Justin Reyes

Sales and Marketing Director
Gourmet Mushrooms: Sebastopol, CA

Years in Produce:

Age: 37

Personal Information:

Hobbies: Hiking; biking; foraging; camping; his rescue pup, Ollie; Board Member ­­­- Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA)

Motto in life: Live with Intention

Work History:

Reyes joined Gourmet Mushrooms in 2012 after nearly 10 years in the wine industry. He started as a lead in the sales team and played a strong role in developing improvements to various systems and activities on and around the farm. In 2014, he played a pivotal role in Gourmet Mushrooms’ expansion from its original locations in Sebastopol, CA, to an additional facility in Scottville, MI. In 2016, he was promoted to the head of the sales and marketing office. Reyes has helped stimulate rapid sales growth within the mushroom category, developed a social media presence, launched a new website in 2018, and built increased local awareness of the company, based in Sonoma County Wine Country. He graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in International Business & Economics. Reyes’ time in the wine industry included a stint as a buyer for Whole Foods.

Questions & Answers:

Q: How did you begin working in produce?

I began with Gourmet Mushrooms, but I had been growing some produce in a home garden for years. After reading Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemmas, I was intrigued by the idea of foraging mushrooms in the wild, which led me to Gourmet Mushrooms. I read a number of mushroom books. I was lucky enough to work with Meg Hill, the previous sales director for a few years; Meg was an incredible resource.

Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?

Both and neither. I’m right on the threshold line between the two. I grew up before computers and cell phones were so prevalent. I have many memories of the pre-digital age. Sometimes, it seems like I have a foot in each world.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?

My most challenging aspect of the produce business early on was the limited role of technology; from inventory and traceability systems, to transportation, to order and customer/vendor communications.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

Many distributors have outdated websites, some with no website at all. Other companies have very little social media presence in a time when consumers (especially Millennials) want more information about their food and where it comes from.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?

I’m reminded of a recent interview with John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, I came across. He talked about the importance of produce to wellness. “[Fresh] produce is by far the healthiest food in the world. The health crisis in the United States basically comes down to not eating enough fresh produce. The industry needs to wrap itself in the science of what makes produce so healthy.” I could not agree more. We need to do a better job of pushing for increased awareness. 

Q: What is the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?

The continued rise of home delivery services, as exemplified by the Amazon/Whole Foods merger, will challenge retailers and suppliers. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. It will be increasingly important that growers and suppliers do a better job of connecting with consumers and telling their stories in a way that differentiates them from other producers. 

Q: How has the industry changed in your tenure?

It’s been interesting to see some of the changing of the guard in the industry, from an older generation that is still deeply involved to the next generation that is more  connected in the digital realm.