It’s been a while since I’ve profiled anyone here at The Curious Cowgirl.  And I never dreamed that I’d be profiling an Urban Garden Expert!  But, here we are! And let me tell you what….Farmer Kate is the REAL DEAL y’all!  And if you are one of my Dallas readers, you have hit the jack pot, because Kate Olen is setting up shop right here in the DFW area!!!


An Urban Garden Expert


Let’s just start here.  How many of you have heard of, or had the good fortune to dine at, The French Laundry in Napa?  Well, for many years, Kate was in charge of the restaurant’s garden, which supplied all those delicious farm-to-table goodies!  Bet I got your attention!  And guess what….she’s helping folks in Dallas establish their own backyard gardens, including my own!

Now, before you all scramble to get her help for your own Urban Garden, let me tell you her story.  Because it’s fascinating, and illuminates so much about what a special person Farmer Kate really is!


girl in a blue shirt with a red bandana holding a clump of dirt

PC: Kate Olen



The Education of a Master Gardener


Yes, some people might be born with a green thumb, but beyond good genetics, there’s a lot of hands-on learning that has to take place to become a Master Gardener.

Kate began her journey at Middlebury College, where a semester in a class called “Farm Stories”, brought together a study of agrarian literature, a community garden project, and documentation of modern-day farmers and their stories.  Kate studied and worked at the Elmer Farm near campus, and learned not only the principles of cultivating a thriving garden, but also the importance of the garden in the health of the community as a whole.

When Kate returned to Napa County, where she is originally from, she worked as the Master Gardener in charge of a Montessori School’s garden, where she gained further insights about the importance of educating children through gardening.  The principles of responsibility, forward thinking and planning, the benefits of working outside, and many other lessons easily taught through the school’s garden.

The school shared the garden space with a local restaurant owner, and eventually Kate began working with Ram’s Gate Winery.  There, Kate learned about the relationship between farmers and restaurant owners, and enjoyed experiencing the full circle of seed, to plant, to ingredients in mouth-watering and nourishing dishes.

In 2014, Kate went to work for The French Laundry.  The garden there became so successful, and such a vital part of The French Laundry experience, that local land-owners gave up land, so that 3 acres of garden became 5 acres, to include a fruit tree orchard.  In Napa, every square inch of land is valuable and important to the wine industry, so those additional acres were a testament to that community’s understanding of the importance of locally sourced ingredients.



The Philosophy of Farm-to-Table


For Kate, growing vegetables and herbs is not simply a way to supply a world-class restaurant.  Urban Gardening is an expression of her personal philosophy.

  • Meals create community.  So much can happen around the table, when people come together for nourishing food.
  • Every garden has a purpose.  Cultivation of food, yes.  But also cultivation of important life skills like responsibility, mindfulness, a sense of purpose, the reward of hard work.
  • Gardening creates curiosity.  And curiosity can lead to research and discovery.



girl in a greenhouse carrying plants

PC: Kate Olen



Mary, Mary Quite Contrary….How Does Your Garden Grow?


I couldn’t resist. And, my garden is going to be AWESOME, thank you very much!  Thanks to Farmer Kate!  She and my husband, Will, are working closely to improve the soil and irrigation, and replant, not only for now, but for the seasons ahead.

One of the silver linings of 2020 has been the resurgence in interest in improving our lives at home.  From cooking, to sewing.  Crafting to gardening.  More people are seeking out ways to learn those skills many of us forgot all about!

Soooo……again, if you are in the Dallas area, you have the winning lottery ticket!  Because Farmer Kate is here, are ready to help YOU cultivate the urban garden of your dreams!!!  You can contact her via email: farmerkateolen@gmail.com

I’m predicting a mad rush to get an appointment with Kate, so I’d advise you not to wait!  We are getting ready for our Fall garden…..what’s happening in your backyard?



girl in sunglasses with a blue plaid shirt

PC: Kate Olen



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