Theresa Kiehn, Operations
If you ever in the grocery store unsure whether a fruit is a ripe enough, call Theresa Kiehn. She is a ‘produce’ genius. Her dad was a produce manager for a local grocery store and he loved farming, so he bought a small piece of land. Shortly after, her family started doing farmer’s markets. And so, Theresa cut her teeth in the agricultural industry at the tender age of seven. She ended up loving it and learned a lot from the many, many farmers markets she was a part of. It’s where she first started to learn what she was interested in.
“Customer service has always been important to me,” she says “and getting them to know and understand their produce like what to look for a good peach and how do you know when it’s ripe…those sorts of things have always been very interesting to me.”
She continued doing farmer’s markets when she was in college. When she was in school in Irvine, she would sell cases of jam and fruit preserves her family processed. She would go across the street to the Irvine farmer’s market and that paid for her room, board, and any extra food or supplies she needed. In fact, she got her first job out of college at a farmer’s market.
During a famer’s market in Modesto, the president and CEO of the nonprofit she interned for offered her a job. She owes a lot to farmer’s markets’ it’s where she truly gained a passion for the importance of the agricultural industry.
She puts it beautifully, “At the end of the day…agriculture is about feeding people…it gets down to the root of our own survival.”
She is extremely passionate about agriculture and you can hear it when she talks. She exudes warmth, passion, and intelligence. Yet even though she is extremely knowledgeable and accomplished, she had moments in her journey where self-doubt reared its ugly head. And in her typical way, she’s turned that struggle into wise advice as a reminder to herself and others.
“Don’t apologize if you have an opinion, it may not resonate and that’s okay.” she says, “You have a seat at the table because you have been invited, you have to make sure you remember that.”
To make sure she remembers this, she has built a wonderful cheering section. It’s full of family, friends, and inspiring women who help her think through ideas and give her motivation when things get hard.
Most importantly, they remind her that she deserves a seat at the table. She deserves a seat at the table because her voice and ideas are unique and important. And if you ever spend more than a couple minutes talking to her, you can’t help but agree.