#FOURUSA | A Day In The Life Of…

11 Jun 2014
3 min read
We hear from Lee Greene, owner of the Scrumptious Pantry in Chicago and defender of rare heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.

At Scrumptious Pantry we make heirloom foods, preserving the forgotten flavours of rare heirloom fruits and vegetables in condiments and preserves. In order to achieve that, we start at the seed. Most heirloom varieties are at risk of extinction, because they are not used in commercial agriculture anymore. So we need to identify varieties we think could make a fun product, find farmers to grow them for us, then develop recipes that really make the varietals shine – and then there is the sales & marketing part.

As we work a lot with farmers as well as food distribution companies, both of which start their workdays early, I usually hit the computer around 6am while I am still at home. The next 90 minutes I shift to and from the computer and my cell phone as I answer enquiries and updates coming in from our partners while getting ready, preparing my brown bag lunch and dedicating some tummy-rub time to my two cats and quickly scanning the news online.

Around 7.30am I walk the five minutes to my office – a perk of being your own boss: you get to choose the office location close to your home. I live in Logan Square, and it is a great Chicago neighbourhood in which many people have been around for a long time and know each other, so there is always someone to chat with on the way. Otherwise, I would walk the distance in two minutes!

When I arrive at the store front that is our office and tasting room, I spend the next 1.5 hours till the rest of the team gets to the office reviewing the schedule of the day, prioritising to-dos from the various to-do lists and prepare for appointments happening that day. Tasks get constantly shifted around because priorities just keep on changing based on feedback from our farmers, the guys that print our labels, the facility manager where we manufacture… it’s a giant puzzle with moving pieces, and sometimes I feel that I am conducting an orchestra, really.

If it is not a production day or a farm visit to check on the progress of our seed trials or especially commissioned crops or a day visiting customers, 9.30 to 12pm is dedicated to sales calls. Our products have been picked up by Whole Foods Market nationally over the last year, so with the regional chains and independent specialty stores we serve, we now have approx. 400 stores to stay in touch with.

Lunch is usually happening in front of the computer while scanning the various social media discussions – sales continue, but mostly follow-up emails to the calls from the morning. A lot of what we do is working with the retailers to tell the story, so depending on what requests and input we got in the calls we might be planning demos, events, develop some new marketing ideas or put together material for our customers. We have started some industry initiatives on heirlooms with other heirloom companies, so that requires a lot of coordination and phone calls, too.

By 5pm the emails get less and the phone stops ringing and my team leaves the office. I use the quiet time to tie together some loose ends before heading home because by 6pm I am usually starving. Talking about food all day is one way to work up an appetite. The two hours in the kitchen are my relax-time: I play with new recipe ideas to incorporate our products or work on R&D projects. Working with rare heirlooms means many recipe attempts and flavour combinations until you find the one perfect balance that makes the variety truly shine – it usually takes two growing seasons until we finally release a product.

Around 8.30pm I spend 30 minutes with a cup of organic green tea and the Economist, before going back to the computer for accounting or some more social media marketing. I am in bed before the clocks strikes 11pm. Luckily, I do not dream of to-do lists. Ever.


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