If you are ever in the Dallas area and spot a woman with bright purple hair and an outfit that you would kill to have, there’s a good chance you could be seeing the lovely Courtney Garza!
Courtney is more than just her fantastic style though! She is a well-known foodie and entrepreneur in the Dallas area! She’s a lover of animals and has a passion for the vegan lifestyle. That’s just the beginning of how she became co-founder of The Harvest Hands though. Here’s our scoop on Courtney Garza, vegan entrepreneur and all around inspiration!
Q&A WITH COURTNEY GARZA
Can you talk a little bit about what The Harvest Hands is all about?
I am the co-founder of The Harvest Hands, alongside my boyfriend Zak Shelton. We created the project as a conduit for several of our passions. First of all, we love food and we love the foodie scene in Dallas, Texas where we reside. But, we also noticed a gap between the foodie scene and the vegan scene. We saw that as a huge opportunity to bridge that gap and so we do that through events and online community building.
How did you first find your passion for the vegan lifestyle?
It started with my love for cows in particular. I thought they were especially cute throughout my childhood. So when I grew to understand that my burgers were directly coming from them, I quickly lost my appetite for meat! Turning more towards a vegan diet came from educating myself and learning about the harmful health, animal, and global impact that the dairy and egg industry have.
What are some of the ways that you had to change your lifestyle in order for your values to align with your daily life?
It’s never really been about “changing” my lifestyle as much as it has been paying a bit closer attention to the choices I make and the effects it may have.
Here’s an example: I love coffee. Like, I really, really love coffee. (Cappuccinos specifically.) And I love the local coffee shop scene in Dallas, along with anywhere else I travel. All locally owned coffee shops, and corporate ones too, carry some form of non-dairy milk. I live on almond milk cappuccinos now! It’s that easy!
I also frequent business luncheons and conferences due to my job. Things like that, which are typically catered or for which have single meal options provided, are also largely open to making another meal with the ingredients they have. Usually, a quick phone call or email will work. If not, the change that I have had to make is deciding that my values are more important than me being fed promptly and satisfactorily. I can always eat a piece of fruit, a salad, or a sandwich before or after and be totally fine. That being said, going unfed and lacking delicious food is an extremely rare occurrence for me.
Passion seems to be a major driving force for you. How does passion play a part in what you are doing?
I can’t do anything without being passionate about it! If I can’t find passion in doing something, I simply won’t do it. I’m passionate about growth. I’m passionate about change and about progress. I can trace everything I do, from my day job, to my numerous side projects, directly to the passion that I find in it.
What are some of your long term goals for The Harvest Hands?
Vegan world domination! For real. Billions of animals are still suffering and dying without reason. We see an enormous opportunity to grow by creating an online community that bridges the gap between foodies (the kind who eat the crazy stuff like confit, foi gras, scotch eggs, etc.) and vegan food.
The Harvest Hands has events sometimes. Can you tell us what those events are like and what the intentions are of those events?
We have events as often as we can and we always have them quarterly. Our events are a usually a partnership with chefs from local restaurants that agree to make a four course plant-based dinner and cocktail pairing for a unique set of guests that are either already living a vegan lifestyle or are interested in integrating more plant-based meals into their diet. We aim to raise awareness and shed light on how easy, fun, and delicious a vegan diet can truly be! We share our passion with our guests and leave them with a little something to mentally chew on after they leave!
For a lot of people, living a vegan lifestyle, or even just a more “caring carnivore” lifestyle, can seem difficult to accomplish and simply just unachievable. What would you say to those people who are unsure of how to approach a more compassionate food-culture?
I would tell them to take on a different perspective and not think it’s all or nothing. Going into a vegan lifestyle is mostly about taking yourself out of the picture and realizing that it’s not about being perfect, but instead doing the best they can for the animals.
Dallas is my hometown and the city where you reside, so we both know a lot of places there. But for those who don’t know, what are some places that align with The Harvest Hands’ values in Dallas?
There are many amazing vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in the Dallas region, but it’s the non-vegan restaurants that we’re most interested in. Some of The Harvest Hands’ past events are great examples of some of the unique partnerships we form in the name of activism. We bring more cruelty-free options to the more meat-centric restaurants for everyone to enjoy.
Do you think it would be difficult for some of our readers to find places that are accepting to vegan culture in the places they reside in?
With our scalable mission, we aim to do exactly what we’ve done here in Dallas and implement that in more not so veg-friendly cities so that it will be easier for them to find places to eat at, whether they were previously known for being meat-centric or not. What I suggest to do is just reach out. Ask restaurants to get creative with their veggie plates and maybe get a vegan dish or two on the menu!
What difficulties have you had as a female entrepreneur? What advice would you give our readers about becoming an entrepreneur?
So far, what I’ve seen in Dallas is actually great appreciation from other women entrepreneurs. They cheer me on, while I support them too. All of the restaurants, media relations, and many other strategic partners I’ve formed in the processes of my many entrepreneurial endeavors have certainly been challenging to form, but nothing short of respectful and equal towards having me as a business partner. I would suggest for any aspiring female entrepreneur to not let any fear of being looked over or disrespected get in the way, but instead to constantly think confidently and positively, as well as always believe in yourself.
You say you are a lover of coffee and have now combined your coffee obsession with innovation. Can you go into more detail about that?
I have a show on YouTube called Coffee with Courtney. I host it to showcase the amazing and unique coffee shops in the Dallas Fort Worth region that are great for the local innovators in the area. The shops that I highlight showcase spaces as a workplace, or what I like to call the “original co-working space”. With Coffee With Courtney, I tie in the coffee community to the creative innovator space in North Texas and how great coffee and coffee shops fuel innovation. This model is scalable by turning it into a traveling show that highlights other local coffee shops in cities around the nation and world to show the impact they have over the local people and the work they create from them.
Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with our readers?
For anything that you’re passionate about, you should never waste time being afraid of chasing after it and making it happen. The biggest thing I’ve seen so far in my life, both personally and professionally, is that if there’s something you see not being done that people could truly benefit from, you’ve got to be the one to go out and make it happen! (Because no one else is going to do it for you.)