Discover foods from family-run dairy farms, local bakeries and small-batch chocolatiers. Ride on an oyster boat, eat, feed a cow, eat, shop, eat, drink, eat. Sound like a brochure for a foodie vacation? Well, it's actually part of the job description for a regional Whole Foods forager. Yes foodies, it's a real job and 29-year-old Elly Truesdell has it.
A Whole Foods forager is responsible for scouring their designated market—Truesdell's is the Northeast—for high-quality, locally sourced food from small suppliers and bringing it to area stores.
Truesdell works with 31 Whole Foods markets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. She develops new buying relationships with suppliers, farmers and artisans across all product categories. Truesdell claims the beauty of this specific region, for which she is the first-ever Whole Foods forager, is an ability to be more creative than in other markets.
"In this part of the country there are more opportunities to be experimental," she said.
There is no "typical day" in the life if a Whole Foods forager. Truesdell said she spends much of her time visiting producers, farms and production facilities. Her favorite part of the gig is tasting products with the people who make them.
Currently there are only 13 local Whole Foods foragers scouring their areas for unknown products.
Often Truesdell works with small producers who have little to no previous exposure to big corporations. "A major part of my job is demystifying the large Whole Foods company for small producers. It's a lot of communicating," she said.
Not all small producers are ready and willing to jump into the Whole Foods system. They have to meet strict standards including no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives. Additionally meat may only come from animals without antibiotics and any eggs used must be from cage-free hens.
Truesdell often helps structure "local producer loans" from Whole Foods to support the suppliers she chooses to work with.
She counts Blue Hill Yogurt as one of her greatest success stories. It partnered with her from the beginning of the yogurt venture and counts her enthusiasm among the chief encouragements to pursue it. David Barber, president and co-owner of Blue Hill Farm, says Whole Foods was his first choice because of the company's muscle and presence—and also because of Truesdell.