If you could ask your younger self to give your current self a piece of advice, what would it be?
There are very few right answers or approaches — always remember to step back and look at the broader context, there could be a helpful alternative point of view that you would have otherwise missed.

Which retail (company) inspired you the most when you were just starting out in retail and why?
This might sound a little trite, but if I’m being honest: Plenty. I’d never considered retail before learning about Plenty; the company inspired me to leave a career in academia and public service. I am passionate about developing productive solutions to challenges in food, energy, and water security. Through my work in academic, non-profit, and public sectors, I experienced first-hand how stakeholder engagement, progressive regulation, and responsible science can strengthen economies and ecosystems. Plenty’s ‘Plants, People, Planet’ mission introduced me to a whole new approach: empowering consumer participation in dialogs about food security and environmental sustainability by providing accessible, delicious, healthy, food choices. I wanted to contribute to that mission.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sharing an intimate home cooked meal with loved ones.

Can you tell us about a particularly pivotal moment in your career? A time you can look back on now and think ‘yes, that was the instant everything changed for me’? And what sort of impact did that have
My first job out of college was managing a relatively remote biological research station in the Peruvian Amazon on a yearlong fellowship. During my tenure there was a national mining strike in response to proposed environmental regulations for the industry. Our station became a local flashpoint — many nearby mining communities felt that research coming out of the station was what had spurred the new regulations, and that our objective was their disenfranchisement. We ended up receiving quite a few threats and found ourselves in the surreal position of developing emergency evacuation protocols and forest hideaways in case of disaster.

At the same time though, my staff and I started to be increasingly intentional about spending time with those communities, learning and listening to individual stories and concerns. We also made more of an effort to engage community members in our work. For example, previously I’d been running a weekend science class for any kids interested in attending, now I made sure to invite parents as well.

The strike happened. The station was fine. And I am proud to say that I made some pretty good and unexpected friends through the whole process.

This was a real ‘yes’ moment for me. I finally understood what pursuing a career in ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainability’ really meant, and I’ve tried to stay true to that understanding in all of my professional endeavors. You can’t isolate the human from environmental protection. Our choices, from the products that we buy to the regulatory structures that we create, need to be accounted for and incorporated into sustainable infrastructures, and innovations in industry and retail can play a big role.

Who or what is inspiring you most at the moment?
My sister. The grace, patience, and love with which she handles both full-time remote dance therapy work with children with severe cerebral palsy and being a wonderful mother to three beautiful children fills me with awe.

What do you wear when you’re working from home?
Whatever brings me the most joy and comfort. I’m low on socks at the moment though, which is a bummer now that it’s gotten colder. Our pandemic puppy is an expert and sharp-toothed thief. I also continue to work part time at the farm; as food producers we’re an essential business, and my role sometimes takes me onsite to perform research. When in the farm I can usually be found in rubber boots, a jumpsuit, gloves, and a hairnet (and, of course, a mask!).

What’s the best thing that happened to you in 2020?
I got to marry my best friend and partner.

By Sarah Federman with Rebecca Morrison