If you’ve ever called the Papa Spud’s office, chances are you’ve spoken to Alex. He’s often answering customer questions, solving quality issues we may have, training new drivers, delivering vegetables, heading up new projects, or any of the other miscellaneous tasks in a given day. Originally from Morganton, NC, Alex has a strong love for nature, bluegrass, and dogs. He grew up in sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains and had a huge garden that his father maintained and with which he and his brother would help. He will be quick to tell you a story about harvesting with his father, stringing beans on the porch with his grandmother, eating food his family grew and mother cooked for dinner every night. They even found a way to use produce that had gone bad: Alex’s mother would dress him and his brother up in their snow suits and let them have rotten tomato fights. So if you’re ever unsure of what to do with rotting produce and your kids have even more energy that usual, maybe try the Elkins method. His connection to food and nature have driven him through his pursuits studying Ecosystems Management at NC State University and now working at Papa Spud’s. His parents’ one stipulation in what he does with his life is that he has to do something to make the world a better place.
Alex has found that working at Papa Spud’s connects his passion for preserving nature and for good, local food in an interesting way. Oftentimes people look at farming and nature preservation as two very different fields, but if you think about the passion and love for the land behind both they begin to come together; they just use different approaches to care for nature. He loves working with and supporting the farmers we source our produce from because they love their land and can share that love with others in the form of food. Hearing Alex speak about the way his childhood connection to his land, his family, and the food they ate together can inspire anyone to pay more attention to where they are buying their produce. He sees the world in such a way that makes everyone’s participation important. Love the food that you eat, love the nature you live in, enjoy some good music and good company, and we can recreate the world we have forgotten. When all else fails, do what Alex does and enjoy some live music, preferably bluegrass, preferably Alison Krauss and Union Station, but they don’t come around too often so a substitute will do.
Darryl Johnson, huge fan of Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye, a twin, basketball champion, vegetable deliverer. Darryl is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey and moved down to Raleigh to go to Shaw University. He graduated in 2012 with a degree in videography and journalism and played basketball for Shaw–in 2011 they won the CIAA Championship. He hopes to one day have his own production company and make documentaries that bring to light issues and stories that are not often told.
Since he started working at Papa Spud’s Darryl has found himself even more interested in food; he began noticing different varieties of vegetables and looking them up online to learn more about what they were and how they were different. As a kid his grandmother always made sure he was eating a balanced diet, so he has been aware of and interested in food his whole life. One of his favorite pastimes is fishing, preferably salt water fishing, but any kind will do. I tend to think of New Jersey as a completely industrial state, but Darryl will be the first to tell you that there is actually quite a bit of undeveloped land. He learned how to clean, gut, and cook fish as a kid and spoke of living near a clam yard where tons of fresh fish and clams were discarded right after they were caught. This only strengthened his appreciation for good, fresh food that has existed since his childhood. “Papa Spud’s produce is just so much better than the grocery store produce,” he went on to discuss working with produce has taught him how dependent we truly are on so many different factors to get high quality produce. We both agreed on how strange it feels to go to the grocery store and get produce that all looks the same and usually has much less flavor than the local, fresh produce we’ve become accustomed to, “I’ve started paying more attention to quality and now I have a higher standard”. I think we all might be more spoiled than we realize with such easy access to delicious vegetables. He enjoys experimenting with different recipes and new kinds of foods—our recent recipe kit of Parmesan Roasted Broccoli has Darryl’s stamp of approval. When he’s not working or cooking Darryl is a music enthusiast, plays basketball, spends time exploring the great outdoors, and spends time with friends. Maybe one day we’ll all get to see a documentary integrating all of Darryl’s diverse interests. I think knowing that your produce is packed and delivered by people who care and are curious about the food they work with might just make it taste a little bit better. Who knew that basketball-playing, documentary-making, and vegetable-delivering went together so well?
Meet Michael Lobacz, always smiling and friendly, easily the cheeriest face to see in the warehouse at 6:00 AM as we distribute produce. He is originally from Marietta, GA and moved up to NC to study Music Technology at Elon. He now works at Papa Spud’s because he enjoys, “providing a great service that helps connect local agriculture to the community.” His light-hearted manner and impeccable meat-packing skills make him an easy person to work with; not to mention the blues and funk music he plays to accompany cleaning and packing. When he’s not working, Michael plays lead guitar in a local band called Frank Hurd. They play around North Carolina and surrounding states, check out their website for tour dates and to hear their music.
Halloween is coming this weekend, which happens to be Michael’s favorite holiday. He loves dressing up, scaring people, visiting haunted houses, watching horror movies, the whole experience. “Ever since I was little, my parents would decorate the house and put on a neighborhood Halloween party. Not only that, but my mom would turn our entire house into something that resembles a haunted nightmare: ghouls, coffins, graveyards, spiderwebs, the whole nine yards. So as a kid, I got used to the scary nature of the season very quickly and developed a love for Halloween. It’s stuck with me ever since!” Last week Michael and I had a very in-depth conversation about horror films as we weighed out and bagged green beans to be distributed. He gave me suggestions of horror films I need to see–The Exorcist and Pet Cemetery–and we agreed on the brilliance of The Shining (but, really, who doesn’t love that movie?). So, those of you with your fantastic Halloween decorations, know that you’re probably making Michael’s day when he delivers to your house.