By Angel Mendez, Director of Operations
I still reflect on the early days of my Red Tomato work when I knew very little about produce or farming & agriculture. I remember when the only apple I knew was a “Red Delicious” and the only lettuce was ‘’Foxy brand lettuce”. I remember visiting farms as a young city kid and just being absolutely amazed to watch the cattle graze, the horses trot, the farmland & equipment, the farm families working endlessly to keep their farms in production. I passionately enjoyed listening to farmers tell stories of their successes, failures, and challenges; around the same time I was fortunate enough to sit with the plant & bug scientists and enjoy listening to them argue over pesticide pressures, usage, & trap tactics.
I was working for Thrift Village Incorporated (T.V.I.) in Canton, MA, next door to Red Tomato’s first home, when I was introduced to Michael Rozyne & Kate Larson, Operations Manager, back in December of 2001. I applied for a Warehouse Manager position and was called for an interview. I have always been ambitious, eager to learn, and for some crazy reason, thrive off of being under pressure, which I think made me a good fit for the job. I thought to myself, WOW what a great opportunity, not only do I get to learn about agriculture, food, & sustainability, I also get exposure to all parts of business such as finance, sales, product development, marketing & fundraising and be part of an AWESOME team! Needless to say I accepted the job offer! I was hired, and never looked back, I like to joke that “I got lost in the sauce.”
We gave up our warehouse in 2002 and I stayed on as Logistics Coordinator as we transitioned the business to a non-asset based model (no truck or warehouses.). In a small organization you tend to wear many hats, so I filled roles in sales, product development, finance, IT. Shortly after I graduated from Northeastern in 2012, Michael offered me the role of Director of Operations with Laura Edwards-Orr as Red Tomato’s Executive Director. This was the best graduation present ever!
The best part of my job is the next challenge. My challenge in 2015 as I embark on my new role, is to pull myself out of the trenches and prep, develop, & lead my team to carry out our strategic objectives. Weighing heavy on my mind are food access issues, food safety, racial inequity, & sustainability. I also think a lot about ways to bring awareness and share “lessons learned” with the urban community where I was raised. I had an intense discussion with myself, where I explained to myself how I alone could not solve all of the problems of the world and maybe not in this lifetime, but I, we, can make a difference, and a bunch of little differences can make big change in due time.
I am very optimistic about the future and am absolutely honored to take on a leadership role working with Laura, Michael, & Team on Red Tomato’s future. Thank you all for your continued support that has enabled us to keep thinking, innovating, learning, and supporting family farms. Let’s keep on trucking Righteous Produce!