Tag Archives: Marketing

The Queen of Brussel Sprouts

by Kate

Once upon a time, I lived in a cabin perched halfway up a high mountain in the Blue Ridges of North Carolina and I had one of the best jobs in the whole wide world. I worked with farmers all over those mountains, helping them to market their crops. I had all kinds of amazing adventures doing this job, from meeting with hospital executives to riding at high speeds through eerie acres of a massive warehouse so that I could meet with harried and important Bigtime Buyers in tiny offices. I spoke about the plight and potential of farming to many different audiences and met super fancy high end chefs and tasted incredible food made with local ingredients. But my favorite thing to do was head out in my beat up 4runner and twist up over mountain passes and pull into the driveway of a mountain farm, and meet farmers like Charles Church.

I really, really loved my farmers. Still do. In fact, I rarely look at the pictures I took in the years that I worked for ASAP because I miss my farmers- and my job- too much. I was always be grateful for the opportunity to do work that I loved so much.

You can find many more shots from the work that I did in North Carolina here. If you live near Asheville, you just may see a picture I took in a supermarket or hospital cafeteria or restaurant one day. You never know. But the real reason I am telling you this story, is that every time I took pictures of my farmers I was reminded of the many times that I toiled in the field at home and wished someone would show up to take a glamorous picture of me. All right, so I wasn’t home enough to toil very often, and I was thrilled to be at the other end of the camera, but with all the posters and calendars and billboards of farmers out there these days, a Slattery HAS to show up on one of them at some point, right?

The day has arrived. Soon, the lucky customers of the Viroqua Food Coop in Viroqua, Wisconsin will shop for produce under the benevolent gaze of my sister Mary, the Brussel Sprout Queen.

I didn’t take this picture- my father the erstwhile journalist and photographer wiped the mud off his hands and took this shot. He’s also the one who suggested that the Viroqua Coop feature Mary. He then headed into the fields with her for this autumnal shoot. Mary has been a faithful supplier of high quality organic produce for years now. Other than my father, Mary is currently the real farmer in the Slattery family. She’s an incredibly hard worker and is and stubborn and passionate and surprisingly sweet beneath her tough attitude- just like all the other farmers I love.


(In 2012 my sister Clare took over as the Brussel Sprout photographer and you can see her work here: The King and Queen of Brussels)


One foot in the city


In the days before blogs, before the internet, I was a six year old drafted to stamp, unevenly fold, stuff, and lick envelopes for one of my father’s first farming direct marketing experiments. Dad started out as a city boy enamored with the country life, raising goats and baking brown bread and marrying a laughing Iowa farm girl who grew up on the rolling prairie full of soybeans and hogs. After they married and they settled on a ridgetop in the lush green driftless region of Southwestern Wisconsin he started to raise hogs, on the side. They named the five acres of ridgeland and tangled woods Sweet Ridge Farm.

My father was a journalist at that point, a charming Irishman with great charisma, glorious visions, and no idea how to build a fence. This can be a great handicap when raising hogs, and it was, along with one of the worst pork markets in history. However, neither of these factors deterred my dad from his love of raising pigs. He was a very early direct marketer of sustainable pigs, and he put together a witty newsletter from Sweet Ridge Farm, with a dapper looking couple of dancing pigs in 18th century dress in the left hand corner. His tagline was “One foot in the country, one foot in the city.” He worked in the city every day, and on the farm every night. I grew up barefoot and wild, reading books in the apple trees, but had enough city culture to ensure that I never quite fit in with my rural companions or the city kids. The training saw me in good stead, though, when I grew up and put my early life lessons in direct marketing to use working with farmers in the Appalachians. When you’re on a hog farm in the morning and meeting with hospital directors in the afternoon, it is important to be able to throw your boots into the back of your four runner and pull out a pair of black heels before you touch up your lipstick.

Today, I live on a steep hill above a river, with four clothesline posts and a garden seeded with early spring greens, peach and pear trees behind my house,  nestled in the ridges of… Pittsburgh, PA,  one of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States. I am constantly surprised by how much I love living in the city at this point in my life. I still run barefoot much of the summer, but my feet are planted for now in the city.

My father, the erstwhile journalist, is still a bit wary of the internet and Mary tells me he printed up Sweet Ridge Farm newsletters just a few days ago. I’ll leave it to her to report from the ridge with her spring rain boots on.