We don't often have the occasion to talk about food and religion on GFJ, and we're delighted to introduce that pairing through Ric's story. With a background in theology and divinity, Ric's thoughtfulness about his life and work is evident. At Hope & Main, a food business incubator in Warren, Rhode Island, whose motto is ' make food your business', Ric has found a way to minister to others through food, and satisfy both of his passions.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I think it was pre-marital counseling. I was reflecting on my family of origin and all these old memories about keeping chickens and big gardens when I was a child came back to me. For a long time I didn't realize that food was something that was significant to my upbringing, and that knowing where my food came from was something that mattered to me.
How did you get your current good food job?
One day a GFJ notification showed up in my inbox. It was for a position with a non-profit just down the road from me. I knew a guy on staff which helped. But I think the fact that I was able to hand in my application in person and say that I was from the area and that I had been tracking with Hope & Main for a while helped a lot, too.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I used to work for Trader Joe's which certainly helped with the "foodie cred" and the customer service experience angle. I also have had jobs working for small livestock farms. I think that experience showed that I knew a thing or two about food related businesses. But most of my education and work experience has revolved around pastoral ministry. I guess a love for food and people helped me get this job because it's, well, all about food and people.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
In terms of education I had all my eggs in one basket. A bachelors degree in Christian Theology and a Master of Divinity had me positioned well for congregational ministry, but not so much for a career in food. But, I guess without knowing it I slowly developed a broader skill set that included customer service, livestock farming, and knowing a thing or two about how small, food-related businesses run.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
I once had an employer tell me that she always hired a person on his or her potential. In other words, does the candidate have the adaptability to figure things out? Do they have the 'soft skills' necessary to work with different people trying to accomplish lots of different tasks? It's the intangibles that seem to matter when we're talking about potentiality.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
Society at large seems to be paying more attention to food than ever before. People are willing to spend more for better ingredients, more sustainable farming practices, and products that tell a story.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
The first wealth has always been food.