100 Years of Red Tomato (The 25th Anniversary Program Summary)

100 Years of Red Tomato (The 25th Anniversary Program Summary)


We at Red Tomato are honored to celebrate 25 years of work with the Good Food movement with the many people we have worked alongside every step of the way.

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to those who were able to join us in person to celebrate with us on November 5th in Providence Rhode Island.

The team put together a brief program to highlight who we are, the challenges we have faced and the triumphs we have borne home. We considered a more elaborate program featuring many speakers. Our instincts said: “Nope! Instead, honor those who are here, in the room.” So, rather than long speeches, we came together to enjoy good food (Matilda’s empanadas were delicious and heart shaped ????) and socializing. And quite a bit of dancing! 

As one might expect from an anniversary party- introspection was on the agenda.

In order to properly celebrate all 25 years of Red Tomato(in 25 minutes, no less!), our Founder and Executive Director put their heads together to create a tribute to those whose creativity and labor have shaped what our organization is today.

Executive Director Angel Mendez shared his formula for what makes Red Tomato tick, it goes something like this: “Red Tomato staff (and their supportive families) + farmers + scientists + customers (and their customers, the eaters) + our board of trustees + funders + our collaborating partners + a little luck = success.” 

We celebrated the past of Red Tomato, our leadership transition and our future. To do 25 years of Red Tomato justice, we needed to tell the story of 100 years of Red Tomato… Or rather, to tell the story of five people whose collective experience adds up to 100 years. 

Diane Rast has designed virtually everything you’ve ever seen in the history of the Red Tomato brand all the way back to the original logo 25 years ago. Thank you Diane for creating a look and so many works of art for us all to be proud of!

John Lyman helped build successful relationships with local farmers and has served as farmer representative on our board of trustees for 15 years. It is hard to put into words the gratitude we feel toward John Lyman for his contributions to Red Tomato and the Eco program.

Sue Futrell, is extraordinarily passionate about good apples. She was a chief architect of both the Red Tomato and EcoCertified brands. She co-led the EcoCertified program and co-authored the Eco plan, leading us to include more direct-market orchards and orchards in new regions.

Succession planning is uncomfortable, no one likes to talk about it. The reality is that many leaders are getting ready to pass the heavy mantle of leadership on to the next generation. We are seeing this in the field and for the last several years here at Red Tomato. We work in tandem with them as they make room for new energy, honoring their contributions, while asserting our version of leadership. Having worked together for some 20 years, Angel Mendez and Michael Rozyne have had plenty of opportunities to engage in hard conversations, overcome barriers and even managed to have a little fun along the way. 

So the story turns to Angel and Michael. Thousands of nonprofits every year face the daunting task of replacing their long-serving founders. And it comes with a warning that says: “Make a clean break. Founders and successors are managerial oil and water. They just don’t mix.”

But they did find a way. Through clear, intentional communication Michael and Angel navigated around the pitfalls that can befall an organization whose founder remains deeply involved as a new Executive Director takes the reins.

Michael Rozyne, Founder, Red Tomato. Michael has been a marketer of small farm products and trailblazer in the Good Food Movement for more than three decades. Michael was a co-founder of the fair trade coffee company Equal Exchange. He started Red Tomato in 1996 and remains an organizational creative force. “I’m amazed that this work feels as interesting and as challenging today as it did 25 years ago.“

Angel Mendez, Executive Director, Red Tomato “I had a pretty good sense of what being ED would mean for me–I’d been here almost 20 years. Laura Edwards-Orr, our courageous first non-founder ED, laid a path for me to build on. But the truth is, nobody knows how BIG this job is until you’re doing it.”

Mendez had been director of finance and operations, but never fundraising or marketing, and needed seasoned leadership help to manage these areas. “What I underestimated was how hard it would be to do this job with the founder here every day.” And yet, this transition continues to move forward, some days more smoothly than others, and always with grace.

Mendez is especially proud of the Bypass program;

“Here, we put our logistics know-how to work getting local farm-fresh foods directly into marginalized communities like the one I grew up in in Boston. We started Bypass in Bridgeport and Hartford, Connecticut. And when the time is right, we will grow it beyond there. This part of the job means the world to me.”

It is this passion to do good in the Good Food Movement -for our farmers and all of our communities- that defines the Red Tomato team, it runs through each member from the Founder to the Executive Director to the Red Tomato Team: Susannah Hinman, Kelsey Gosch, Marsha Minor, Elizabeth Garofalo, Sue Futrell, Diane Rast and Alessandra Cancalosi. It takes every one of us to make the wheels turn.