By Kayla Sosa | Photography by Two Eagles Marcus
Four years ago, Jenna Weiler had an idea that very quickly turned into a reality: Tater Tats.
Weiler was working part-time at Groundswell Farm in Zeeland where she had a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. A CSA is a program in which community members can put in work or pay a fee to get a monthly supply of fresh produce from a farm. After doing that for a while, Weiler started to work on the farm as an employee.
“I was from Detroit and had zero agricultural experience,” Weiler said. “But the first day I went out there, it was almost an all-women crew, and it was really positive. I felt like I was learning so much about how things grew.”
Being around fresh, healthy, organic food inspired Weiler to not only love veggies and fruits more, but to want others to feel the same. That’s where Tater Tats comes in.
“I’ve just always had dreams of healthy food access and how to get kids excited about vegetables,” Weiler said.
Working in the fields at Groundswell, Weiler and other employees joked about what kind of vegetable they might get tattooed on them.
“My friend Jamie was like, ‘I would get a tater tat!’ Meaning, a potato tattoo,” Weiler said. “But then I was like, this could be an educational thing, we could package them by the seasons, it could be fun for kids to connect with vegetables.”
Almost on a whim, Weiler created a Kickstarter for Tater
Soon after, she was able to start designing and coming up with products.
“I just kind of ran with it from there,” she smiled.
“I’ve just always had dreams of healthy food access and how to get kids excited about vegetables.”—Jenna Weiler, founder and CEO of Tater Tats
Today, Tater Tats is Weiler’s full-time job. She sells her tattoo packs at local farmers markets and events. Additionally, the packs are sold in stores across the country. Weiler sometimes sets up a pop-up tattoo parlor at various events or shops.
“Farmers markets will host it as a marketing tool to get people there,” Weiler explained. “We still do the smaller packs, but we’ve partnered with colleges, elementary schools, farm-to-school gardens, lots of farmers markets, and lots of small farms.”
While temporary tattoos are totally fun, Weiler has a deeper meaning behind all of it: She donates 10 percent of Tater Tats sales back to small and sustainable farms. In doing so, she supports local farmers and the work they do to promote healthy eating and lifestyles. Last year, Tater Tats gave out sixteen grants of $500 each. Farmers can apply for the grants through an application process, where they can talk about a specific need they may have.
“Some are small farms who are just getting going, but then some are how people are doing different creative things to get healthy food and support local agriculture in their communities,” Weiler said.
Weiler’s overall goal is to bring the community together to learn more about healthy food options and support more locally grown food, rather than looking to the big-box grocery stores, which carry non-local produce.
“We don’t value good food,” she said. “We used to spend 50 percent of our income on food a hundred years ago, but now we spend like less than a third on food. We’ve filled our lives with other things; technology has evolved … plus we have cheap food accessible to us in the form of junk food and highly processed stuff.”
Weiler said if people can see the human side of food production, rather than just the produce section at a big grocery store, they might appreciate it a little more.
“The more human connection you can have, the better,” she said.
For instance, joining a CSA at a local farm allows regular people to interact with farmers while learning more about the food they’re eating, how it’s grown and how farmers are impacted by our choices.
“That possibility doesn’t exist for all people,” Weiler said. “What I’m interested in exploring is how do you make that experience more available to all parts of the community and at a convenient time and place?”
While Weiler seeks the ultimate solution, she’s working daily to educate people of all ages on why loving your veggies is important.
Learn more about Tater Tats at tatertats.com.