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Generation Next: From baking to farming, Chelsea Consalo has the recipe for success

Whether she’s baking a pie or running her family’s farm, 25-year-old Chelsea Consalo is constantly whipping up winning recipes. As a former bakery manager turned vice president of a family farming and produce distribution business, there is no doubt that Consalo has a strong passion for the food industry.

“I’ve always had a passion for the food industry, but didn’t know I wanted to go into produce,” Consalo told The Produce News. “Then my dad approached me when I was a senior in college, and he had a need for someone to manage the company’s food-safety division.”Facetune 28-03-2018-13-38-36Chelsea in the field on one of Consalo’s blueberry farms.

Consalo earned the right to manage the food-safety division. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from High Point University in 2014 with a bachelor’s of science in business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship and minor in finance. While at HPU, Consalo was honored with the Ollie Bienemy Junior Endowed Scholarship, which is given to the most outstanding junior in the business school. She was also designated as a High Point University Junior Marshal. The HPU Junior Marshal is an honor given to the top 35 students with the highest cumulative grade point averages.

After weighing the pros and cons of starting her own bakery, which had been Consalo’s initial post-grad game plan, she decided to take her father up on his offer to join the family business. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I started out just strictly focusing on food safety in my first year,” Consalo said. In doing so, she earned HACCP certification from the International HACCP Alliance and is a PCQI (Preventive Controls Qualified Individual), which is certified by the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance. “Then in my second year, I moved over to the farming side of our business and just absolutely fell in love with it.”

Fast forward four years and Consalo has taken on the title of vice president of Vineland, NJ-based Consalo Family Farms — in addition to her roles in food-safety and brand management.

“It’s very rewarding to see product go from being grown to picked to packed,” Consalo said. “That’s what I love about the farming side of our business — we’re able to be a part of something from the ground up.”

Consalo Family Farms grows a full line of produce in New Jersey and also handles product from all over the world, with blueberries, cooking greens, salad items, peppers, eggplants and zucchini being the key items, Consalo noted.

When in season, “we have hundreds of people here hand-picking the vegetables and blueberries, it’s just amazing,” she said. “After our products are harvested, we bring them into our packinghouse, where they are sorted for quality, texture, size and shape, ensuring that they are perfect for customers. It is quite a process.”

Yet it’s one that Consalo welcomes with open arms, especially since it means she gets a chance to bake her famous four-layer blueberry cake — just in time for her parents’ birthday — both June 25.

“Everyone’s favorite thing that I make is the four-layer blueberry cake,” Consalo laughed. “And of course, I make it with our fresh blueberries.”IMG 4577Chelsea and her dog, Gracie Mae.

Consalo Family Farms is truly a family business. Chelsea’s father is president and chief executive officer; her brother, AJ, is vice president of farming operations; her uncle Jeffrey DiMatteo, is general manager of farming operations; her cousin Tom Consalo, is general manager of produce operations; and her mother, Denise Consalo, is treasurer.

“I am the closest with my brother, AJ” Consalo said. “He has been my go-to guy, and my partner in this world of fruit and produce. We get along great and work as a team every day. We work long hours on the farms, and while there’s a lot to do in a short season, we still make it fun.”

That sense of family also extends to non-blood-related coworkers at Consalo Family Farms as well.

“One of our crew leaders at Consalo Family Farms asked me to be the godmother of his two children.” Consalo said. “What other kind of industry are you ever going to see relationships develop like that? It has been a humbling experience that I cherish every day.”

A huge reason Consalo has been able to foster such good relationships with her coworkers is due to her leadership style.

“As a woman in this industry, especially with farming, I’ve put myself in a position to be very involved,” she said. “I’ve told my uncle to put me out there on a tractor and in the fields. In season, you will seldom find me at my desk. I am out and about on the farm and I’ve truly made it my goal to align myself with our staff and our workers. I think that makes a huge difference.”

When talking about working at Consalo Family Farms, Consalo often refers to one of her favorite quotes: “Your dream job does not exist, you must create it.” “I actually feel like my dad has created it for me, she said. “I watched him work so hard, developing relationships and building our company for years and years, but I did not truly realize the sense of pride and joy that it all could bring until the past few. The opportunities that I have been given are endless, and I feel so grateful to be able help build a future for this company.”

As for that future, Consalo plans to continue following her passion and lead up the farming side of the family business, and who knows? Maybe one day Consalo Family Farms will also incorporate it’s own fresh bakery.