John Farmer

Disrupting the Food Norms

Everyday there are fires that have to be put out, but these are the tasks John Farmer tackles as Chief of Staff at Clara Foods. With a strong interest and passion in biosecurity and food security, John has been involved with a variety of careers that have moved him further and further into the unique world of sustainable and alternative agriculture. Using strains of yeast to reproduce animal proteins of interest and selling them worldwide to a variety of companies, it’s no surprise that this may be one of the more unique and science-based careers in agriculture.

Attraction of Alternative Proteins

“I think if we were chatting in twenty years, I’d still be sitting at the intersection for private investor companies and ag companies that are trying to disrupt the status quo,” John says with a laugh.

With an interest in how technology can be brought into the equation to help find alternative methods to making the things that are known and loved by consumers, is creating this industry and even more potential opportunities to this industry.

Background Disrupting the Food Norms

Fatherly Inspiration

John’s father didn’t go to college but always had an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in cars. This led to him creating a salvage business, which he’s run for the past thirty years. Inspired by his father, John took away the idea of a circular economy; salvaging and recycling to help lessen the imprint on this world. He also learned about the “scrappy” mentality that was needed to be an entrepreneur in competitive environments.

Education

Combining these two traits, John made sure to take any class he could about water and food security and business. During his senior year at the University of North Carolina, he garnered an internship with Wells Fargo Securities in their food beverage and agriculture banking group. After college, he worked full time in their Charlotte office for a year and a half.

Chief of Staff

Chief of Staff can mean a lot of different things to different companies. Clara Foods is about 80% scientists with a team size of 35; they are a very technical team. John’s duties include anything that falls outside of deep science and within corporate finance and market strategy.

Being a utility player to the team with process development for the Chief Executive Officer, John is constantly busy with a variety of tasks.

“I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in being a founder, CEO or entrepreneur someday,” John advises.

Start-Up Life

“Working with a CEO is an amazing opportunity – the reason I took the position outside of the underlying mission [of the company],” says John. “You get to sit on the front lines and learn what it’s like to problem solve on the fly and set short-term and long-term goals for the company.”

Working for a start-up is a lot like being an entrepreneur – there are uncharted waters and lots of research to be done to ensure success.

Advice

 

  • Be An Industry Specialist.
    Rather than spend your time specializing in one duty through a variety of industries, become a specialist on an industry. Know the ins and outs, learn what works and doesn’t, and connect within the industry.
  • “Focus on Learnings Not Earnings.”
    Learn as much as you can – always! Especially when you are first starting out with a career.
  • Surround Yourself With Smart People.
    Align yourself with people that are smarter than you and you will always be encouraged to grow.
  • Do Not Be Afraid To Ask For Help.
    John attributes a lot of his network growth and connections to his courage in reaching out to industry professionals on LinkedIn. He highly encourages anyone else to do the same!

 

Follow John Farmer on LinkedIn or send him an email at John@ClaraFoods.com.

Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series!

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Katie Schrock
katie.schrock@thatwesternlife.com
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