Pasadena Native and Embryologist Starts New Farm in Paso Robles

This Pasadena native and embryologist is wearing a new hat, with a wide brim, as she and her family put down roots on their new farm in Paso Robles.

For 39-year-old entrepreneur Catherine Welch, life hasn’t come full circle. Rather, it keeps circling. There are her Pasadena roots, an agriculture degree from Cal Poly, a decade spent raising her four children in South Pasadena, and a new adventure back in San Luis Obispo County. Lately, she’s been driving weekly circles between the two California locales delivering fresh eggs and gourmet goods to Pasadena friends and family, including her mother, another green thumb and owner of South Pasadena florist Mission Gardens. She also checks in on their South Pasadena homes (usually rented via Airbnb) and the children’s museum at Colorado and Los Robles that she founded in 2013.

By Jennifer Ashton Ryan

You’re a woman of many trades: an embryologist by training, small business owner, Airbnb ambassador, and now farmer. Tell us about your work in such diverse fields from Pasadena to the Central Valley.

Collaboration has always been huge for me because I become very passionate about whatever business I’m in. I want to find ways to make the business, whether its children’s programming or agriculture distribution, that much better. Our tagline for my newest venture, a food and spirits label called Finca Los Agaves, is “doing the next right thing” (IG: At Windrose (IG: @windrosefarm), we host farm tours, you can drop by our farm stand, or you can stay overnight. Our renovated tiny home trailer is on Airbnb (IG: @thewelchabodes), as are Shelter Co. canvas tents with beds. There’s a camping spot and space for an RV that’s available through Hipcamp. We’re gearing up to host events and pop-up dinners with great chefs. In Pasadena, our four-bedroom home, The Mission Residence, is on Airbnb. We are about to put another townhome across the street from the South Pasadena Library on Airbnb and we have a newly renovated condo in Waikiki. Also, the nonprofit I founded, Southern California Children’s Museum, has reopened after a yearlong closure. Whatever age I am, I still want people to ask me what I want to do when I grow up.

What was 2020 like for the Welch family?

My husband, Justin, left his job. We transitioned our four kids to independent study for school and left on March 2, 2020, for Guatemala. We’d been dreaming about this trip for years and had to accept that there’s never a good time to put daily life on hold. We love traveling together and wanted to see the world with the kids. We chose to go to Central and South America, planning to see around 10 countries in six months. Then lockdowns hit and borders closed. We found ourselves with a lot of extra time in Guatemala.

While you were abroad, you bought a working farm in Paso Robles. Was that in the plan?

When we were stuck in Guatemala, we found refuge in farms. Across the city we kept coming across these exceptionally beautiful spaces where we could walk the grounds and experience nature, even in a pandemic. As we continued our journey through Oaxaca, Mexico—faithful consumers of tequila and mezcal that we are—we fell in love with the hillsides full of agave. While we were envisioning what we wanted our next experience to be, it was definitely a finca. We wanted to see about the potential of growing agave spirits, and that’s still our goal. We weren’t necessarily intending on finding a full working farm.

Windrose isn’t just any farm. What do you envision for its future and for Finca Los Agaves?

Windrose has been going to the Santa Monica Farmers Market for the last 20 years. I was starstruck the first time we went. Chef after chef kept coming up to the stand, asking about our produce. We have 6 acres of apples in 45 varieties. Plus, squash, tomatoes, greens, and garlic; those are the top five things we’re known for. We’ve also done smoked citrus, pasture-raised lamb, heritage pork, and fresh eggs.

What inspires you in building new companies?

One of my long-term goals is to change how farmers connect with the consumer. We’re working with people who are already really good at that, like Flamingo Estate in Los Angeles. Even though farming isn’t sexy, and may not be glamorous, making it a little more appealing is important to keep consumers thinking about where their food comes from.

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