Meet our Team… Laura Theis

Laura Theis joined the LFM team in the fall of 2013 after working for many years with Idaho’s Bounty in Ketchum, Idaho. Laura works tirelessly with all of our customers, as well as our development and implementation team, to help assure our technology works in a smooth and efficient manner. If you are a customer of ours, you have spent plenty of time with Laura in one way or another. Laura is next in our series of team profiles. We couldn’t do what we do without Laura on board.

 

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I grew up in Hillsboro, WI a small farming community where my parents both worked at nearby schools. I attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. While there, the ethnic restaurant scene, close friends and a college boyfriend, exposed me to how important food, agriculture and proper nutrition are to all of us. Through courses in Landscape Architecture, I became aware of how land, water, community planning, food and health are all so closely intertwined. Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan was a very influential book for me in forming my approach to local food.  Coincidentally, I later got to closely work with the potato farmer Mike Heath in the book.

After leading bike tours in the Mountain West with Trek Travel for several years after college, I started looking for a new opportunity. AmeriCorps seemed like a great opportunity to try out a different locale and learn some new skills.  After being offered a position at the Environmental Resource Center (ERC) in Ketchum, Idaho, I moved cross country to that mountain town, a place I had never heard about or visited. Eek!

One of the requirements for the AmeriCorps program I worked under was called CAP, a Community Action Project. The CAP project allowed AmeriCorps hours for me to work on a project that I was interested in, outside of the ERC. I became involved with the group, now known as Idaho’s Bounty, to help them determine if the community was interested in local food. I worked with a small group of interested locals, who collaborated to meet with producers, consumers, government agencies and other similar formed groups out of state. We eventually applied for and received a FMPP USDA development grant. Idaho’s Bounty Coop was born!

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Over the next 7 years, I helped organize, open and grow Idaho’s Bounty from a once a month retail only distribution, to the multiple weekly wholesale delivery operation across Southern Idaho that it is today (they still reach those retail customers once a week). One of my first roles was implementing an open source technology to meet our needs. We eventually outgrew its capabilities and I worked with an outside firm to facilitate a widespread search for a technology platform that would satisfy current and future needs.  We discovered LFM in the search and determined that their technology and company offered IBC the best long-term solution.     

 I later lead the implementation of LFM at IBC in 2012, including transitioning and training over 70 producers, multiple team members, and customers giving me a comprehensive understanding of the software. In early 2013, I took a step back in my role as Operations Manager at IBC and later in 2013, when Amy reached out about an opening on the LFM support team; I excitedly joined. With my heart and ‘family’ firmly in Southern Idaho, I work remotely, traveling to LFM headquarters in Eugene, Oregon a few times a year to charrette with the rest of the team.

Most of my “downtime” is spent outdoors biking, skiing, or running with my boyfriend, Nick, and other friends.  When we’re not summiting a peak or riding trails on our bikes, we love to garden and spend time with friends and family. I also work part-time with an architectural firm in Ketchum, am a board member of my housing association and volunteer with the local bike group to maintain trails. You might even catch me knitting or reading to wind down at the end of the day.

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Meet our Team…Ryan Crum

In December 2014, we welcomed Ryan Crum to our team.  Ryan is our Sales and Marketing Coordinator and primary social media “voice”,  plus he’ll stop by here from time to time to share his ideas on the intersection of local food systems and his experience as a former Executive Chef, Marketing Manager for a grass-fed dairy, and Account Manager for several large food service companies.  We’re glad he’s joined our team of technology and food hub veterans.  Here’s Ryan’s story, in his words.

Growing up in Minnesota, I can’t really remember a time when local food was not important. When you have a short growing season, like much of the upper Midwest, you need to take full advantage of the warm temperatures while they last. As a child, my parents had a large garden that hosted the bounty of what Minnesotans are known to grow; mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots and rhubarb. The taste of carrots straight out of the garden, have stuck with me all these years.

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After graduating high school in Bloomington, MN, I did what most lost 18 year olds do in suburbia: went to college without much of a plan. Sitting in Philosophy 101, I realized how much I was daydreaming, not about my social life, a football game, or a new car, but about what I was going to cook for my roommates’ dinner that night. It was that moment that I realized I needed to pursue my lifelong love of food, and enroll in Culinary School.

I spent many years cooking from Minneapolis, to the North Shore of Lake Superior, and eventually to NW Montana. Nearly everywhere I landed, I tried to use local products in my kitchens. This was in the early 2000’s so the availability was pretty scarce. The biggest problem was the difficulty in sourcing, purchasing, and transporting the bounty these areas had to offer. If I was lucky, a fisherman would drop off line-caught whitefish or lake trout, or a forager would bring a truckload (yes, I said truckload) of fresh picked morel mushrooms to my back door. These surprise visits were too few and far between, however. When I left the kitchen, I wanted to learn more about how our food moves from the farm to the fork.

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Transitioning out of the kitchen can be difficult for any chef, which is why many take the path I did and move into sales and distribution. I spent a few years with several large broad-line distributors, learning the ins and outs of distribution management. It did, however, take me further away from my end goal of working with local food systems. My ‘aha’ moment came as I was discussing canned tomatoes with a colleague, and the differences between ours and a competitor’s. He turned to walk away, and said: “Let’s be honest here, we are all just peddling a bunch of Monsanto junk from god knows where anyways.” I knew it was time to move on.  I landed as the Sales and Marketing Manager with Cedar Summit Farm, a model of sustainability, locavorism, and top notch agricultural products.

It was at the farm that I met Josh and Natalie Kelly, co-founders of Twin Cities Local Food, and a customer of Local Food Marketplace. I was fascinated by their business and how they were not only able to operate, but able to do it so efficiently with only the two of them as staff (they are now up to three!). I worked closely with the Kelly’s thorough Cedar Summit, farmers markets and with the organization Local Harvest Alliance. Natalie mentioned one day that their software provider was looking for a sales and marketing person, knowing that my position was being phased out with the farm. (Cedar Summit Farm ceased operations in January 2015.) That led me to Local Food Marketplace, and my goal of helping organize and grow our local food system.

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I live in Minneapolis with my beautiful wife Jennifer of 4 months and our wild-eyed two year old labradoodle Nero. I still cook quite a bit in my spare time, and love the wonderful summers in Minnesota where our farmers markets are bustling. We are huge afficanados of Bar-B-Que and all southern foods. We love spending time outdoors: hiking, working in the yard, and enjoying the lakes of MN. We enjoy traveling and, on our adventures, touring, visiting and sampling at local breweries and wineries. In my spare time I do communications work for longtime friend Marshall O’Brien of the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group, with his chef consulting business helping improve nutrition standards in schools, health care, and civic organizations. I also volunteer with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Organic Advisory Task Force and am currently serving a 3 year term.

I look forward to working with all of you, and helping you with any of your technology needs. I hope to bring a fresh voice to this blog and share stories about local food, success stories, or just something to make you smile. If there is anything I can help you with, please feel free to reach me anytime: ryan@localfoodmarketplace.com.