BABE #124: AMIE KESLAR,
Co-Owner @ Front Porch Pickings
We are beyond stoked to welcome another local, sustainability-focused Babe into the BWH community. As co-owner at Front Porch Pickings, Amie spends her days creating and processing deliveries of local produce and locally-made artisan goods to customers across Northeast Florida. In our eyes, she's someone who is not only personally benefitting from the fruits of her labor, but genuinely creating opportunities for others in our community to follow suit. You're an absolute Babe, Amie - thanks for sharing part of your journey with us!
Hometown: Rutland, VT
Current city: Jacksonville, FL
Alma mater: N/A
Very first job: Veterinary Technician
Hustle: Co-Owner @ Front Porch Pickings
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many to choose from. But today, I’m going to have to say my mom and my sisters, who are all strong, independent women. I didn’t grow up knowing about gender inequality thanks to these three hustling babes. I just assumed I could do anything, and so I did!
How do you spend your free time?
Between running my business and raising a very busy 4-year-old, I don’t have much free time. But a little cocktail with family and friends is always welcome.
Favorite app, website or blog?
A Taste of the Country. I’m quite addicted to the farm lifestyle. The owner, Danielle, and her team create magical events like weddings, supper clubs, and classes, all on her Canadian-based farm. I want to be her when I grow up!
Go-to coffee order?
I joke that I need cowboy coffee to get me through the day. I love a freshly locally roasted coffee, brewed really - I mean really - strong. Add a dash of whole milk, and I’m on my way.
Go-to adult beverage?
Nothing too sweet – a gin and tonic or vodka cocktail will do the trick.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Oh, my husband makes the best manicotti. Pure comfort food for me. The recipe has been passed down for generations and is so light and fluffy.
Go-to news source?
The Washington Post
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Warren Buffet. Surprised? I know, me too. I’m not necessarily fond of the companies he’s chosen, but I admire the passion he has for his work, his knowledge of business, and his commitment to philanthropy.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Oh, I love to travel, but my favorite place to be is on my front porch having dinner with family and friends!
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
What’s something that not many people know about you?
I cry over commercials.
Go-to roadtrip snack?
Salt & vinegar potato chips and Twizzlers.
Beach or mountains?
Mountains. Definitely, mountains.
Tell us about your hustle:
I’m a mom, wife, local food advocate and co-owner of Front Porch Pickings. We deliver locally-grown produce and locally-made artisan goods to customers ranging from Jacksonville to Deltona, FL.
What does your typical workday look like?
Each day starts with bringing my son to preschool. In the hours after, you can be sure I’m hustling! I get as much done as possible before he comes home, so we can spend some quality time together in the afternoons. Each work day is different in managing the operations of the business. You can find me chatting with farmers, working on our financials, attending health fairs and networking events, helping customers with orders, printing labels, packing veggies, and sometimes you’ll even spot me in the delivery van.
What inspired Front Porch Pickings? What gap did you aim to fill by starting it?
I became interested in our local food system soon after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2010. New to Jacksonville, I searched for local produce but found it very difficult to obtain even though farms were relatively close by. It was really the drive to better my own health that turned into a passion for supporting our local farms and bridging the gap in our local food supply. I started The Veggie Bin in 2011, a farm-to-table delivery service, with a mission to make it easier for residents to eat locally. In 2014, my business merged with Front Porch Pickings, a similar company in Ormond Beach.
How do you balance your time between all of the various responsibilities your work demands?
A lot happens in a short amount of time, but we have a team of amazing people who are just as dedicated to “making it happen” as I am. Our process starts on Thursdays, and we spend the day connecting with farmers to see what they will have available to harvest the following week. On Fridays, we build our subscription boxes and enter our produce into our online system. On the weekends, our customers make changes to their orders. On Mondays, we are finalizing orders and organizing for the week. Tuesday is farm-run day. In the afternoon we are packing for our southern routes, which are delivered on Wednesdays. Also on Wednesdays, we are packing our Jacksonville orders which are then delivered on Thursdays. Rinse and repeat.
Have you always had a passion for sustainability and growing/eating locally? Where do you think those interests stem from?
I grew up in Vermont and I think sustainability is just a part of life there. Our family lived on 4 acres and had a large garden in the backyard. This is where my love of eating locally started. I can remember pulling peas off the vine and carrots out of the ground and just eating them raw, still warm from the sunshine.
What’s something everyone should know about buying local produce?
Purchasing from local business, farmers, and artisans keeps the money right here in our local economy. Our farmers need our support! Farming is hard, and farming in Florida is even harder. Not only do we have high temperatures and humidity that promotes bugs and fungus, but the tropical storms and hurricanes can wipe out a farmer’s entire crop overnight. In addition, local food tastes better and is better for you! Farmers are able to grow produce for taste when they are selling to their local market, instead of growing produce that needs to stand up to long distance transport. The nutritional value of food starts diminishing after it’s picked – so eating locally offers you a nutritional punch that you can’t get from food that’s been traveling for a week or so!
What has owning a business taught you about yourself? Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
It taught me that I have a hard time finding balance. When you do what you love, it’s sometimes hard to find the line between work and home life. It has taken years, but I think I’m much better at it now than I was when I started.
How often do you feel satisfied in your work? Why do you think that is?
I love my work! I’m fortunate to do what I’m passionate about and work with people who are super positive. Surrounding yourself with the right team makes all the difference in the world.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
The majority of our farmers are male. However, we do have a few rockstar female farmers. The trend that’s evolving, in my opinion, is not gender-based. It seems like young folks, tired of big agriculture and factory farms, are the ones jumping in and trying to make a difference right now. I’ve known several young families who’ve bought land, moved to the countryside, and are working their own small, sustainable farms. Love it!
Do you ever feel like your age is a disadvantage in the workplace? What about an advantage?
No, though in the future picking up a 50lb bag of potatoes might be a bit harder than it is now.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
Weather. We are gathering goods that are completely in the hands of mother nature, and sometimes she can be a little harsh. We do our best to educate our customers about what’s going on, and we are lucky to have very supportive customers.
What makes Front Porch Pickings stand out from other local produce services?
When we started, we were the only subscription service delivering fresh produce locally, but I think what makes Front Porch Pickings different is that customers are in control of what they buy. Our customers can customize each order, completely. Not just substitute items, but they can shop just like they are at the farmer’s market. Any of the items in our pre-selected subscription boxes can be removed and we have more than just produce to add back in. We have options like eggs, meat, cheese, bread, coffee, kombucha, shrub, honey, jams, and even some sweet treats.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Amy Robb. She started Edible Northeast Florida in 2015. She’s smart, caring, funny, and an incredible advocate for our local food system.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
To live on a working farm. About 9 months of the year, its to live on a farm up north. But then the end of October hits, the first cold snap sets in, and I remember I hate being cold.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Surround yourself with great people.