Pursue the Passion

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INDUSTRY ARCHIVE: Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Hank Sindlinger

Career Interview: Farmer

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Pamela and Hank Sindlinger have a property in Pinellas County that is 100 feet wide but a quarter mile long. They have about forty different types of vegetables in the ground right now. “It’s every man’s dream,” Hank says. “You get to come out and have fun in the sun in Florida.”

What does a farmer do?

We just start going in and planting seeds or planting seedlings for crops. On Wednesdays and Saturdays we harvest. Today’s a harvest day.

What’s one of the misconceptions about farming?

It takes a lot of planning and thought. You have to know a lot about science and math. You have to know your ratios for calculating your inputs. There’s a lot to know about weather. It’s a little more sophisticated then what you may think. It’s not just throwing seeds in the ground.

Why is this a good job for you?

I really like planting the seeds. I really like seeing things come from the very moment you put it in the ground. Some of the radishes and lettuces we plant can be up from the ground in almost 24 to 48 hours.

One of my favorite things is when you do the harvest, and you’ve got some volunteers here for harvest, and you pull a carrot out of the ground. You’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Just seeing all the people when they get the vegetables and seeing their eyes light up. Then again, we’re still in the honeymoon phase.

But it’s just a rush sometimes. Like a calrobby. It’s like a plant from Mars. It’s like, I didn’t even know what it was, and now I grow it. People see it and they ask me what it’s all about. It’s nice to see it all turn around and to see people come here to see what we’re doing. It’s been a rush and been a really cool job.

Dan Subaitis

Director of Animal Management, Phoenix Zoo

January 26, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Two condors, one mountain lion, four giraffes, and a solid group of men and women wearing dirty pants are under the direction of Dan Subaitis. As the Director of Animal Management at the Phoenix Zoo, Dan’s responsibility is to make sure the men and women in dirty pants properly care for the animals and plants that visitors come to see.

“I’m one of those very lucky people who enjoys what I do for a living,” says Dan as one of the 250 species of birds found at the zoo squawks in the background. “The older you get the more you realize how rare that is.”

Dan has been working with animals for over 30 years. He’s been all over the world- Japan and Kenya to name a few- in pursuit of his love to work with animals. The journey began in high school when the local zoo was on the outskirts of his school’s campus. Dan worked at the zoo during his high school years, volunteering and working part-time, which is advice he’s quick to offer today.

“You can always volunteer at a local zoo. We have volunteer opportunities in our horticulture department. We have volunteers that help out at our animal clinic. Pretty much anything animal wise, we try to do it here.”

One misconception of the job is that although Dan’s job suggests he only deals with animals, he doesn’t.

“A lot of people say they want to work with animals because they can’t stand people. If you can’t stand people, then don’t come to a zoo. People are what make us function. We’re here for those people. I spend about 25% of my time directly related to animals.”

For any aspiring zoo directors out there who are wondering what skills and education you need, here’s what Dan had to offer:

“Most people who work in zoos these days have some type of life science degree. But I’d say the most transferable skill is how to use a rake and a shovel.”

(Trouble viewing the video? Visit Youtube.) 

Flickr Photos

Tommy Thwaites

The Man Who Brings You Your Morning Coffee

December 2, 2008 | by brett | Permalink

Pursue the Passion Interviewed Tommy Thwaites in Denver, Colorado in front of a live student audience. Tommy is the co-owner and President of Coda Coffee, a coffee wholesale company he operates with his brother Tim. In this video Tommy speaks about his journey in the coffee industry and the risks he took to preserve his passion.

I’ve been involved in coffee for the last fourteen years. I’m 32 now and I started when I was 18 years old.

In high school I was a mechanic. I worked on lawnmowers, chainsaws, that kind of thing. I was dirty every day of my life. It was a good job. Paid well for high school. I could go out on weekends, put gas in my car…the core essentials when you’re 17 years old. But I was just tired of getting dirty.

