High Flavor, Organic, and Conventional

Sweet Serendipity, A Q&A With Teri Gibson, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations, Peri & Sons Farms®

Sweet Serendipity, A Q&A With Teri Gibson, Director of Marketing  and Customer Relations, Peri & Sons Farms®

It can be a gentle pull or an abrupt push, but in life, we have all experienced it.

Sweet serendipity occurs when you find yourself traveling down an unexpected hallway and a door appears. It isn’t on any established blueprint you’ve drawn for yourself, but a feeling pulls you forward to turn the knob. For through that door, you will find the path that you were destined to take—either to your dreams or to a valuable life lesson. The road may look rough, but a framework, materials, and solutions start to emerge once you’ve stepped through. Nothing a little elbow grease can’t smooth out.

For Teri Gibson, that door was opened when she picked up the phone in 2009.

Back then, Teri’s plans didn’t involve Peri & Sons Farms®. In fact, the now Director of Marketing and Customer Relations hadn’t dreamed of becoming part of the fresh produce industry at all. If it weren’t for a phone call from Pamela Peri, Executive Vice President, the strings of fate wouldn’t have been tied, bringing this explorer onto a new road to travel down and create for herself.

When Teri made the switch from graphic design and advertising to marketing, it was a jump into a new industry. However, Teri has found her niche in marketing what she says is the best product in the world: fresh produce. Fresh produce consumption is a common necessity, but as our industry continues to evolve and adapt, the need for unique and relatable content to generate renewed energy to be healthy is at an all-time high.

Finding ways to encourage shoppers and diners to consume more produce is even more important now as our everyday becomes increasingly hectic. In fact, it was for this reason that Teri was first brought onto the scene.

 


Lilian Diep: Advertising as well as designing non-perishable products are different from marketing fresh produce, but the advantages one finds in those experiences have helped you create and emerge in your role uniquely. So, Teri, how did your career path lead you to align yourself with a company like Peri & Sons Farms?

Teri Gibson, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations, Peri & Sons Farms: My career path into the produce industry was anything but straight.

Advertising was my professional passion. I had developed an eclectic skill set from disciplines such as graphic design, creative direction, media, printing production, product development, project management, client relations, and marketing management.

But, in 2009, the economic upheaval led me to look for a new opportunity outside of the advertising world. Out of the blue, I received a call from Pamela Peri, the sister of a friend. Pam and her husband, David Peri, own Peri & Sons Farms. She heard I was in transition and was hoping I had time to take on a project.

 


LD: I imagine this must have been like a twist of fate, especially since you weren’t involved with the fresh produce industry at the time. What did Peri & Sons have in mind with your skill set?

TG: Serendipity is what I would call it. The company was experiencing tremendous growth at the time. As EVP, Pam had her hands full, and Sales, under their daughter and now Retail Sales Manager Jessica Peri, was taking off rapidly. The Peris felt that marketing was the next step in their growth plan, and Pam wanted me to help create that blueprint.

In preparation for this project, I immersed myself in Peri & Sons’ farming operation and the produce industry. I was surprised and, frankly, amazed by the size and sophistication of the family’s farm and the scope of the industry in general. I was very excited to propose a plan and provide a general marketing job description, in addition to suggestions for entering the digital and social media realm. The plan was well-received, and I truly enjoyed working with them.

When Pam called me again a couple of weeks later, I was happy and surprised that she actually wanted to offer me that marketing position at the farm. My initial reaction was that I couldn’t accept because a move—or even the commute out—to Yerington, Nevada, was 90 miles away from me. But Pam, being the visionary she is, suggested that I try working remotely. Remote working is common practice now, but 12 years ago, it was a leap of faith.

Obviously, I was thrilled to accept, and the arrangement has worked well for us ever since.


LD: A visionary and leader that can spot your underlying talent, if I may say! Given your background in advertising and graphic design, and what we have talked about so far, how do you think these skill sets give you an edge in marketing fresh produce?

TG: Graphic design was the entry point for me as a creative person. Over time, I came to understand that you can use your creative energy in all kinds of ways—not just in creating art. Creative problem-solving can help develop new ideas and solutions. It is the ability to think differently and come up with original ideas and strategies that aren’t conventional. When you think creatively, you can do more with less and bring out the best in other people.

Fresh produce is volatile, dynamic, and perishable. In other industries, most products go through development and are vetted; usually, you would get around two-plus years to allow adjustments. Fresh produce is always evolving, and it is always changing. So, when you’re marketing a product like onions, which is labeled “conventional” by the industry from the start, you need to be creative to stand out in a crowded market.

 


LD: With a market that’s crowded with choice, the need for something different or out of the norm does catch my eye. So, what makes Peri & Sons stand out in the industry, and how does your unique role contribute to that?

TG: Before Peri & Sons, the idea that “food is medicine,” especially fruits and vegetables, as arguably the most important thing you can control when it comes to your health was very appealing to me. And different.

Skyrocketing healthcare costs are a significant burden on our economy, so keeping people out of the health system longer is an economic necessity. Working with Peri & Sons, I can help spread the general message that a diet rich in vegetables—especially onions— and fruits can help reduce, even prevent, many diseases, including diabetes. These diseases are an enormous problem in the U.S.

Produce’s role within the larger topic of climate change is becoming more widely understood as well. As a Certified Sustainable Farm operation by SCS Global, Peri & Sons Farms is working to reduce food waste as part of our larger sustainability mission. We’re systematically monitoring and improving every aspect of the farm operation so that in the end, we’re reducing food waste—anywhere along the line from the fields to the consumer’s kitchen. These efforts align with Peri & Sons Farms’ and our customers’ desire to care for the planet.

“...I immersed myself in Peri & Sons’ farming operation and the produce industry. I was surprised and, frankly, amazed by the size and sophistication of the family’s farm and the scope of the industry in general.”

Teri Gibson, Director of Marketing and Customer Relations, Peri & Sons Farms®


LD: There is a great pride I feel I can hear in your voice as you describe the impact you and Peri & Sons have. Now that you have more than settled into our industry, what are some joys you’ve found from working with fresh produce?

TG: My first Produce Marketing Association—now International Fresh Produce Association—show was mind-blowing. Produce had always “just been there,” and I never thought much about it. Nowadays, I think about produce all the time, especially onions. During this process, my family and friends have also become produce savvy. What a dream job this has turned out to be.

The Peris are wonderful people, and the company they’ve built reflects their spirit, tenacity, intelligence, innovativeness, and appreciation for the talents of others. And, as a marketer, honestly, can you ask for a better product than fresh produce?

Now that I have a better understanding of what it takes to be an American farmer, my heart and soul are filled with appreciation for those who meet the challenges from seed to store every day so that we can all enjoy fresh produce. It’s awe-inspiring.


We all start out on the same journey, bumbling along what we perceive as the right path to take. However, as many can attest, we feel like our hearts are pulled in a different direction. For a select few, like Teri, their paths have led them to their calling. They just need a few tools to get started.

For those still traversing across the many hallways of opportunity, destined to land in fresh produce, serendipity is sure to mark the way. And, as we know, our industry awaits with eager arms for those looking to find their homes.