Task at Hand

By Kate Trotter '14

History alumna Kari Smith ’05 isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty with work and education.

Organic foods have entered with a fight into mainstream consumer shopping with tastier and healthier options. Unfortunately the prices for these “back to basics” products are still steep, leaving many consumers with little choice for healthier options. While organic farming has increased significantly in the past decade and more people understand the reasons behind the organic movement, education about the wholesome alternatives is still in great need.

History alumna Kari Smith ’05 was proud to help with the movement by opening Green Diva Farms, a local, community-oriented, pesticide-free farm located in Belleville, Mich., just southwest of Detroit. Green Diva Farms consists of 3.5 acres of organic crops, flowers, and one hoop house (green house) dedicated to the community with its Community Supported Agriculture involvement, its vending to the local restaurant, Sprits, as well as the Growing Hope market. Flower bouquets made by Kari herself are her most popular, as well as personal favorite, product.

While studying at Loyola, Kari learned to embrace the Jesuit ideals that Loyola embodied, by not only educating herself in the classroom, but also educating her whole self through the entire curriculum and community that was Loyola. Kari says she learned a valuable lesson from the faculty in the history department: devotion to the task at hand is essential. To this day, Kari has still kept this lesson in mind, whether it was working on her farm and studying as a single mother or following her passion and love for history, Detroit, education, and architecture.

While Kari says she’s always loved learning from the past, nothing prepared her for the events that would follow Hurricane Katrina. After her four years at Loyola, instead of continuing in graduate school in New Orleans, Kari left the day before the storm hit with her son, Devon, roommate, Jennifer, and her dog, Fezik, and drove to Savannah, Ga.

After six months of working and living in Savannah and Tybee Island, near Savannah, Kari moved back to Michigan to be with her family. Kari began her master of science degree in historic preservation at Easter Michigan University shortly after she returned home. Kari, like many other students, needed to work as well as study.

“As a single mother in graduate school, I sought out an opportunity to make a difference as well as sustain my family,” she says.

Uniquely, Kari decided to start a small farm business, providing pesticide-free crops to areas that didn’t have access, including Detroit. And so Green Diva Farms was born.

Unfortunately, farming is a risky business, and misfortunes can strike no matter how prepared one may be. Last spring, the Detroit area received the most rain it had in more than 100 years, leaving half of Green Diva Farms, including the hoop house, completely flooded. In addition, Kari says vandals in the past have slashed the plastic on her only hoop house. Fortunately, Kari has maintained her devotion to her farm and picked up the pieces, proving to her community that she is there to stay.

At 17 years of age, Kari’s son, Devon, along with a few other employees and many volunteers, has managed a great deal of the farm while Kari studied for her master’s degree and worked as a historic review technician for the Detroit Urban Planning Department. However, after graduating in December and being laid off this past March along with a large percentage of Detroiters, Kari turned her part-time farm business into her main business and income.

One of Kari’s goals with Green Diva Farms is to educate the community about organic living. Kari says that educating people, especially in the area of Detroit, about the importance of healthy food, sustainability, community, and reliance on your own self is critical. Kari has literally gotten her hands dirty with these issues.

“I’m taking a stand and a side on what’s going on with the food system in Michigan,” she says.

With an academic mind, Kari knows the importance of using her hands, as well as her mind to focus on her goals and to provide for her family. Seven years ago at Loyola, Kari saw a vision of herself as a history professor. To this day, Kari still wants to be a history professor and plans on continuing her education by getting a doctorate in order to follow her true passion for history, Detroit, architecture, and writing.

If it were not for Hurricane Katrina, Kari says she would still be in New Orleans.

“I would’ve stayed there the rest of my life,” she notes.

Whether it is for her next job or after she retires, Kari wants to be in New Orleans in the end. However, the lessons she learned at Loyola and the devotion and hard work she has put into Green Diva Farms will remain with her for life.

Kate Trotter ’14 (marketing) worked as the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during summer 2012.

New Orleans was fortunate

New Orleans was fortunate enough to know Ms. Smith for a minute, Detroit is without a doubt very lucky to have her for a lifetime. Keep up the positive work my friend :)

Great article about a

Great article about a dedicated, hard-working, and indomitable woman, whom I know and greatly respect.

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