When she’s not at work, 29-year-old Sarah Seebran chooses to cruise.
Ms. Seebran is the marketing director for Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA. During her down time, she might be found riding motorcycles with her husband, Tim.
“My favorite thing about it is how the worries literally cannot keep up with you,” she told The Produce News Jan. 17. “The wind blows them all away. One of the greatest things about living in the South and in farm country is getting to ride your motorcycle in such a scenic environment.”
The Seebrans also lead praise and worship at church. “I play the piano, but not as extensively as my husband plays the guitar. He can’t put it down,” she said.
Ms. Seebran was born into a small family in Georgia’s Wayne County, the southernmost growing location for Vidalia sweet onions. She earned her interior design degree at American Intercontinental University in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. “I loved studying [interior design], but hated practicing it,” she confided. “It’s so personal to people that it was difficult to implement without getting to know way too much about clients’ personal tastes and their personal business.”
She loves the idea of connecting creative concepts with real-world applications. “I love color and texture,” she said. “I could look at a color chart all day long. I could get lost in a color chart. I think it would be so cool to work at the Color Association of the United States. Reading an article about them in a Veranda magazine years ago made me want to be in the design world. I’d love to be the person predicting trends in color.”
Ms. Seebran joined Bland Farms in 2009, and she said her skill set is a perfect match. “What makes me successful in interior design is what also makes me successful in marketing produce,” she said. “You have to be creative but also be able to communicate high-level creativity to the average person. You’re really an intermediary.”
Ms. Seebran is a driven communicator. “Conversations with other creative minds really drive me and get me fired up,” she said. “The possibilities that come out of those conversations fuel you. Ideas are fun. The downside of the produce industry has been the quickness for us to see what we ‘can’t’ do. It’s exciting to focus on and talk about the possibilities and what we can do.”
With this as a guiding philosophy, there’s no place she’d rather be. “Being in the industry at this time is an honor because it’s a great time to be in it,” she stated. “We’re right in the thick of all the change that is occurring but still close enough to see the way things were always done. I like being in a position to really have an impact and make a change in the industry.”
This is quite a contrast with the person who grew up in the onion-producing region but didn’t consider it as a career move. “I didn’t think about how food made it into the bag,” she mused. “In fact, if you asked me what the produce industry was, I wouldn’t have known it even existed.”
With three years of work experience under her belt, she’s had a chance to mull things over. “[The produce industry is] like coming home because it’s not too corporate and it’s small enough to where the industry feels like a neighborhood,” she said. “There’s something very familiar about it. The way business is done is respectable and neighborly. I had no impression of it when I first started. It was all new. Until I went to PMA, I didn’t know how big a deal it was. Now, I’m highly defensive of it. It’s like talking about your alma mater. It’s a shame consumers aren’t more aware of us.”
She said that there are opportunities available for young people coming into the produce industry. “Going back to the thought of neighborhood or family, there’s always room for one more,” she explained. “I see a wide expanse of opportunity in the industry. We’re very open and welcoming of the younger generation coming in and invite it because we’re looking forward. We need their perspective to reach our up-and-coming consumers.”
Increasing use of technology is creating interesting challenges. “The produce industry is getting quicker at implementing new technologies,” she went on to say. “When I first started just three years ago, it was like we were taking very big steps but very slowly. Now we’re taking smaller steps quicker and doing a better job of keeping up with new technology as it becomes available.”
She embraces the opportunities technological advancements are providing. “Technology is going to allow us to have a voice with the consumer where in the past we’ve been dependent on the channels of distribution to represent us, and we don’t have to depend on them anymore,” she said. “We can work hand in hand with them but can now communicate directly with the consumer.”
With all this talk of technology, one might wonder what’s on her iPod. “Will Raegen and United Live, Bryan and Katie Torwalt, Laura Hackett and Missy Edwards of IHOP, Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jesus Culture,” she replied.
As for a vacation destination? “I’m not entirely sure, but that place would need to have a sandy beach, an intriguing culture and a purpose,” she stated. “You can only lay around and do nothing for so long. Trinidad and Tobago, probably, since my husband is originally from there.”