Oct 10, 2019New executive director for Red Tomato is Angel Mendez
Longtime food systems innovator Angel Mendez is the new executive director for Red Tomato, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that works with fruit and vegetable growers across the Northeast. Mendez, the first person of color to lead the organization, and only the third executive director in the organization’s 21 year history, had served as interim director since April. He will continue to lead the organization as it strengthens and develops new strategies for serving the region’s farmers.
Mendez, a Boston-area native, has been with Red Tomato for 18 years, including most recently as Director of Operations, and brings a strong background in logistics, management, finance and local food supply chains.
Dawn King, Chair of Red Tomato’s board, says the decision to appoint Mendez was one of the easiest the board has faced. “We can’t think of a better person to step into this role at this key time in Red Tomato’s growth. We are lucky to have him.”
Red Tomato made a commitment to developing the next generation of leadership beginning 5 years ago, when Laura Edwards-Orr became Executive Director and Mendez was appointed Director of Operations, overseeing logistics, finance, IT, and office management. When Edwards-Orr made the decision to leave earlier this year, Mendez knew he was ready to step into the lead role.
“It’s a challenging but exciting time for Red Tomato,” he reflects. “We’ve had ups and downs in our sales over the last several years and we’re having to work harder than ever to find a place in the market for our region’s farmers. But we have weathered these kinds of challenges for 22 years, and I’m ready to lead the Red Tomato team to overcome these challenges and continue to position Red Tomato for longevity as we have an infinite road ahead of us. “ Mendez credits others as well, adding, “We have an incredibly passionate staff, board and grower network, and a growing community of support. I can’t imagine a better place to work or opportunity to help make a lasting difference in our regional food system.”
Data on standards of success for traditionally marginalized populations show a need for more leaders like Mendez. A 2017 study conducted by the Building Movement found only 25% of non-profit of Executive Directors are people of color, and a mere 6% are Latino or Hispanic. Over two-thirds of that 25% lead “identity-based” organizations- those dedicated to issues for people of color—making Mendez and Red Tomato a rarity in the nonprofit food world.
Mendez grew up in Jamaica Plain, Boston, in a family with few resources but a mother who believed strongly in education and hard work. He continued his education while working fulltime at RT, earning an Associates degree from Roxbury Community College and a B.S. in Finance and Accounting from Northeastern University.
“I’ve worked side by side with Angel for two decades,” notes Red Tomato founder and Evangelist, Michael Rozyne, “We opened up the warehouse together at 4:00 a.m. back when we had a warehouse. We’ve climbed into watermelon bins together to find that putrid leaker of a melon. We were the last two working late so many Fridays when the volume was heavy and we had to set up the busy weekend logistics. We’ve served on the management team together the past six years.” Noting that their entire 6-person team is thrilled to have Mendez taking the helm, Rozyne says, “Angel knows every inch of this business and organization. We haven’t yet handed him something he couldn’t do. I can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Mendez has a strong commitment to give back to his community. For the past two years he has served as a Wallace Center/Winrock mentor for three classes of food system colleagues from around the country, and is currently Treasurer on the board of the Urban Farming Institute based in Mattapan, MA. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Oke USA/Equal Exchange banana company. Mendez is a busy family man, with 4 children and his own ‘urban farm’ full of chickens and vegetables. He and his partner Lisa live in North Attleboro, MA.
Red Tomato is on a mission to change the food system for the better. They work with trusted farmers, distributors and grocers to bring the freshest locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables to people where they shop and eat everyday. Red Tomato connects farmers and eaters through righteous produce, helping to build a more sustainable food system and a better future. www.redtomato.org