Volunteer Stories

Melody Meyer: Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise Project

Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise Project
  • Story Snapshot

  • Country: Tunisia
  • VEGA Lead Member: International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
  • Objective: Connect Tunisian producers with U.S. buyers and help the Tunisian government develop agricultural export strategies.

melodyMelody Meyer
Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations, United Natural Foods, Incorporated (UNFI)
Career Summary: Melody brings 30 years of experience as a buyer, distributor, and advocate for organic foods. She started her career in agriculture at the Iowa Natural Food Cooperative. She then built her own company, Source Organic, which linked organic producers to producers across the globe. She now serves as Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods, Incorporated (UNFI). She strongly advocates for organic agriculture through her blog, with Congress, and as a speaker at major international trade missions.
Area(s) of expertise: Agribusiness
Language(s) Spoken: English

ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW
Project: Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise Project
Volunteer Assignment and Impact: In 2012,  Melody signed up to serve as an IESC volunteer. In December, 2013, she left the U.S. to connect Tunisian producer with U.S. buyers, and to help the Tunisian government develop agricultural export strategies. Tunisia produces a variety of high quality foods, many of them organically, in particular dates and olives for olive oil and consumption in whole form. Tunisia’s ancient history in agriculture, combined with sophisticated farmers and farming practices give it an unmatched opportunity to supply the EU and markets farther afield.

The first component of Melody’s assignment was to assist program staff in preparing a buyer’s mission with American organics buyers to Tunisia. In the second component, she traveled with the buyers to Tunisia to meet organic agriculture producers. She also met with Tunisian government ministries to develop trade promotion strategies for the Tunisian organics market. Finally, after returning from Tunisia, Melody provided program staff feedback and advised on follow-up activities to the buyer’s mission.

Melody designed sustainable application process, itinerary, and feedback scorecard that the Tunisian government can replicate for future events. Further, she was instrumental in soliciting applications from buyer that had never sourced from Tunisia and would never have look at Tunisia as an organics source prior to this outreach. As a result, four U.S. buyers traveled with her to Tunisia from December 7-13, 2013. Collective they represented a purchasing volume of $150 million annually. The mission itinerary included field visits; a Business-to-Business event; and touristic visits.