Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips is the Founder and Executive Director of Stark Fresh, a multi-faceted non-profit company focused on increasing people’s consumption of fresh, locally sourced, healthy, and affordable foods through equal food access and educational opportunities for everyone.

  1. In 2 sentences, explain your work with the HWHF?  Leading efforts throughout the community on how to combat food waste and build better soil. Empowering people to grow nutrient-dense, nutritious foods by providing education and greater food accessibility.
  2. Describe what your organization does best. Good question. I would have to say that we do a great job at empowering others. Our community is full of great programs, people and organizations. Everything that we do through our various programs and initiatives; the educational support we help coordinate, breaking down food accessibility boundaries, gardening/eating/farming coordination, is all done to empower others to reach their full potential and to maximize community resources. To us, nothing that we do is really that innovative, It’s just that the community needs a leader that isn’t afraid to be “first” in something and create the way for others to be emboldened enough to follow behind and create their own pathway. Empowerment of people is what will eradicate poverty and health restore our health and our planet.
  3. What’s the best part of your day? This is a tough one…there are so many great parts! I would have to say that seeing the smiles on the faces of people who’s lives we’ve touched or transformed in some manner still remains as one of the best parts of what I do.
  4. What are you currently working on? Top Secret J In all seriousness, though. The problem of tackling poverty and food insecurity ends up taking you places you wouldn’t expect. Right now we are focused on the creation of Stark County’s largest urban farming project with a site that will emphasize how community gardens, individuals, etc can utilize permaculture and specifically, water conservation techniques to create a year-round growing environment for fresh, nutrient-dense produce. This site will showcase removing tons of food scraps from the commercial waste stream and turn it into rich, fertle growing medium. This educational working farm space will be quite unique.
  5. When did you know you wanted to be a(n) _____________? Great question! What am I exactly? A Leader? Father? Educator? Convener? All of that? I like to think that I am a sum of amm of those titles, yet none of those titles define me. At one point I ran a multi-million dollar business. The money was excellent, but I was distant from my family and worked around the clock. It wasn’t until I left that life behind in pursuit of something more meaningful that I discovered the passion for what I am doing now.
  6. What piece of advice would you give someone looking to break into this field? Look to do something you can be passionate about. It makes the hard times seem not so bad and the good times are the greatest thing ever. At times it can seem as if it is you against the world, DON’T GIVE UP.
  7. What do you read for fun? My reading preferences in the last several years have been non-fiction books and articles with a permaculture or social equity theme to them. Life mirrors work really.   I adore what I do for work and my reading preferences reflect that love.
  8. Are you a Windows or Apple person? Windows
  9. What’s one thing you can’t work without? Desktop computer
  10. Who do you admire and why? Not any one person, There are aspects and traits that people have that I admire.
  11. What’s the most interesting place you have ever been (for work)? Mohonk Mountain House is one of my favorites.
  12. What’s the most interesting thing you have ever done? Be a true father, not just a dad. It is also my favorite thing.
  13. What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for your work? Cabo?
  14. What accomplishment are you most proud of? Hard to nail one down. I think seeing people that were once newbies in a particular field, now doing things like leading or teaching others on the very thing that they learned just a few years ago creates for me quite a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  15. What do you hope to accomplish in the future? To go where the winds prevail. That is, to be able to offer my help in whatever manner the community needs me to. My accomplishments will hopefully be community-based and carry more than just my name on them.
  16. What’s your favorite activity outside of work? I am lucky enough to have a profession that I am in love with, so “working” tends to blend over to personal life quite frequently. Simply spending time with the ones I love is one of the best feelings in the world to me. That being said, I do love board games. (correction: I do love beating others when playing board games)
  17. If you were on an island and could only bring three things – what would they be? If we assume the island is desserted and there is no chance of ever getting off the island it would be: Loved ones. Knife. Never-ending supply of fresh water. If it’s just an island that I am vacationing on: Loved ones. Laptop computer with a battery that never dies. Unlimited internet access.
  18. How do you define success and how do you measure it? Success is one of those things that is tough to define. I think Zig Ziglar had the right idea when he said that “Success cannot be defined in one sentence, but instead it is comprised of many things”. If that’s the case, then there are a series of little measurements, little “victories” that take place all the time. If you give your heart, soul, and body to a project and the outcome of that project makes you feel content and complete, that is a success. If you can do something to put a smile on someone’s face that is having a bad day, that is a success. Seeing someone who was a formally a shut-in transform into a garden leader that others now rely on for guidance, that is a success. I think I follow Robert Collier’s defintion of success pretty well in my daily life. “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” By giving my all, and seeking positivity every day in all that I put out to the world, I feel that successful things happen as a direct result of that.
  19. Who were the most important people to help you create success in your life and what did they do for/with you? There are a few people that know how important they are in my life. People I am proud to call true friends and mentors. They know who they are.
  20. If you could do something as a career other than what you are doing now (no limits) what would it be? Honestly, I don’t really know. I truly love what I do and would probably do something like this even if I had an unlimited funding stream and unlimited amounts of time to do things in.
  21. What are your top 4 favorite movies of all time? The Sting, The Mission, Tombstone and The Music Man
  22. What are you doing now that will make a positive difference for future generations? Hopefuly, much! In our area, I like to think that the groundwork we are laying can be used by future generations to improve and build upon what we’ve done.
  23. What question did we not ask but should ask the next person? If you could go back and talk to your 20 year old self, what would you tell them?