Meredith Days, Outreach and Communications Assistant
Thank you to Annie for participating in this series!
For anyone who hasn’t met her yet, Annie serves as the Sales Manager for Boston Food Hub, one of the Gleaners’ newer programs. The Food Hub is a wholesale distributor for local produce, allowing local institutions, retailers, restaurants, nonprofits and other wholesalers to buy high-quality fruits & vegetables from our network of farm partners. Boston Food Hub hopes to address farm sustainability, prevent food waste, and support a resilient local food system from a different angle than the gleaning program of Boston Area Gleaners—helping farmers access new markets and new income, and broadening the reach of their healthy food.
The day that I followed Annie, we started out by checking in with Scotty, one of the farm crew members who works closely with Annie to maintain the inventory of produce coming in from the fields at Stonefield Farm. Scotty and Annie discuss the crop of tomatoes that is being sorted in one of the pack sheds, while Annie multitasks, fielding calls from buyers and going through the cooler to check the produce being stored for the week.
After the early morning check-in with Scotty, Annie and I head over to the farmhouse so she can check the final orders coming in for Friday pickups. We talk about her experience while she types furiously on the computer. Annie started with the Food Hub as the Food Hub Sales Manager in June 2021. Annie loves farms and thinks that strengthening the regional food system is the best hope for a more sustainable future. One of her first experiences with the food system was when she did an internship on a small farm in college for a season, where she figured out that she didn’t want to be a farmer, but wanted to work adjacent to farms and help farmers.
After graduating from college, she worked in a variety of jobs, including at a large salad company for a few years. In her early career, she worked more in the traditional food system, but was always seeking a job that would better align with her personal values. She studied food hubs in a certificate program at Tufts University, and has always been interested in ways to increase farm sustainability and support the local food system. Annie feels like the Gleaners’ Food Hub is a perfect fit because of our mission driven work to support the farms in our community and reduce food waste while also providing fresh produce to folks across Massachusetts.
While we talk, Annie fields calls from suppliers and buyers, including a farmer who delivered a sample of brussels sprouts earlier in the week, and a local burrito joint owner who purchases tomatoes from the Food Hub. She also spends time entering sales orders for customers, placing purchase orders for farmers and checking produce inventory on Salesforce, our inventory system.
At eleven, Annie participates in a call with Vermont Way Foods, to discuss their plan to build up Vermont brands outside of Vermont. As a new program, The Food Hub hopes to learn from other hubs across New England and identify opportunities to support them and their farmers, because one of the goals for the Food Hub is to grow and connect to other hubs across the region, and for the food hubs, to work together to increase access to local food and towards a resilient regional food system. Annie hopes that Boston Food Hub will be able to create a network in the region, making it easy for local wholesale customers to source from local farms.
After lunch, Annie and I head back out to the cooler and pack shed to talk to Scotty about the tomato packing progress, and then Annie calls around to customers to see if anyone who didn’t submit an order wants to buy tomatoes. She also takes stock of what’s unclaimed in the cooler before calling a local grocery store to see if they’re interested in our remaining boxes of kale and lettuce (and a few final tomatoes).
Annie explains that some afternoons are more operations-heavy than this one— she’s often running around checking on inventory and making sure packing is happening on schedule, but on this particular day there’s enough down time that I get another chance to talk to her before the day ends. She tells me that her favorite part about working with the Gleaners is coming to work on a farm every day with awesome people! She also loves the Food Hub for the bigger goals and vision that the program has— she feels motivated and excited to come to work because there’s so much in store as it grows.
Outside of work, Annie is active and just as enthusiastic. She loves cooking, hiking, going for walks with her family, going to the beach, and especially going to farmers markets. Her favorite vegetable is hakurei turnips— she loves their versatility, and the greens are edible too, which means you can use the entire plant. Annie also told me that the food that best represents her is lobster. She likes when she has to work for her food and a lobster is like that— super satisfying to break down, and it forces you to spend time eating and thinking about your food. Her favorite food related reads are Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (one of the first food books she read about home gardening), and anything about Anthony Bourdain.
Even though she’s only worked with the Gleaners for about six months, she already feels like working here has impacted the way she sees the world. She explained that working with the Gleaners has helped her reduce food waste even more - especially within day-to-day cooking, realizing that foods with imperfections are perfectly edible, appreciating all shapes, colors, and sizes of foods, and just by thinking about food waste overall. She has also adopted the “gleaner mentality,” trying to repurpose and redistribute items rather than buying new. Annie said she loves “really getting to interact with the farms we buy from, getting to know them and see their operations and know the story behind the farmers we’re working with” because it makes the work even more meaningful to her.
Normally Annie would stay through 6 or 6:30pm, finishing out orders and making sure everything was set for the end of the week, but on this particular Wednesday, she had to leave at 5 to make it to Boston College, where she was giving a talk in a sustainable agriculture class, discussing local food economies. During the talk she explained her career in the food industry, talked to the students about the Gleaners, the Food Hub, and our place in the local food system, and described local supply chains, food hubs and food waste. She focused in particular on discussing on-farm food waste, where it comes from, and how we’re working to prevent it beyond just gleaning surplus!
Despite her busy days, Annie loves that each day is different, and says that she feels so lucky to be excited to come into work every day. We are so glad to have her here!
Boston Area Gleaners
91 Martin Street
Acton, MA 01720