My friend started a coffee business. He said if you’re tired of being dirty every day, why don’t you help us out? It’s a lot of fun. You can sweep floors, fill orders, and just go from there. My parents, I remember my mom and dad saying I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it. I had a decent paying job. It was steady. They told me not to go into coffee because it was risky and it was going to ruin paying for college and that kind of stuff.

We were 800 square feet in a fruit stand next to their dad’s gas station. Eight and a half years later when I left that company we were 8,000 square feet, $15 million in sales a year. My title was Executive Vice President.

My parents came full circle and actually invested their 401(k) in our company. My dad, who hangs out at the office quite a bit to drink coffee, read the paper, and be in the way for the most part, will tell that story to anyone who is willing to listen. My dad hated at least 15 years of work. He was like, ‘If you guys can do something you enjoy, and not be where I was at after those 15 years, I’m all about supporting it.’

Looking back, I have no reservations. It’s been a total blessing. I love every day of it. But it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been this grand cake walk where we’re making millions of dollars or whatever. This is hard work. The money will come is kind of our mantra right now.

John Condon

California Rivers Tours

January 12, 2008 | by brett | Permalink

It’s safe to say that John Condon knows Northern California’s Wine Country. A former deputy sheriff of Sonoma County turned Russian River kayak tour guide, John now loads passengers into his twelve seat van and carts them to the wineries that have made Sonoma and Napa counties a worldwide destination.

John’s California Rivers Tours picked us up for a little holiday wine tasting over the break, where our party of five set out to revisit our favorite locations while uncovering new ones. This was the first wine tour for three of us, so John took the reins and we were off for six hours of wine, sightseeing, and fun.

John Condon and California Rivers Tours

There were three things that I really enjoyed about the tour John took us on.

1) The word “complimentary.” In the past three or four wine tasting outings I’ve made with a guideless group of friends, I ended up forking over $5-$10 a winery for tasting fees. During our day we went to five wineries (Armida, Hop Kiln, Korbel, Harvest Moon, and Hook n’ Ladder) and not one winery made us dip into the wallet for tasting. So instead of dropping twenty-five dollars on fees, I was able to grab a great bottle of Zinfandel from Harvest Moon.

2) John’s lunch. When we were done with the champagne tasting at Korbel we joined John on a private patio, where a table full of goodies awaited us. The salmon we ate was caught by his son and smoked by John. The jam was from the berries he and his granddaughter hand picked. This, paired with a bottle of wine purchased earlier, was perfect. The meal broke up the day and allowed us some time to catch up. It is what John calls, “his differentiating factor that seperates his tour from all the others offered in wine country.”

3) John’s tidbits. As we cruised around a corner John told us to look under the bridge for people for steelhead. When we approached Hop Kiln, John had us smell a hop plant which he then identified as being part of the cannabis family. All the little things that you would never take notice of doing your own wine tour enhanced the experience that much more.

John’s website is www.calrivers.com. He is the owner and operator, and can be reached either by phone at (707) 579-2209 or by email at calrivers1(at)aol.com. He is one of the most reasonably priced (per group, groups 1-7, $50/hr, groups 8-12, $75/hr, lunch included) and experienced tour guides around, and I encourage you to give him a call if you’re thinking about seeing Wine Country.

The smoked salmon alone is worth it.

The Vineyards Holiday Wine Tasting

Linda Harrison

Just Wanting to be Outside

November 13, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

The last television appearance we had was on NBC-Nashville. The segment aired that Friday night, and even though I didn’t see it, Linda Harrison in Hermitage, Tennessee did.

Linda went to our website and submitted her story. She wrote:

“I am currently a Fainting Goat Rancher but have a business degree with an accounting major. I am a LONG way from my first post graduate job of working for a major CPA firm. A few varied pit stops along the way and now I raise goats and have never been happier. Ranching is my passion and goats are my dream. Raising goats is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Don’t leave Nashville before coming to see me…”

I received her submission early Monday morning, and, having little on the schedule that day, ran the idea of interviewing a goat rancher by Zach. I caught him in a sleepy stupor and with a little convincing, we were off for a day on a goat farm.

