It seems like there is a podcast for everything these days, and maybe even two or twelve. Although it might seem funny to imagine a farmer out in the field with his or her headphones in, that's exactly how we're guessing a lot of folks keep up with the Farmer to Farmer podcast. Whether you're multitasking at work or waiting for the cold season to give you the excuse to catch up on episodes, we hope you'll check out the great work that Karli is doing there.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
There have been countless moments that have inspired me to devote my life to food and in particular to being a part of the local food movement. When I was 18 I learned about a company called Outstanding in the Field. They are a traveling dinner company that goes from farm to farm throwing dinner parties featuring local cuisine. I became obsessed with the idea and hunted them down, begging them to let me join them for a summer. I ended up following along on the tour for two weeks as a dishwasher, traveling from farm to farm in the northeast. We toured some of the most magnificent farms, including a tour of Four Season Farm in Maine led by none other than Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch, the King and Queen of organic farming. At the time, I actually had no idea what an extraordinary opportunity this was.
When I returned to Ithaca, NY where I was attending Cornell Hotel School, something had changed in me. I wanted to deep dive into the world of farming and learn how I could help bring more communities together using local food as a catalyst to strengthen local economies.
How did you get your current good food job?
Staying in the theme of hunting people down, I got my current role by reaching out. My theory is, it never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is you don't get a response or the response is 'no'. In my experience, if you are truly passionate about something and can demonstrate that, most people will at least consider what you are asking. I reached out to Chris via email about the Farmer to Farmer podcast. I had worked for a company previously that sponsored the Podcast and was inspired by the content Chris was putting out there. I could see the potential for this podcast to have a major impact on helping farmers learn from one another. So I told Chris that if he ever found himself needing help with the Podcast, I was interested in joining his team. At first, Chris responded that he was not looking for anyone. Then, three weeks later, I got an email that his assistant needed to focus on her full-time role, and that there was an opening. I excitedly accepted and have been working with Chris ever since.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
My work experience is pretty unique in that I have never worked in an office. When I graduated from college, I took a role with Farmigo, a software service for farms to manage their CSAs. I worked for Farmigo for 5 years from my couch, spending all day, every day on the phone with farmers across the country. I collaborated with a remote team, which takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation. You have to really love what you are doing and be committed to it 100%. You have to be resourceful, communicative, and flexible. I love working remotely because it allows me a certain freedom and flexibility that I could never have working in an office. Chris lives in Iowa. I live in New York. Being able to work remotely opens me up to opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
I was a lucky one. I found my "dream job" out of college. I actually found my Farmigo position on Good Food Jobs back in 2012. I am currently going through a job transition and I find now more than ever to be a challenging time to find a role where I can take what I've learned over the past five years and apply it to a new role where I am just as passionate about what I am doing. I believe that technology has the ability to make a major shift in the way people eat. I am looking for a role where I can help farmers utilize technology to empower them to run successful, sustainable businesses. I am passionate about entrepreneurship and start-ups. Now is a very exciting time for AgTech and I believe that new companies will emerge who are leaders in this space.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
Chris Blanchard teaches good management, so working with him has been eye-opening. I could write an essay about what he does right. The number one thing that Chris does that I appreciate is his ability to praise good work. Never underestimate the power of praising employees. Take time every few weeks to write an email to your employees telling them what they did well. When an employee goes above and beyond, take the time to recognize their efforts. Make them feel like a valued part of your team. Value is sometimes determined by the amount that is on a paycheck or bonuses at the end of the year, but you would be surprised to see how much a simple email can do for employee morale. Chris also takes the time to let me know if I don't do things quite right and was upfront with me about his leadership style. He encourages me to learn and be better at what I do every day. This kind of leadership is inspiring.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
There have been so many great answers to this question on the blog so far. I think the overarching point is that there is not simply one opportunity. There is not one business or one new innovation that will be the most successful. Building our local food movement will require expertise from farmers, to policy makers, to distributors. I personally am most excited by technology's role in the food system and believe that the right solution will have a major impact on how farmers sell their products and reach new markets.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
BACON (specifically from The Piggery in Ithaca, NY)! Other than that - Diesel Fuel! I bought a school bus last October and have spent the past year renovating it. Looking forward to getting it on the road and have some adventures!