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Meet Patrick Mateer of Seal the Seasons

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patrick Mateer.

Patrick, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was growing up, it was instilled in me that we’re all better off when we support one another as a community. My parents were proactive neighbors – they made casserole for sick friends, kenneled the dog from down the street, and were always involved in community gatherings and events.

When I started college, I also started a job at the farmers market to help cover tuition. I discovered the same values that my parents had taught me were present in the local food community. Customers came to the same farm stands each week to hear about the crop, the livestock, the farm’s kids, and pay a fair price for the most delicious food grown with nothing but honest work.

Farmers still faced tough challenges. Mid-week rain or hail could damage crops prior to the market. Labor was difficult to find during harvest. The farmers market was once a week – what happens to the berries or veggies that get ripe on a Monday? Farmers needed another way to get their product to consumers.

I founded Seal the Seasons to support local family farmers and provide the best tasting produce to all Americans. By freezing locally grown food, we are able to support local growers and help keep their farms in business. At the same time, our local-frozen model gives eaters access to locally grown food year-round.

We’ve grown the business from serving seven local grocery co-op stores in 2015 to over 3,200 retailers today. We got here through hard work, a little bit of luck, and great advice from mentors and community members. Building a company is a huge challenge but getting feedback from farmers and local food lovers across the country makes it all worth it!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We’ve faced a lot of challenges building brand new local supply chains and working directly with family farmers. We only have one chance to source produce each year, so we have to make sure we harvest and freeze a whole year’s worth of product! Crop failures can occur due to root rot, dry weather, or pests. We have to have secondary sourcing partners in case things go south.

We also face challenges in the grocery industry. Some stores ask for huge fees to get shelf space. As a small company, we don’t have a lot of money lying around to help build distribution. Other grocers only change their product assortment once a year. With only one harvest each year to source local crops, it can be hard to line up supply with demand.

Finally, we’ve faced a lot of challenges internally to grow our team. Some team members are great to get a business off the ground, but not to manage on-going operations. We’ve had to have some tough conversations and grow as leaders to move our team in the right direction!

Please tell us about Seal the Seasons.
I believe that we’re strongest when we work as a community to support one another. Seal the Seasons’ mission is to support family farms by bringing locally grown produce to every aisle of the grocery store. Simply put, we’re a locally grown produce company.

We believe local products have the best flavor and highest nutrients. We’re different because all of our products are locally grown, locally frozen and locally sold. In the Northeast, we offer products like New York Cherries, New Jersey Blueberries and Pennsylvania Peaches. In the Midwest, we sell Michigan Blueberries, Michigan/Ohio Berry Blend and Wisconsin Cranberries. In the Pacific Southwest, we offer California grown fruit of many varieties. We don’t sell locally grown outside its region of the country!

What were you like growing up?
I’ve always asked “why”. Growing up I was a very inquisitive child and wanted to know how things worked, why they worked that way, and if there was a better way. I pestered adults to know what was going on and understand their reasoning behind it. I was always frustrated when an adult couldn’t provide reasoning behind their actions that affected me. I was also a creative problem solver, constantly putting my legos together in new ways, building complex forts in the woods, and doing extracurricular activities like Odyssey of the Mind or Improv Club!

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