In Hermitage, where rural and residential are intertwined, Blessed Green Pastures has goats, chickens, dogs, sheep, and bees that bask in sycamore shade. What started as a natural way to reduce the workload of mowing lawns, Linda and Brian have seen their original crew of a few sheep and myotonic goats blossom into a nationally recognized goat breeding operation.

And it all started because the accountant Linda, who worked in corporate cubicles to begin her professional life, just wanted to be outside.

Anne Jaeger

Your Northwest Garden

August 29, 2007 | by Noah on the writeup.. Jay on the Video | Permalink

Anne Jaeger loves to garden, but it took a life-threatening illness to force her to truly pursue her passion.

Anne was working as a television reporter when she was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of lymphatic cancer. Facing possible death, Anne decided she could not live with regret inside of her and, with the support of her employer, began to do the work she always dreamed of. Changes in management left her facing possible unemployment, but Anne would not be deterred. She picked up her show, and her sponsor, and took them to a different network. Instead of unemployment, she now faced a primetime Saturday night television show, hosted mostly from her own garden.

Recently 49, and glad to have made it, Anne is a correspondent for Smart Gardening, a PBS gardening show broadcast around the nation. A beautiful woman, who at one point lost her hair and faced a very uncertain future, Anne now does what she has always wanted to do, and glows with excitement when talking about it.

To arrive at this point, the most difficult step, she says, is overcoming fear. “Fear keeps us in some pretty tight boxes,” she says, suggesting that younger people find a job that satisfies them. “Have fun,” she says, “Take time to enjoy life.” It is a good reminder to anyone stuck in a rut; life is too short to be lived in a rut.

Peter Gros

Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh My.

August 21, 2007 | by Noah on the writeup.. Jay on the Video | Permalink

Peter Gros needs very little introduction. As the co-host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and a corporate keynote speaker, Peter has been seen by countless millions of people. Every year, Peter has the opportunity to speak with hundreds of thousands of young people across the United States, hoping to inspire the next generation to not lose faith in the infinite possibility of the natural world.

The grandson of a forester, Peter grew up in the wild, but almost entered the world of sales. A series of strange occurrences, and one lucky photo-op, landed Peter on the Johnny Carson Show, and soon after, he began hosting the Wild Kingdom.

Peter lavishes praise upon his wife for standing by him through uncertain time; her support allowed him to take opportunities running, and never compromises his dreams. The other target of his praise is Mutual of Omaha, the company that provides the backing for everything Peter has been able to do. It is not a shameless corporate plug. Without the sponsorship of such a company, there is simply no reasonable method for Peter to have reached the audience he has.

Peter’s most sage advice comes when speaking about the future; too often in modernity is doom forecasted for the natural word. Peter says, “We definitely have serious problems, but we’re turning the corner. We’re making a difference. My personal goal, until I die, is to convince as many young people as I can that it’s not too late to make a difference.”

Robin Sheets

Back to Basics

July 17, 2007 | by noah | Permalink

One might expect the head killer whale trainer at Sea World SeaWorld San Diego to have, well, a killer whale size ego; that could not be further away from the truth. Although Robin held an almost prenatal love for the ocean and its inhabitants, having been raised around a SCUBA air station owned by his father, Robin found himself at 27 working in sales. An ad in the paper for SeaWorld caught his eye one day, and his inner child took control.

This was our audience that watched the interview with Robin.  They eyed us up and down like a disapproving mother before finding us harmless.  For the remainder of the interview they showboated.

Yet through all of his successes, he remains humble, approachable, and as inspired as ever. These are the footprints of passion. Robin, who has led countless Shamu performances during his tenure at SeaWorld, still speaks with a charming reverence for his craft, and for the animals he so dearly respects and admires. Robin calls himself a behaviorist, but any similarities with Pavlov’s bell end there. To see Robin and the other trainers interact with the whales is to see a microcosm of a better world, where diverse inhabitants embrace their differences on the way to understanding their similarities.

Sea World Kisses

Flickr Photos