Daniel Weisshaar; Produce Manager and Buyer; ​Glen’s Garden Market

Description
The National Wildlife Federation EcoLeaders Career Center is celebrating the motivating stories and career accomplishments of young professionals making their names (and a difference) in the sustainability movement. We’re calling this group of change-makers and rising stars “The EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations.”

Interviewee: Daniel Weisshaar
Produce Manager and Buyer
Glen’s Garden Market

Interviewer: David Corsar, NWF

Daniel is a Produce Manager and Buyer at Glen’s Garden Market in Washington, DC where he purchases, merchandises and sells produce grown in the Chesapeake Bay watershed; educates the public about eating seasonally and locally; and puts together seasonal CSAs and recipes. In 2009, he was a global warming policy intern with NWF.

David Corsar: Looking back at your experience with NWF, how has participation as an intern helped shape your career path?
Daniel Weisshaar:
Several ways, but for one, when I was a global warming policy intern, we were trying to get legislation passed for a cap-and-trade system. Seeing all of that hard work kind of dissolve because of the political realities at the time, it definitely got me thinking about how else I could have an impact on global warming, not necessarily tied to legislation. And it also really shaped my view of how to build big-tent coalitions. During my time, we worked with hunters and anglers, educators, parents, etc., and we brought in a whole bunch of unions – so a lot of people who hadn’t necessarily worked together. And seeing that coalition building was really impactful for me.

DC: What was the top thing that you learned in your professional development as an intern?
DW:
I would say it would be the importance of building strong coalitions and building partnerships. So, later on, a couple of years ago, I was volunteering with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, which is the NWF affiliate out of Oregon. We were working on a hatchery project, and they were able to build a huge coalition, including native tribes, which is something that had never happened before. So, seeing how that type of a coalition is built - the patience and respect that’s needed – was really informative.

DC: What are you up to these days?
DW:
I am the produce manager and buyer for a small, local grocery and delicatessen called Glen’s Garden Market. I purchase, merchandise and sell produce that is grown exclusively in the Chesapeake watershed, which is the watershed of Washington DC. I also do a lot of education to the public around how eating seasonally and locally has a positive impact on the environment, land conservation as well as global warming, and I also put together seasonal CSAs that include healthy recipes. One of my favorite parts of the job is being able to collaborate with the kitchen staff on new recipe ideas, I see this as a way to show people that eating seasonally is not only tasty but a form of art as well.

DC: What would you say is your personal mission for sustainability?
DW: My personal mission is connecting the dots between our rural communities in the United States, which are often struggling economically, with urban areas. I see myself as a part of a team that is providing a market, a place where rural communities can sell their produce in the city and at the same time draw that connection for people who live in cities on the importance of responsible farming.

DC: What motivated you to begin this path?
DW:
I grew up in rural Wyoming and Colorado, and that had a big impact on me. Also, my education at Warren Wilson College; I was an intercultural studies major, and I looked at how urban and rural communities work with each other, and how policies influence that relationship. So, that’s really where that drive started from – my education at Warren Wilson College.

DC: Who are your primary “influencers” or inspirations in the sustainability movement?
DW:
Working in the food movement, I’m a huge fan of Wendell Berry, author and theologian. Michael Pollan is also a great thought leader in the local food movement. My boss Danielle Vogel is amazing and really inspires and pushes the local food movement here. And there are also some really incredible aggregators – so these are people who are building the relationships with the farmers in their communities and getting their produce to markets here in DC, and one of those is Eric Smucker, with Smucker Farms. He’s just doing an incredible job.

DC: Did you have any mentors or career coaches assist you in mapping out your career pathway?
DW:
Yeah, definitely. One would be Courtney Cochran at the National Wildlife Federation.

I would say that Danielle Vogel, the owner of Glen’s Garden Market, is incredible with really helping her team find their niche and their stride and building a community around sustainability and food. She’s just been incredible at getting all kinds of new, small businesses that are around food and sustainability onto shelves. And she’s been really helpful in helping me map out how I can continue to innovate and bring in new neighbors into the sustainable food movement.

DC: How would you describe that mentorship? What characteristics do you think make a mentorship relationship work?
DW:
One is just access – to be able to put out ideas. Even when she’s busy, there’s a lot of access for the employees here. Also, the expectation is that we will be exceeding expectations – which is a great environment for a mentor to create. The expectation is that you are going to do well and it is going to be better than you thought it was. Also, she creates an environment where we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make them right. So, if you do fail, she’s fostered an environment where you learn from your failures and move on, which I think is very important for mentors to do.

DC: Do you plan to seek out opportunities to act as a mentor yourself?
DW: Definitely. There is a lot of room for growth in the local food movement as a part of sustainability. People are starting to really catch on that what they eat and where it comes from has an impact on habitat and the health of our water supply. So there’s more and more opportunities for people to get involved.
That can mean raising crops themselves – there’s a bunch of stuff happening with urban agriculture, and I’m always willing to help out to help folks find a place to sell their produce. And also on the sales path as well. There are more places now that are selling local food and need the folks who can talk about that.

DC: What would you recommend to current students who want to make a difference for sustainability in the food and agriculture sector?
DW:
I would really recommend looking at marketing, and I would recommend that they find places to volunteer or intern. There are a lot of little farms that need the help on the growing and production side, and there’s also a lot of little mom-and-pop markets all over the country that need people, even if it’s just working at a register. Having that hand’s on experience is super important.

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Type
Interviews
Sector
Food & Agriculture

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Date Added: May 15, 2017
Date Last Modified: May 15, 2017