My journey through life has been a crazy, sideways, twisted chasm of euphoric ups, insane downs, a lot of hard work, and a mix of epic failures and gigantic accomplishments. Throughout, I truly believe that I’ve been blessed with an unbelievable amount of luck to carry me through. I haven’t always made the right decisions, I haven’t always timed things perfectly, but somehow I’ve been lucky enough to end up walking away relatively unscathed and better off than I was when I started.
I’ve also been outrageously lucky to cross paths with some amazingly brilliant, loyal and inspirational people who opened my eyes to my potential, long before I had even a glimmer in my eye of what I was capable of. Ari was one of them, maybe the first of them, who saw that potential and said something about it. Maybe it was the day he decided to teach me Excel, when I’d never opened or looked at a spreadsheet in my life. I may not have known what I was doing, but I could do the formulas in my head, so I was a quick study. Ironically, many years later, I wound up working as an analyst, spending the majority of my days building sheets of analytics in Excel.
Maybe it was his initial suggestion that I apply for a class at UNLV focusing on food & beverage purchasing, which I initially thought was the most terrible of terrible ideas. See, I was still reeling from an epic failure of a college attempt at WVU in 1996. I learned a ton about Grateful Dead lyrics, how to best budget your few remaining dollars for Milwaukee’s Best ($0.10 beer nights at The Dungeon if you’re wondering), and how to tailgate with the best of them at a D1 football game. I did not learn much in the academic arena, but sometimes life experiences are just as valuable, right? That initial class at UNLV eventually culminated in a B.A. degree in Economics at UNLV many years later.
Ari is also the one responsible for my current propensity to cook. When I started working with him, and had moved from solely managing the beverage department into managing a restaurant, I literally couldn’t cook. This is an undeniable fact. Kraft mac & cheese, frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, and maybe a super dry chicken breast on occasion. Ari decided that to succeed, I’d have to spend 6 weeks in the kitchen working the line. I bitched and complained and came up with excuse after excuse… to no avail. My ass was headed to the kitchen. I started in the pantry, slicing and dicing produce (with proper knife techniques of course). From there, I moved to sauces and the grill. 8 hours a day on that hot, crowded line, getting burned and cut and learning more than I ever had. It was eye opening, both in terms of managing a kitchen, and in cooking in my own kitchen at home. Kevin claims to this day, that it’s one of the best things I ever did. I imagine that is mostly because he has benefitted long term with fresh, scratch made meals and sauces good enough to drink. I practiced flipping a slice of bread in an egg pan for weeks. To this day, I can flip an egg like a rockstar. It’s the little things, y’all.
That time I spent in the kitchen, paired with a lot of years running a food & beverage department made me keenly aware of the food we as humans are consuming. While I’m a junky for processed food, there is nothing nutritious or wholesome about it. You can add all the vitamins and minerals you want, the fact remains that there is no way that a processed food can ever be good for you in the long term.
I started to experiment with growing in my backyard in Vegas. I was never overly successful, but growing vegetables in 120 degrees is no easy feat. Undeterred, I adjusted each year and tried again. Tomatoes were always my most successful, and they were also responsible for the realization that a homegrown tomato had a flavor completely unlike what I was buying in the store. Could growing methods make that much of a difference? Was it travel time as produce had to be shipped in from hundreds even thousands of miles away to make it to the food desert we resided in?
I started to devour food books like it was my job. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Fast Food Nation, I read voraciously on the subject of our food and our relationship with it. I wanted to understand and take part, but I had work and kids and college going on, so the interest remained a hobby.
When I tell you I’m lucky, it’s really true. I find four leaf clovers everywhere. I win crazy stuff on the radio like an all-expense paid trip to Miami to see The Police. But mostly, I’ve been incredibly lucky because I’ve managed to wind up with the most supportive, awesome lifelong group of friends a girl could ask for. My journey is better because of the people I get to walk through life with.
Last summer, after 20 years in the desert, Kevin and I decided to move our boys home to Grand Island, NY. It wasn’t an easy decision, but there were too many signs to ignore. Being closer to family and friends were a piece of it. Getting our kids into an amazing school district was a piece of it. My company selling was a piece of it. I came home with the boys and started to ponder what the future looked like.
Ari and I talked a lot about where we were headed. We’d talked for months and months about his idea to grow produce. I was intrigued, reading article after article about the new technologies being employed to grow food. I loved the idea that wholesome, pesticide free produce could be grown close to where it was sold, meaning that consumers had the freshest, healthiest vegetables on their plates. But honestly, I was nervous. Starting a small business is scary if you’ve never done it. There’s so much that goes into it, and if we’re being honest, that’s intimidating. As I thought through it all, I just kept coming back to the consistencies in my life. A whole lotta work and a little bit of luck, and things always seem to work out even better than I’d originally thought they would. I knew this would be the same.
So off we go, on a new journey. If I’m lucky, this might be the biggest one yet.