Sarah Frey is one of the most inspirational women in the agricultural industry.
Sarah Frey’s phenomenal story starts on her family’s farm in southern, rural Illinois where they hunted, processed, and grew their own food, and only had a wood-burning fire stove for heat. Sarah can even recall the first time she saw a thermostat, or went to the grocery store with her mom and felt feelings of joy and overwhelm seeing packaged goods for the first time at the age of seven.
Her upbringing wasn’t the typical image of the happy little farm family and Sarah grew up with what a lot of children of farms deal with –– being called the ‘ugly duckling’, being bullied for having the school’s free lunches, hand me down clothes –– and she longed to escape every minute of it. Ironically enough, it’s these same experiences Sarah credits her courage to. In many moments of her career, she didn’t think twice when most would have fainted, nodded and said ‘yes’, and figured out the ‘how’ later.
How’d this farm girl turn into the CEO of Frey Farms, Founder of Sarah’s Home Grown, and United Fresh Women In Produce’s 2020 Honoree? She was thrust into it! Her mom had the same desire to create a better life for her family and kids than the farm could provide and started selling melons to local grocers. Young Sarah, still a child, was the one who waltzed into stores to do the selling, knowing she couldn’t return to the hot truck outside with defeat.
A true go-getter, Sarah started attending college while still in high school at the age of 15 while hauling melons because she was driven to get away and better her life.
It was that same drive and determination that led Sarah to march right through to the top floor of the St. Lewis Terminal Market into the bullpen, where F-bombs, fast deals, and salesmen live. Grateful she didn’t walk into a broom closet, Sarah, in blue jeans, a ball cap, and work boots, walked straight into Stanley Greenspan’s office, an infamous buyer in the produce industry.
When it came time to sell the family farm, the same place she so badly wanted to escape growing up, at the age of 17 Sarah bought it instead. Those memories of swimming in the pond with her brothers, huddling over the stove as a family, and the heartbreak of knowing her family wouldn’t have anything to bond them together had her buy the land and set up her companies’ headquarters down the road.
Sarah’s journey is truly remarkable which is what led her to write and publish The Growing Season: How I built a new life and saved an American farm.
“I wanted to be able to share these stories to impact other people’s lives,” Sarah says.
“It moves your soul. This is a story of a champion, a story of an underdog, it’s a story of entrepreneurship, but really most importantly it’s a story of all of life’s greatest lessons — forgiveness, grace, valuing education, valuing family, valuing hard work. It’s already made a positive impact on my life.” – Lori Taylor (5:02-5:24)
Frey Farms now operates in seven different states –– Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and West Virginia –– so they can grow different fruits and vegetables year-round rather than just being a seasonal operation, although pumpkins are still what they’re best known for. She was the first to market with any kind of watermelon juice with Tsamma™ Watermelon Juice which is an extremely healthy performance rehydration beverage.
Her most recent brand, Sarah’s Homegrown, launched in 2019 and helps small to mid-sized farms use more of what they grow, find market for the fruit that is normally wasted, turn those things into fresh, delicious ingredients that wind up in consumer packaged goods under the Sarah’s Homegrown brand and ultimately helps put those funds back into the hands of farmers who deserve it.
You’ll surely want to grab your copy of Sarah Frey’s memoir, The Growing Season: How I built a new life and saved an American farm as soon as possible and see the ripple effect of transformation it has on your life!
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 112: Bringing You The Healthiest Dried Fruit Possible with Case Samuel, VP of Sales and Irrigation Manager, and Jake Samuel, CEO of Sunrise Fresh
- Episode 111: Making Healthy, Nutritious Food The Default Choice with Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, Retail Health & Wellness Expert and Founder/CEO of The Market RD
- Episode 110: Creating Produce Supply Chain Success with Chad Ogden, Director of Transportation for Sunrise Logistics
- Episode 109: Creating a Gluten Free Diet for the Whole Family with Jennifer Wiese, Founder of BeeFree
- Episode 108: Reducing Food Waste With Sustainable Tech with Patrick Cortes, Sr. Director of Business Development at Mission Produce and Aidan Mouat, CEO of Hazel Technologies