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August 21, 2012

We always like hearing constructive criticism, and it never hurts our feelings when it comes in the form of a request for MORE Good Food Jobs. In Jeff's case, it was a shout out from San Diego that he wants to see more opportunities for San Diegans (is it just us, or do you think of Ron Burgundy when you say that?) on our site. Perhaps he wasn't thinking of himself when he made the suggestion, but we're so impressed with what Jeff is doing out West that we don't mind hoodwinking him. Especially because his advice is great, and it was made just for you.

When did you know that you wanted to work in food?

I started with a passion for environmental sustainability.  I was a beach lifeguard for 6 years and learned a lot about ocean pollution.  I wanted to fix that.  Then I worked briefly in healthcare after graduating from college and saw firsthand many different types of human health problems.  I started thinking about preventative healthcare through healthy lifestyle choices and a good diet.

I really started making change and getting into food when I co-founded Revolution Landscape. My company transforms ordinary landscapes into eco-friendly spaces where people can grow healthy food and enjoy the natural environment.  By providing comprehensive edible and eco-friendly landscape design, build, and maintenance services we help people to achieve personal well-being and a more environmentally sustainable way of life.

How did you get your current good food job?

I created work for myself.  I saw a market opportunity to do something good for people and the earth and took it.  I started Revolution in 2008 when San Diegans were being impacted by major hikes in water prices which caused them to start thinking seriously about sustainable practices.  Through a lot of really hard work I built a company that now has 6 full-time employees and growing.

The way I see it is, a good career fit is a combination of your strengths and interests.  If there is a job opportunity available with those qualities it will be a good match.  If it does not exist DON'T settle, you can create work for yourself!

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?

Growing up Beach lifeguarding conditioned me so I was well suited to do physical labor.  It also gave me insight into local environmental issues and provoked ideas about sustainable solutions.

Studying Business in college allowed me to explore entrepreneurship and sustainable business development.  It gave me the opportunity and resources to write a business plan.

Healthcare consulting, a job I landed after graduation, gave me management experience and exposed me to a wide variety of human health problems.

I capitalized on all my experiences to create work in San Diego where no jobs previously existed. I had the passion, physical ability, and business know-how to get started but I lacked the plant and agriculture background.  I partnered with Ari Tenenbaum, a graduate in Biology from UCSC, who had started a farm program in Santa Cruz.  Together we made the complete picture and Revolution was born.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?

Surprisingly, even with a business background, the most challenging part about getting started as an entrepreneur was all the administrative setup.  Who to register with?  What to register?  What licenses do I need?  Insurance?  How do I get employees? Taxes? The real challenge is how to transform an idea into a real change making organization that is set up for long term success.  I was able to overcome this challenge by making it my initiative to do everything by the books.  This meant a significant amount of investigation on my part, sitting on hold trying to talk with varies government agencies, as well as enlisting several established business advisors.

I have not considered calling it quits.  Rather, I view the daily challenge as what makes it exciting and all worthwhile.  I'm not in it because its easy or because I will make a lot of money.  I'm in it to make positive net impact.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?

There is a lot of growth potential in the industry.  My grandparents were corn farmers in Iowa who helped feed the nation.  Now people are looking towards better tasting, more healthy, local and organic options.  Whenever there is a shift in consumer demand there is opportunity for new innovators and jobs.  I think opportunities are all over the place.  I recently moderated a discussion where everyone wrote down a single personal strength (ex. Design, Physical Labor, Education, Service & Hospitality, Writing etc.) and a single interest (ex. Bees, Chickens, Farm Construction, Farm Maintenance & Harvest, Food Professing, Irrigation, Vegetables etc.) and that provoked some interesting conversation.  If you can know yourself, know what you are good at, and what subject matter you are truly interested in, you will have identified your career objective.  Next you have to find the job or create it yourself.

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

A really ripe peach!

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