The first time I met Gina Foresta, she was interviewing me to assist her at a restaurant garden she was managing. To be honest, I was hesitant about working in a garden, as the only experience I had was growing up with my Master Gardener parents and working for them. After about 5 minutes into the interview, I was struck with how calm, cool, and collected Gina was. As she showed me her drawing and plans for the garden over the Summer and Fall seasons, I was really impressed with her knowledge of vegetable gardening and those feelings of hesitation I had went quickly away. I wanted to work for her, I wanted to listen to her talk, and I wanted to be around her, as cheesy as that may sound! Flash forward to present day, I consider Gina to be a good friend, and still a mentor in not only gardening but in being a parent as well. Recently, a mutual friend said that she considered Gina to be a “filler friend”, which basically means she always fills you up with good vibes whenever you spend time with her, and I couldn’t agree more!
I guess it depends on your definition of occupation. I feel like I have at least four main areas that occupy most of my time. First and foremost I am a mother and wife.
A few years ago I started a gardening and environmental program at my kids’ school which I am still running today. The students are amazing and the garden and program have evolved into something we’re really proud of. I’ve written a pretty thorough curriculum for the program to keep it going after my kids have moved one, and to help other schools get started. We have been very fortunate to have the support of so many local organizations and people, like the Junior Virginia Beach Garden Club and the Cavalier Garden Club. School gardens and local garden clubs or Master Gardener Groups are perfect partnerships to cultivate. School gardens need help since maintenance and funding are the biggest challenges, and many garden clubs and groups need volunteer hour fulfillment and altruistic focus.
I am also serving as a co-chair of the Education Committee for Buy Fresh Buy Local and our committee is working hard to connect kids and families with their food and bring farms and schools together.
Today I also manage the garden for Esoteric Restaurant, so gardening has become a big occupation for me. And finally I write for a couple of online magazines and some other platforms, and would love to expand that area of my work.
I love reading books and blogs. I also cook a ton and enjoy sewing and knitting when I have time. It is so gratifying to make something with your hands, and homemade gifts are the best. I also love family movie nights.
Are YOU a VB “local”?
No, I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. But my husband is a Virginia Beach local!
Favorite family activity to do in Virginia Beach
We love to take bike rides on the boardwalk or hikes in the state park. We also still get pretty excited to go to Busch Gardens.
Top 5 “must have” items for going to the beach
I always have a big hat and sunglasses. I like a comfy chair and umbrella. Something to read is a must. I sound like no fun on the beach! But we really enjoy getting out there on beautiful days.
A perfect date with your significant other
A concert that starts before my bed time. My husband and I love music but I just can’t hang anymore with the late shows. Second choice would be a bike ride to a restaurant for a nice dinner, maybe sitting at the bar instead of a table. Our best conversations have always happened when we’re eating at the bar.
My fave restaurants are different depending on whether it’s adult time or family time. Family restaurants we love are Commune, Gringos, and Pacifica. When my husband and I are going out we love Coastal Grill, Terrapin, Eurasia and of course Esoteric!
Go-to drink(s) at the moment
I love hot tea, and Vintage brand orange seltzer in cans. Red wine is my favorite grown-up drink.
Something you CAN’T live without
Yoga. I have enjoyed it for over twenty years now and am trained as a teacher. It started out more as exercise but now it’s my sanity.
What’s on your bucket list?
I would love to travel Europe with my family for a couple of months, taking our time and living like a local. My husband and I were married in St. John in the Virgin Islands and we can’t wait to take our kids there too. Writing a book would probably be on my list too.
Get outdoors! There is so much to do outside in our area, even besides going to the beach. First Landing State Park has great hiking and bike trails. There are lots of great coves and bays for kayaking. Visiting the botanical gardens is always fun and beautiful. And we like to visit the farms out in Pungo in the spring and summer months. If I can get the kids to help pick berries, we’ll stop at Pungo Pizza for ice cream on the way home.
Any events in Hampton Roads that you’re looking forward to?
Blueberry picking, Saturday farmers’ markets and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Farm to Fork event in late summer. My family also really enjoys viewing all the amazing sandcastles in the Neptune Festival.
What is your motto?
One I definitely live by is “Be with those who help your being.” by Rumi
And one I am working hard at is “The day you stop racing is the day you win the race.” by Bob Marley. Sometimes the “race” is made up of really great things, commitments with purpose and fulfillment. But they have to exist within a balance of health and presence with your life and loved ones, not in overwhelm. It’s a delicate recipe that is always being tweaked.