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Mentors in the Making: Adam Brady

What do onions, Adam Brady, and Shrek all have in common? Lots and lots of layers, it turns out. If you know Adam, you know there is plenty to this Director of Marketing for Shuman Farms: creativity, enthusiasm...and dad jokes. But what I have come to learn about Adam is that, deep down at his core, there is passion.

Adam started out his career as a journalist, writing and editing for different outlets around the Georgia Southern University campus from which he graduated in Statesboro, Georgia. Though he didn’t stay in journalism long, a seed was planted, so to speak, that would grow into a full-blown passion for storytelling—a passion he’d soon learn how to apply to his career in the food industry from his first boss in fresh: John Shuman, President and CEO at Shuman Farms.

“John was the individual who brought me into the produce world when he hired me to join the Shuman Farms team as its Marketing Coordinator in 2010. He took a lot of time to walk me through the sweet onion business and the produce business as a whole,” Adam starts to tell me when I ask him to share a few words about his first mentor in the industry. “It was also at Shuman Farms where I developed my passion for the industry, the people, and the stories behind the products. John and the Shuman story as a part of a Vidalia story fascinated me, and I was immediately hooked. I think, as a former journalist, the narrative of how our food comes to be on grocery store shelves grabbed hold and still hasn’t let go.”

Beyond showing Adam that he could use his skills as a raconteur to not only grow his career but his passion, John helped introduce him to key industry players on the retail and supply sides of the business. One of those people was Wendy Brannen, the then Executive Director of the Vidalia Onion Committee.

“Wendy was one of my first contacts outside of my immediate world of Shuman Farms. She gave me the opportunity to join a marketing subcommittee at the Vidalia Onion Committee to help determine the path forward for the Vidalia onion industry’s consumer programs,” Adam explains.

"Though he didn’t stay in journalism long, a seed was planted, so to speak, that would grow into a full-blown passion for storytelling—a passion he’d soon learn how to apply to his career in the food industry..."

Adam Brady, Director of Marketing, Shuman Farms

Wendy says that after the Vidalia Onion Committee decided to capitalize on that famous line in the 2001 film—“Onions have layers, ogres have layers. Ogres are like onions. End of story.”—Adam wasn’t intimidated by the silliness of the idea and instead jumped on any opportunity to keep the momentum of the Vidalia industry going forward.

“Working with Wendy encouraged me to consider the effects of an industry-wide approach in growing a brand and how important it can be to maintain a sense of consistency across your messaging even if it comes from many different sources,” Adam continues. “Wendy has since become a valuable sounding board for helping me to think through marketing concepts and the direction of my career path in the industry.”

This lesson in a well-rounded approach to lifting up the produce industry would serve Adam well in his next position as Senior Marketing Manager for Golden Sun Marketing. There, Adam was tasked with leading marketing efforts for clients in all realms of the fresh produce industry—a feat he said he would not have been able to do without the guidance of Golden Sun’s Founder and President, Don Goodwin.

(Left to right:) Adam Brady, Tom Thompson, Don Goodwin

“Don is easily one of the most knowledgeable and innovative thinkers in the industry and having the opportunity to work with and learn from him was a crash course in managing relationships and expectations from seed to serving dish,” Adam says with obvious reverence. “I had very little insight into categories outside of sweet onions when I started at Golden Sun Marketing, and Don provided me with the opportunity to learn more through a very collaborative team environment. While giving me the opportunity to think and act creatively, he led me to focus strategically on how to effectively grow brands and drive sales.”

Of course, Adam made his way back to his home at Shuman Farms, where he once again took up the role of Director of Marketing for the RealSweet® brand. In fact, as I’m interviewing him, he’s just in his first weeks back at the company that kicked off his produce career.

“As you can imagine, it’s been a busy few weeks getting reacquainted with my old compatriots and the new faces here on the team. We have a lot to do to prepare for Vidalia!” he mentions off-hand. With these three mentors at his side, I don’t doubt he’s working on big things to come.

Here is what they have to say about Adam Brady...

Don Goodwin, Founder, Golden Sun Marketing

"I had the pleasure of having Adam on our team for three years. Adam is very creative and has a great understanding of how various marketing tactics can influence sales. He is always positive with a great sense of humor. Though we cringe and laugh simultaneously when he tells another ‘dad joke,’ he is a passionate marketer!

I think one of the most successful things Adam and I worked on together was applying a marketing strategy that works for the uniqueness of the produce industry. Adam really understands the specific nuances of marketing fresh produce and how to invest marketing dollars effectively. I always encouraged him to build his marketing strategies by making the largest investments in tactics that will deliver the best results. Many marketers today focus more intently on the least impactful tactics. I also challenged him to measure everything he does in marketing and not be afraid to admit that something doesn’t perform. Marketing tactics are changing rapidly with the development of digital technologies. We always want to look at everything—compare costs for clients and be willing to test. One of Adam’s core strengths is his eternal optimism and willingness to try new things. It has been a real joy to watch Adam grow even as I endured his many silly jokes."

John Shuman, President & CEO, Shuman Farms"It has been a pleasure to see the growth in Adam’s career over the past few years. He was new to the produce industry when he first joined Shuman Farms almost 10 years ago, and it has been exciting to see him develop his unique skill set that enables him to adapt and grow in a rapidly changing industry. Over the last few years, Adam has really come into his own—his knowledge across multiple categories and consumer trends combined with his creativity allows him to see opportunities that we can build on. The experience and knowledge he has gained can be attributed to his enthusiasm, strong work ethic, and dedication to the produce industry. We’re glad to have Adam on our team."

Wendy Brannen, Director of Policy Communication, American Soybean Association"Adam consistently brings a big helping of enthusiasm and creativity to the table. Add to that a side of adaptability. Whatever new position or project he is working on, Adam flexes based on his previous responsibilities and adapts those skills to the new situation. He is thoughtful—as in both kind and full of thought for what he and his organization are trying to accomplish—and has always exhibited a solid work ethic. Part of that strong ethic is rooted in pride for his job. He enjoys the work he chooses to pursue and always looks for new ideas and solutions—again, serving up something besides meatloaf and mashed potatoes day after day.

I especially enjoyed working with Adam when he was leading marketing at Shuman Farms and I was Executive Director of the Vidalia® Onion Committee. The Committee facilitated a series of promotional partnerships with DreamWorks Animation and Universal Music Group that involved everything from consumer radio spots to retail point-of-sale, and working with people like Adam who embrace the ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ philosophy was what made those campaigns so successful. No matter what the crazy idea of the year was (Shrek seemed pretty far-fetched for peddling onions until you peeled back the layers!), Adam was not only willing to entertain it but brainstorm ways to make it even bigger."