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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.