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Swan Ray joins RSDP as Supply Chain Development Specialist

The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) are pleased to announce the addition of Swan Ray as a supply chain development specialist. Ray will build relationships between researchers, farmers, wholesalers and retailers to move sustainable crops from research lab to dinner plate.

“There is a huge need for supply chain research to make new and diversified crops work economically in Minnesota,” said Kathy Draeger, RSDP Statewide Director. “Swan brings exactly the expertise and interpersonal demeanor that are needed to work with our farmers, researchers and distributors.”

Ray is a part of RSDP’s growing Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems team which supports projects in RSDP’s five Greater Minnesota regions and advances research, community outreach, and in-reach into the University on emerging food systems issues that impact the entire state. Ray joins team members Constance Carlson, Greg Schweser and Ren Olive. Major bodies of work advanced by the team include supply chains, rural grocery work and Deep Winter Greenhouses.

Building food system connections

RSDP’s supply chain efforts connect and support collaborations among small- and medium-sized farmers, businesses, entrepreneurs, processors, and other food and agricultural system partners. The focus is on crops and systems that diversify the landscape, protect natural resources, spur innovation and generate economic opportunity. In her new role, Ray will focus on building relationships for crops such as camelina, extending RSDP’s rural grocery work, and exploring opportunities to expand the Backhaul Project model.  

Winter camelina flowers as early as late April through May, when few other plants on Minnesota’s agricultural landscape are blooming, and attracts beneficial insects. Photo by Jim Eklund.

“Analyzing, managing and developing supply chains is foundational to food systems work, especially if we want to improve the lives and enterprises of the farmers, processors and businesses who are the critical links in getting food from the field to our dinner plates,” said Constance Carlson, RSDP Co-Director of Sustainable Foods and Agricultural Systems. “I’m thrilled and excited to have Swan’s experience, training and expertise joining the RSDP team.” Carlson recently transitioned to a role with the Forever Green Initiative, developing markets for Forever Green Initiative (FGI) crops through a new commercialization accelerator group.

Early on in her role Swan is engaging with food systems work supported by the Northeast RSDP. "With the high interest in developing local food systems here in Northeast Minnesota, Swan’s expertise is already being tapped as we develop specific supply chain models and community action steps," said David Abazs, Northeast RSDP Executive Director.

Path to RSDP

Group of adults standing in front of room making different gestures with their arms.
Swan Ray (second from left) in a group exercise at RSDP's February 2019 statewide meeting.

Ray holds a master’s in Supply Chain Management from the Carlson School of Management and a bachelor’s in Applied Economics from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. She brings substantial experience in the natural foods industry, including positions with National Co+op Grocers and Whole Foods Market. Her vast personal and professional experiences in the field range from managing an edible schoolyard in California to serving as a local foods blogger for the Wedge Community Co-op, organizing an elementary school food drive with donations totalling over 5,000 pounds, and helping her church sustainability committee pursue GreenFaith certification.

“I really like the intersection between applied supply chain work, academia and fulfilling the mission of a land grant institution,” Ray said. “Honestly, for someone working in sustainable food systems, it doesn’t get any better than RSDP if you want to be boots on the ground.”

Ray lives in Wayzata with her husband Gautam Ray, Professor of Information and Decision Sciences at the Carlson School of Management, and their two sons: Jasper (8) and Avi (4).

Caryn Mohr, May 2019

Caryn Mohr is the assistant statewide director of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP).

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