The Greenleaf Foundation, we were awarded $300,000 for three years to increase equity and access within the Edgewood and Kirkwood Neighborhoods. UNEARTHING farm & market will be opening in the coming farm season. Unearthing’s story is that there is not one voice or one story, it is that our neighborhoods are pamplisests, layers upon layers of stories and memories. Instead of moving into a neighborhood and “branding” it, let’s challenge ourselves to respect and pay homage to those who live or lived there, talk to each other, and create connections. We all love food, but can it be a connector and challenge us to have deep and sometimes uncomfortable conversations around equity?
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
COVID really shook this question and I think changed the way we all socialize. I love a trip to Cascade Nature Preserve and wandering around different neighborhoods for walks. I have come across really beautiful people and things when I didn’t have a set plan. Even with social distancing and staying inside, I do still get to enjoy delivered meals from my favorite places including Recess, Wonderkid, Gaja, Waguya, and Rosie’s.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wish that I could put into words the feeling of safety, support, and love I have come to know from mentors, friends, and collaborators. Transformation and growth come to me from those the universe sends my way. A farm is a sacred space where many come and go, sharing stories, teaching you your strengths, and when you’ve messed up. It took some time, but my people were sent and have shared many offerings with me. When we speak of work, success is completely reflective of the support you receive from be it your manager, co-workers, etc. I have happened to be blessed with a boss that sees the good and focuses his attention and motivation on others feeling good and practicing positivity. Rette is one of a kind and I am forever grateful to work alongside him. To my assistant manager, Chris, thanks for always striving to build a stable foundation in work and as a person. I would be doing a disservice by not sending praise to the amazing community organizers/friends I have the honor of working with every day and that help make the community better. Virginia, Joy, Nathan, Quianah, Anjanette, Kisha, Mel and Tony, Anwar, Elizabeth, Lotus, Marquette, Aubrey, and Katie.