Darcy Landis has the enviable job title of ‘forager’ for Whole Foods, which just opened its new store in northwest Tucson. Here, Darcy talks food nerds, inappropriate giggling, and burning the candle at both ends. By Joan Calcagno. Cover photo courtesy of Whole Foods.
Early bird or night owl? “I’m more a – there’s a scientific name for it – but I’m a dusk and dawn person. I like to get up way too early before the sun is up and have quiet time by myself and then get the day going or do the total opposite – stay up late. I have small children so that makes you an ‘all-day, all-night’ person. So whenever I have the time to reflect – that’s that pre-dawn time. Whether I get up really early or stay up really late, I love that time. The desert smells good, it’s kind of cool still.”
Favorite accessory? “It’s going to have to be my water bottle. I’m water bottle obsessed. I currently have a Liberty water bottle, which is very nice because it is made from a steel works in the United States. It’s my go-to bottle. It has enamel inside, so there’s no ‘off-taste’. But I’d really like to get a Kleen Kanteen. There’s also the Lifefactory which is an all-glass bottle. Or a Hydro Flask…”
Favorite faux pas? “Laughing inappropriately. If you choose your favorite by what you do the most, I’m an inappropriate laugher. I’ve been known to laugh at a funeral. Maybe it’s an icebreaker, I don’t know. I’m a giggler. I’m definitely the person that disrupted high school by giggling.”
Who is your dream customer? “I started in the stores as a bagger in 1998. I would love to bag up some groceries for Dolly Parton. But my favorite customer is two different ones. One is a person who is doing everything new. They haven’t really thought about what they eat before and now they’re thinking about what they eat and everything is new and exciting. Like they ask ‘What’s this?’ and it’s hummus. The other one is the super food-nerd who wants to know all the details, like what temperature the oven is to get the crust on this bread. I love that because I know that stuff and where’s the fun in knowing if no one ever asks!”
If I weren’t a Whole Foods forager I would… “I feel like I wouldn’t do anything else. This job is made for me. It’s kind of perfect. But if I had gone another way, I think I might have gone into nursing because it is another way to care for people.”
If I could change one thing I would… “Oh. Not war and famine? Like something more fun? Because famine would be a good thing to change. I guess I’d like everyone to be curious. A lot of things would be more fun and a lot of bad things would go away if everyone was just a little more curious.”
Tell us a little more about foraging. “There is one characteristic that a forager has to have: to be easily excited. You have to see the potential in the thing and be so excited about it the whole way through the process so that you can midwife it to the market and get it to where it needs to be.
“I kind of get excited about everything. You could name a product that we carry and I can tell you about when it was in the approval process and how excited I was about it. Some of the stuff I’ve been really excited to bring to the market in the past was local grains and flours, local beans, because there was so much history in Arizona with those agricultural crops and being able to reintroduce them to the public.
“Right now we’re working with the first meadery in Arizona. It’s a product that customers don’t have a lot of exposure to. But the market is kind of already there; people love to try new beers and wines and mead is kind of an in-between. It’s basically a wine, but not a grape wine, and people associate it with beer and ale – like the precursor to beer.”
* The newly refurbished and expanded Whole Foods store at Ina and Oracle opened August 27th. Send Darcy ideas for new products at email@example.com.