Episode 207: Carley Parsley

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The Empowering Women Behind The Berry Best Blueberries With Carley Parsley, Director Of Food Safety At  Brookside Farms

Carley Parsley’s family are fifth generation farmers and third generation blueberry growers at Brookside Farms (they’ve been growing since the early 50s). Even though Carley is the Direct of Food Safety, being a part of a family owned business means you do a little bit of everything! Growing up helping out on a farm, Carley has always known this is where she belonged and she’s seen the industry go from male-dominated to one that’s welcoming and empowering of women across the entire supply chain.

Spending her summers working on her family’s farm side-by-side her dad, uncle and mom sparked a passion inside Carley that made her feel innately like that’s where she was meant to be. She interned with Naturipe Farms before graduating with a marketing and management degree in hopes it would benefit the farm. Even as a young girl involved in 4H, Carley always felt empowered by her supervisors and family with access to the tools and encouragement she needed to succeed, while growing and learning along the way.

So much has changed for Carley along her career in the blueberry industry. For example, 12 years ago, food safety used to be an afterthought whereas today it’s evolved into a full time job! And up until a few years ago, it’d be rare to see a woman attending a blueberry growers’ conference. Now? Let’s just say the last conference Carley went to only had one man that attended! Thanks to a push by leadership and a desire by women to get more involved, there are more and more job opportunities for women in the blueberry industry, even at the farm level.

 “[My family] gave us the tools that we needed and the encouragement until we figured it out. We did whatever it took to get the job done.” Carley Parsley (5:35-5:45)

Carley sees a deep meaning to Women’s History Month, especially when applying it to agriculture. Women have been side-by-side male farmers and growers doing their role for centuries. During that time, women were the silent voices in farming operations and behind the scenes. Their day-to-day role was often taken for granted and now we get to honor these women! 

The role women play in food in agriculture goes back centuries and has alway been important, but now today we can empower women even more with the unique opportunities available to be a part of the changes we’d like to see in our industry. Carley’s mom started out in the marketing office for Michigan Blueberry Growers, a co-op, and she worked with just a few other women in the accounting side of the business, but it was predominantly males. It’s changed significantly now, and Carley considers her mom a trailblazer as a woman leading the industry. 

“I hope opportunities will continue to be available to women as time continues to progress and that they’ll be able to play vital roles.” Carley Parsley (19:42-19:55)

Who is Carley’s role model? Her mom. Carley says, “She’s the example of sacrifice and the sacrifice it’s taken to get our farm. She’s worked two jobs for most of our farm’s growing years just to support my dad and my uncle. She sacrifices her time and she’s never let me have the thought that there’s something I can’t do. She’s always empowered me to do whatever I set my mind to.” 

 Her grandma, who passed away last year, is also a role model of Carley’s and a woman who was a part of the change we’ve seen in the blueberry industry. Her grandma wanted to share blueberries with everyone and that passion and desire to educate people on where the food they enjoy has come from, which Carley credits to being one of the greatest impacts of her life.

It’s clear that across the blueberry and produce industry, we’ve evolved greatly into a space where women have opportunities to be heard, take on the roles they desire and are empowered to create the change we want to see for many years to come. You can find out more about Carley and the delicious blueberry products her family farm has to offer by visiting: https://www.brooksidefarmsmi.com/

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week! 
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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