Growing Up Together

Growing Up Together

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This past weekend my daughter, Carly, joined me in Richmond, VA where we visited with potential customers and sampled Firsthand Foods salami and BBQ at Ellwood Thompsons Market. She slipped into work mode with me so easily, which makes sense considering Carly and Firsthand Foods have grown up together.

When I first started conceiving of Firsthand Foods, I was driven to find an answer to a problem: Why can’t I find local and sustainably grown meats at my grocery store? Fresh fruits and vegetables from area farmers were plentiful, but all the meat selections came from far away and/or were not raised humanely. At that time, Carly was a picky eater and favored meat over just about everything else. As a new mom, I wanted to make sure she was eating “the good stuff.” While I had built a career focused on agriculture and was well versed in sustainable livestock production, I didn’t really know much about meat.

I started talking to meat producers at the Carrboro Farmers Market and sampling their products. I remember one conversation in particular with Eliza MacLean of Cane Creek Farm who sold me my first pork rack. As a former vegetarian, I needed some serious hand holding. I followed Eliza’s cooking tips and it turned out great. And Carly couldn’t get enough of it! Shortly after, I took a job with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems to build out their NC Choices initiative. I worked with livestock producers across the state who faced challenges getting their products to market. That’s when the need for a business like Firsthand Foods began to take shape.

Since then, Firsthand Foods has evolved from its scrappy beginnings as a food truck to a $3M regional wholesale distribution business. And Carly is all grown up too – living and working in DC and stocking up on Firsthand Foods every time she comes home to visit. She listens patiently as I talk about the ups and downs of business ownership, knows all about our supply chain challenges, and has become my favorite person to talk with about how to manage the human side of the business. She always helps me see a situation from multiple perspectives and find a way to move forward that is both pragmatic and kind.

It’s been a real joy for me to watch Carly and Firsthand Foods grow up together and I can’t wait to see what’s next for both of them!