In the words of Tina Prevatte Levy…
Every time I look back at the pictures from the Firsthand Foods launch party, I notice how big my boobs were. It was October 2010, and my oldest daughter was just 10 months old. I probably had to scoot out from that party at least once to pump breastmilk. I didn’t set out to navigate becoming an entrepreneur and a mother at the same time, but that is what the last decade has been about for me. My oldest daughter and my business are now both ten years old, and those years have been an exhausting and fulfilling rollercoaster ride of challenges, triumphs and discovery.
Our vision for Firsthand Foods was to build a middle business that prioritized connection and transparency. We wanted to connect the dots between food producers and consumers in the uniquely challenging world of locally and humanely raised meats. And we set out to do so in a way that would be a means of rural economic development, environmental stewardship, and consumer education. Those were big ideas. We knew what they looked like in theory. But we had no idea the deep personal rewards of putting those things into practice. Doing so has meant that we are in community with a broad range of people, both here in the Triangle and in rural communities all around North Carolina and beyond. Dozens of farmers, slaughter plant operators, meat cutters, distributors, delivery drivers, chefs, cooks, restaurant owners, and retailers have been our partners in this work. Not to mention all the wonderful people who have been a part of the Firsthand Foods team over the years! Many of these individuals have also become dear friends and beloved colleagues – people who have watched my kids grow up these past ten years, and have trusted and supported me as I’ve grown and developed as a business owner. By far the best part of my job is those moments when the depth and breadth of those connections is made clear to me.
Building our company and our place in our local food community has been such a journey. It has taught me so much about myself as a leader, as a partner, and as a person. I’ve gotten clearer about my strengths, my weaknesses, and how to hold true to my values and manage my well-being while doing so. I’ve had to learn the counterintuitive lesson that taking care of myself first is the best way to ensure that I consistently show up for my team and my family as my best self. And I’ve had to learn how to let go of the reins a bit, realizing that trying to control too much of how Firsthand Foods runs was not in the best interest of the company, me, or our team.
I don’t know what the next ten years holds for Firsthand Foods, but I hope that our community and our industry will continue to see and value the role that we play in our local food system. It is a critical one. Food rooted in community and tied to a set of steadfast values is so very important. I’m grateful to have helped shaped what that looks like for pasture-raised meats here in my beloved home state.