Katrina Van Dis

Meet Katrina. I am passionately interested in local food. I grew up on a 25-acre cherry farm in Eastern Oregon and have a vested interest in supporting family farms and ranches. In my youth I worked in the fields, picking up rocks and sticks, planting trees, moving irrigation, hauling bins of cherries and eventually starting a business of selling them on the side of the road. My parents also cultivated an acre of our own food that we preserved every year. I think that good food should be accessible to everyone, as a basic human need, but it isn’t. That’s why I co-founded the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance (HDFFA) 10 years ago.

At the time I had a full-time job and helped to start the non-profit on the side. Together, with an amazing group of dedicated volunteers who were just as committed to our food system, we grew HDFFA. In 2017, I was hired as the Executive Director. I love working with regional farmers because they give me hope and inspire me every day to do what I do. What I love about food is that it connects us to each other regardless of our social or political views. We can all agree that a good meal with friends, family, and community can bring us together and allows us to enjoy our connectedness. Food feeds our soul and nourishes us. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Earth laughs in flowers”. I like to think that our food is part of that laughter.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your family.
My husband and I live in NE Bend and are lucky to have bought an empty lot next to our house that we converted into raised beds and wildflowers. It is a sanctuary from the craziness of life. We share it with many bees, birds, our two cats (Ello and Ruby) and our dog Jake. My mom lives two blocks away and we spend many hours together nutring and cultivating the land and our food.

Q: Please tell us about your current career. What do you love most about what you do?
From a young age I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people, specifically stewards of the land. I have always been a Naturalist at heart and grew up on a farm. I helped to start the non-profit, High Desert Food & Farm Alliance, that supports small family farms and ranches to grow food, food businesses to craft food, and programs that help us all to access this food. Our mission is to support a healthy and thriving food and farm network in Central Oregon through education, collaboration and inclusivity. What isn’t there to love about that?!

Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
I love the jibaritos at Barrio, the salad at Jackson’s Corner and the GF fried chicken at Spork!

Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community?
I moved here in 2006 after graduate school in Vermont. Being from Oregon, I knew that I wanted to make this state my home and Bend has a little more to offer than where I grew up in Eastern Oregon. I have been working in the food system since 2008 and feel honored to be a part of the amazing group of people dedicated to making local foods accessible in our region.

Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
Kathi Miller was a farmer who started Fresh Start Farms. She passed away last year but was an amazing soul. I met her when I bought a quarter cow and she delivered eggs weekly to my office. For years we would sit and talk for 30 minutes every Wednesday about farming, the environment, politics, economics, nearly everything. Kathi was an incredible soul who not only started a farm but also fostered over 80 teenagers over the years, usually a few at a time. She used the farm as a way to teach them about the world, how to care for animals and the land. I could sit and talk to her for hours because she was so inspiring, blunt, funny and just a good person.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
South America – somewhere. I love traveling in Latin America. The people are friendly and focused on family and I can speak spanish and eat good food.

Q: What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
All time fav is Friends.

Q: What advice would you give to people?
Be kind to yourself. I try to live by the phrase, Ahimsa, meaning may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts words and actions of my own life contribute in someway to that happiness and that freedom for all. By being kind to ourselves we allow space to be kinder and more gracious to others.

Q: What is something on your bucket list?
Trail run a marathon distance.

Q: What is your go to band when you can’t decide what to listen to?
Right now I’m listening to Lera Lynn radio. She’s got a great voice.

Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
I think the Tower Theatre is a centerpiece of Bend. They bring the community together and have maintained the building so well over the years!

Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would y’all meet for this lunch?
I would love to meet Michelle Obama at a picnic outside.

Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
The people. The genuine community of people who have lived her for years that appreciate each other, the rural lifestyle and the neighborly aspect of helping each other out.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
Either living and working in Europe for a stint, or living on a small acreage farm.

Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I was a gymnast for 10 years of my life and I quit it at age 16 so that I could fall in love and become a scientist.

Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
At the top of mountains where the alpine shrubs smell sharply of pine and the air is thin and crisp.

Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
June – it is summer and my birthday.

Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
Mother nature, she just rules.

Q: Who inspires you to be better?
My husband.

Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
Easy, frangipani and mock orange.

Q: Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Garden, love and furry animals.