Hi Alex! Let's start by talking about what you do here at Planted...
How long have you worked at Planted?
It feels like a lot longer than it is. It’s been over a year, I started March 2021.
What role did you start in?
I started as a farm technician, working in the seeding room.
And now, what do you do?
Now, I work as our customer service lead, subscription manager, market manager, customer pick up manager…I manage most of our customer communications here at Planted.
How did you make the transition from being a seeding technician to the role you’re in now?
I knew I wanted to be involved as much as I could…I didn’t know exactly what area I wanted to work in. I just wanted to be as involved as I could be with the community and growing food and providing fresh local food. It was a really unique opportunity that isn’t available, so when I discovered Planted Detroit I wanted to have a part of what we do. There aren’t a lot of other companies that do anything like this.
If I’m remembering correctly, the transition from seeding to your current role really happened because you wanted Planted to be at Eastern Market.
I feel like I saw an opportunity to get us more involved and I was like…why don’t we just do that! I heard it was something we had done before, but we didn’t have as much time for. So, I pulled the trigger on it! I did start with the farmers markets and created great relationships with other vendors and customers and found my way from the markets onto the sales team.
What did you do before you worked at Planted?
I was a full time student, but since I graduated in the middle of the pandemic, I worked for a bit as a remote teacher, teaching 1st, 2nd, and 5th grade. I loved the kiddos, still love the kiddos. I taught swimming lessons and was a swim coach for as many summers as I can remember. I studied agribusiness, I went in to study pre-dental, and then I swapped. I started volunteering in a few greenhouses next to the dorms and those greenhouses grew food that went to the cafeterias and I thought that was super cool and the closest thing to that that’s in the real world is Planted.
What sets Planted apart from the jobs you’ve had before you worked here and what you thought you might be getting into when you decided on agribusiness?
What originally drew me to agribusiness was the marriage of thinking analytically, sales, numbers, and thinking of what’s a human necessity which is food and how do you marry those things together in a successful way. It’s like the supply chain that we’re currently using for our food is pretty unsuccessful in a way that things are mispriced and the portions are all wack and there’s not a lot of availability to a lot people in a lot of areas…because I went to MSU knowing that I would be able to get a good education in that area if I was to study it because it was really highly ranked at the time. I was like I might as well take this opportunity to go study that. It was really interesting to learn about the food supply chain and I kind of got hooked. I know food is going to be a necessity for everyone so someone is going to have to be an expert in it.
In your current role, what does your day to day look like?
On a typical day, the first thing I do is think about the customers or people who are going to be stopping by the farm for their orders. Then I think about our subscribers who are getting their subscription orders and packets. Then I go into checking all of our customer facing communications, so answering and redirecting emails from our community to different department leads. Then, I dive into ERP, where we track inventory, to ensure the orders that I have been keeping track of are being delivered. If there are a few pick up orders, I’ll send out reminder messages to the customers.
If you could tell a potential hire one thing about Planted, what would it be?
It would depend on the person…if it was someone who had just graduated from college, I would tell them you won’t get this opportunity very often. There aren’t that many start-upish, focused on community and food, places to work. It’s a one of a kind opportunity I would recommend trying out. If it was someone off the street that I didn’t know…I would convince them based on the people. Regardless of their background, the people here are super supportive. All of our coworkers are willing to listen and learn and grow, not only as work professionals but as individuals and friends.
I know that you are getting into cooking…what is your favorite thing to eat right now and what is your favorite thing to cook right now?
My favorite thing to cook right now is, honestly, with whatever produce and fall vegetables I have. I like taking whatever I get from the farmers market or from my own garden and putting it over rice with some chicken. It’s very simple and very easy but it’s so delicious, especially when seasoned right. My favorite thing to enjoy…I’m going through a decaf coffee phase, iced of course.
What’s your favorite Planted salad?
The Belle Isle, I eat it so often. I love the dates and the olives and I always know I’ll be full after.
What’s your favorite microgreen?
It’s got to be kohlrabi or broccoli…I would love them as a combo. They’re mild and potato-y. I think they would go really well on a ham or turkey sandwich, like the sandwich duo but mustard greens are so last year.
You grew up in Ohio?
Yeah, I moved to Northville my Sophomore year of high school. I had never come to Detroit before working at Planted.
But now you live here?
Yes, because I love it. I always tell everyone to move to Detroit.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I love patio-hopping. It doesn’t matter what patio it is, I just like going to different outdoor venues, at least during the warm weather season. When it’s not the warm weather season, I like to get together with friends, have a couple drinks and play board games. I also like watching YouTube.
You also have a lot of houseplants…which one is your favorite right now?
My calathea makoyana.
What is on your wishlist for plants?
A hindu rope. They are expensive though…
What do you think the biggest misconception that people have about hydroponics is?
That it’s easily scalable.
What do you want people to know about hydroponics and vertical farming?
There’s a lot of potential, we still have lots of progress to make.
Have you traveled anywhere really interesting?
Panama has been my favorite place to visit. I had a friend from college who grew up there…I visited a couple of times to see her. We went to some beaches and I got to see the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans on the same day because they’re only an hour apart. We ate so much good fruit. The coolest part was that I was able to go to her sister’s quinceanera - it was such a huge party and was so much fun. We were partying until 6am.
Where would you like to visit?
I would love to go to the Netherlands…I have 2 friends there that I would really love to visit. Huge vertical farming country, lots of pretty flowers.
If you were working in the farm and they let you play the first song of the day, what song are you picking?
Let me pull up my playlist…I don’t have one favorite song, but right now I love the song “Golden Hour” by Jvke. It’s so good. Also, Unholy by Sam Smith.