Real Pickles founder passes torch to new general manager in Greenfield

Real Pickles founder Dan Rosenberg is stepping down, with former sales manager Kristin Howard taking over his role as general manager of the Greenfield business.

Real Pickles founder Dan Rosenberg is stepping down, with former sales manager Kristin Howard taking over his role as general manager of the Greenfield business. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Real Pickles founder Dan Rosenberg is stepping down, with former sales manager Kristin Howard taking over his role as general manager of the Greenfield business.

Real Pickles founder Dan Rosenberg is stepping down, with former sales manager Kristin Howard taking over his role as general manager of the Greenfield business. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-09-2023 12:27 PM

GREENFIELD — Dan Rosenberg has officially handed off the reins of the small business he started from scratch in 2001.

The founder of Real Pickles recently stepped down as the company’s general manager, ushering in the leadership of sales manager Kristin Howard, who has been tapped to replace him. He plans to support the transition over the next few months and make himself available to help the business in any way possible while also giving his successor the freedom to run the operation her way.

“It’s been 22 years … and we transitioned into a worker co-op in 2013, so this is the 10th anniversary of it being a worker co-op,” Rosenberg said. “It just felt like time for me to leave some space in my working life to think about some other opportunities. I don’t have anything in mind — just time for a change. And I think it’ll be great for Real Pickles just to have an opportunity to have a new leader.”

Howard mentioned she started working at Real Pickles in 2008 after having been with other natural foods businesses, including about 10 years at Equal Exchange.

“I was looking around … and I really felt like I connected with what Real Pickles was doing, the idea that Real Pickles was thinking about where its vegetables were coming from, being thoughtful about its sourcing and then also thinking about where it was selling was really appealing to me,” she said.

Howard and Rosenberg said they picked one of the busiest times of year to transition but that has been a good way for Howard to get acclimated to her new post.

“[We’re] still right in the middle of our harvest season, so it’s a particularly busy time — bringing in fresh vegetables from the local farms and trying to get everything processed on time,” Rosenberg said.

He first envisioned Real Pickles in 1999 after taking a workshop on lactic acid fermentation at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) summer conference at Hampshire College in Amherst. That workshop was made up of practitioners and students engaged in organic farming and homesteading. Real Pickles was born two year later when he and Addie Rose Holland, now his wife, moved to western Massachusetts. The company’s name is derived from its use of lactic acid fermentation, the original pickling method before it became more common to use vinegar. Rosenberg, who lives in Montague, has said lactic acid fermentation creates the sour flavor and acts as a preservative.

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“[It’s] a healthy, traditional food that had sort of mostly disappeared from the food system, with the industrialization of food. So I just got really into the idea of trying to help bring that food back into the food system and at the same time promote local, regional food systems,” he explained. “I started with the commitment to buy our vegetables only within the Northeast and only sell our products in the Northeast, which are commitments we’ve stuck with.”

Real Pickles now sells to at least 600 retailers throughout New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It started at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s incubator kitchen until moving across the street to 311 Wells St. in 2009.

Howard, who lives in Buckland, said the company has 23 employees, 15 of whom are co-op members. A person must work there for a year before becoming a worker-owner. Rosenberg said he and his wife had been thinking about transitioning to a worker-owned cooperative because they believe in workplace democracy and wanted to build the foundation necessary to leave the company in good hands someday.

“We’re so glad we did it. It feels like it’s been a really big success,” he said. “Kristin was a great … in-house resource when we started thinking about a co-op.”

As general manager, Howard said she wants to build upon Real Pickles’ success coming out of the pandemic and the issues it fueled.

“We had supply chain challenges — glass jars,” she said. “And then … more recently, this past summer, challenges with climate issues, with our farmers.”

Rosenberg explained Real Pickles contracted with Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, which lost 45 acres of crops due to severe flooding, for half of Real Pickles’ cucumbers this year.

“We got a bunch,” he said. “Fortunately, they came in early, so we got a bunch [of cucumbers] before the rest of their crop got wiped out.”

More information about Real Pickles is available at realpickles.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.