The first time I picked blueberries, I was 10. My family was renting a small cottage on South Harpswell Bay, Maine for the summer while my
Dad got continuing education credits at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
We were just 100 yards down a path through a thicket of wild blueberries from the "beach" (which had kelp and rocks where the sand should be). My brother, sister and I could play there every day -- after we picked a big bowl of blueberries.
I'm amazed I still like to eat them at all, when virtually every meal that summer contained blueberries served any way my mother could think of. Certainly I thought, at least my picking days were over.
Fast forward to 1996. My daughter Haven was almost a year old, and I had decided to leave my great job as Retail Services Manager and store designer for Tree of Life so I could get off the road to help my wife Florey raise our family. For the past few years I'd been honing my design skills, so I decided it was time to start my own graphic design business. I had no clients, but had made a lot of friends and contacts in the industry, helping retailers launch or remodel over 300 stores.
Graphic Jam & Global
Organics are born
Mitch Blumenthal was my very first client. We met when his son Sam and Haven were in preschool together, and our wives organized play dates. Mitch & Colleen were restaurant owners then, but soon sold it to purchase a 10-acre property east of Sarasota. It had a lake, a home site and 7,000 organic blueberry bushes.
Already passionate about organics,
Mitch instantly became a farmer. He ran the blueberry farm out of an old mobile home on the property and began buying and reselling a few other organically grown vegetables such as asparagus.
He wanted to sell his blueberries to Publix and other retailers. And, he had the perfect brand name -- Blumenberry Farms -- but he didn't have a logo. Both of us were just starting out and I needed work to build my portfolio, so I agreed to design the logo & label for
all the blueberries I could pick.
Think that was cheap?
Not when you consider that Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University, designed the NIKE logo in 1971 for $35
. (NIKE is now worth more than $40 billion.)
The Blumenberry Farms logo, as part of my early logo collection won an ADDY award for self promotion, which helped open more doors to bigger and better design jobs.
So, how did Mitch do?
And it Grew and Grew and Grew.
The demand for the organic produce that Mitch had begun selling along
with his blueberries just exploded. He kept adding cold storage where
he could find room on the property, but in just three months he outgrew it.
He went through four buildings in the next three years as the business of selling organics grew faster than the fruits and vegetables themselves.
In July 2002, he bought his current space near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Global Organics now has over half a million cubic feet of refrigerated storage in seven separate temperature-controlled zones. The state-of-the-art coolers feature high-efficiency lighting and an environmentally-friendly chill-water system, to reduce their footprint. 14 refrigerated tractor-trailers make deliveries to seven Southern states.
Today, Global Organic Specialty Source supports over 160 farms in the US and twenty other countries - the largest locally-owned supplier of organic produce in the Southeast, with annual sales estimated at
How he did it.
Global Organics grows their produce and their company based on the key values Mitch developed that reflected his beliefs and continue to drive Global Organic Specialty Source today:·
Procure the highest-quality organic produce available, in order to make it as accessible to as many people as possible.·
Work in support of small, sustainable farms and buy locally.·
Grow the company based on honesty, integrity, and hard work.
High standards. Big heart.
His employees examine every single vegetable or piece of fruit, in every single box, for blemishes, pruning, wrinkling or anything else that would make his customers unhappy with the product.
Only the best is shipped to their restaurant and retail customers.
The rest is donated to All Faiths Food Bank, where Blumenthal has served as chairman - over 50 tons of food each year.
A culture of trust.
Mitch encourages his workers to eat and eat and eat, then bring some of the organic produce home and eat some more.
"We want the employees to eat whatever we sell and package, because we want to get as many people eating organics as possible," Mitch says. "Every morning sales comes through here. They eat. They taste for sweetness. We buy by taste."
Global Organics builds strong relationships with their customers and the local farmers - who especially like the fact that Mitch is a farmer himself.
Their appreciation is evident as you listen to them tell the Global Organics story in this video from the website:
Back at the farm . . .
It wasn't long before Mitch began to explore heirloom row crops,
blackberries, and other unusual items. Soon, the ten acres of blueberries had evolved into ten acres of diverse, beautiful crops. Recent harvests have included okra, snow peas, bull's blood beets, baby corn, popcorn, persimmons, herbs, and sugarcane.
Prized by chefs for the impeccable quality, color, freshness and taste of
the Blumenberry Farms offerings, they are often listed on the menu at the world-class Vernona Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota:Third CourseOlive Oil Poached Beef, Blumenberry Farms root vegetables, truffled pomme puree, sauce béarnaise
Your brand is your reputation -- how you are known by your customers, suppliers, and everyone you come in contact with. Today, how you conduct your business can be as important as the quality of the products and services you sell. Their is no better way to build a loyal following than being proactive and taking a leadership role to do right by your customers and suppliers.
From the beginning -- take a stand and live by it.
Mitch's rise from a by-chance organic blueberry farmer to a multimillion-dollar business owner in less than a decade can be traced to his
passion for organics and the passion he looks for and instills in his employees.
It's your business, make it personal.
He's proud to be an organic farmer, and his mission is to make organic produce available to everyone he can reach.
Empower. Encourage. If they buy in, they'll sell more.
He empowers his employees to inspect every piece of produce and ship only the best to their customers. He encourages them to eat the produce they sell.
Leadership & support yields cooperation & loyalty.
Global Organics supports a number of small farms, acting as their Growers Agent, to insure that they are able to successfully sell the yield from their fields when it is fresh and at its best.
Educate. Smarter customers are better customers.
They educate their retail customers on the best ways to display their products to maximize sales, share tips on how to best maintain freshness and quality, as well as general information about how to reduce shrink and encourage customers to try new kinds of produce.
I make it my business to help people find the story in their brand, then design it into their products and services, to make it matter more to the people they want to reach. Mitch already knew his, and built his business around it.
This didn't start out to be an email just about Global Organics. But the more I dug into it, the more I had to tell it. The story is that good.
Only one thing left to say: Eat organic. You'll thank Mitch for it.