We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaitlin Mitchell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaitlin, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I am a San Diego County native and grew up in Escondido. I did not grow up growing food. That passion came later in life when I was pregnant with my first child. My husband was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that affects digestion. I wanted to learn about the food my family was eating, and growing our own was the natural next step. The majority of my professional background is in education. I taught for many years with the Solana Beach School District, and 4th grade was my jam! I love teaching, and creating this garden curriculum allows me to use my “teacher brain” toward topics that I find important and life-changing. I also come from an entrepreneurial family, and my parents have always owned local businesses. Their encouragement has been a big motivation not to give up when things don’t go as planned. There have been multiple occasions when I could have thrown in the towel, but they have reminded me to learn, pivot, listen to my heart, and keep going.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Rutabaga Education is a one-of-a-kind, easy-to-teach garden curriculum. It incorporates garden-based science, nutrition, and nature, and is designed for elementary-aged children. The books provide effective lessons that can be taught by teachers, classroom volunteers, and homeschooling parents who are looking to grow the next generation of eco-conscious citizens. What sets us apart is that Rutabaga Education’s content is very accessible to novice gardeners and teachers, but even seasoned gardeners learn from and appreciate the program. Minimal prep is required to teach these lessons and make them super impactful. As a parent and former classroom teacher, I understand that this aspect is important for my audience. They are busy, want to make the most of their time with their kids, and value the program’s format. I also enjoy making lessons fun and adding unique design elements. Schools and parents also appreciate that the lessons build upon themselves for better comprehension and the content ties into other subject areas. It gives the kids hands-on, real-world relevance to what they are learning in the classroom. The lessons are also inclusive, and it does not matter your socioeconomic background or if you are a different type of learner. They naturally promote community and collaboration, which is essential more now than ever before. Having a model literally in-hand has given a tangible way for schools to bring this type of learning into their schedules. Has this process been easy? Yes and No. Yes, in the sense that I feel like I’m following my path and calling. The challenging part is all the hats you wear as a business owner. I’ve learned the hard way to ask for help or delegate areas that are not my strengths. The most important lessons I have learned are to trust my instincts, do the right thing, and surround yourself with positive people who understand the journey. I genuinely hope to impact thousands (dare I say millions?) of families by helping them create real connections for themselves and their community. I want people to know the brand Rutabaga Education and have it evoke meaningful memories of “digging in,” being curious about the food we eat, and how we take care of our planet.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is how I’d show off my town to my visiting BFF… First of all, we would head to the beach because, well, it’s San Diego. I’d also take them up to Balboa Park to enjoy the architecture and incredible diversity of plant life. Speaking of plant life, we would visit both the Botanical Gardens and the Ecology Center in Encinitas. If we felt like some shopping, we’d hit up The Rising Co., (incredible local retail and great coffee), and maybe also Sea Hive for some fun eclectic vintage treasures. For dining, we would stay in my neighborhood (Point Loma) and eat at The Little Lion for brunch, Northside Shack for lunch and afternoon smoothie or acai bowl, and Cesarina for an amazing authentic Italian dinner and dessert.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Rutabaga Education “grew” from the inspiring garden program at Silver Gate Elementary (located in Point Loma). The “Gator Garden” began in 2006 by incredible pioneers that donated an immense amount of time and energy to get the program up and running. Over the years, numerous people have contributed countless hours to helping the program grow and thrive. What exists today is a community of 50+ dedicated parent volunteers. Before COVID 19, these individuals provided 500+ students “Gator Garden” weekly instruction. Renée Branski is a trusted friend and champion of Rutabaga Education, and I am incredibly appreciative for her support and guidance. She is currently the CMO of our company and plays an integral role in the success we have had sharing our products. My husband, Eric Mitchell, has been my sounding board and has always believed in our company mission to make a positive difference, one garden at a time. Theresa Thompson is the owner of En Concordia, one of my favorite local garden shops. Her enthusiasm for vegetation and education is contagious. She has been an inspiration for me and an avid supporter of “growing” with children.
Nominate someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.