Posts Tagged ‘organic’

The Way of the Urgent Warrior

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Alana Kambury, MBA Candidate at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, @lanabury

Social Venture Network 2014 Spring Conference Plenary: Leadership and the Road Ahead featuring Gary Hirshberg, Founder of Stonyfield in conversation with Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods

Where is the line between big solutions that may come with unforeseen externalities and local endeavors that fall short of actual impact? The SVN crowd may cringe at the idea of Wal Mart, yet can we acknowledge their demand for organic produce can substantially bolster the organic movement? Or is that giving them a hall pass for all the damage that has done to local businesses, labor equality, and consumer culture? Is ‘Go Big or Go Home’ a one-size fits all for change?

Deb Nelson, Executive Director of Social Venture Network began the plenary by asking how can we transform systems. How do we free ourselves from attachment and perfection? How do we let go into growth, even if it’s uncomfortable? To start the weekend on this powerful note, she posed these questions and introduced Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield, who welcomed Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods onto the stage for a discussion of leadership and impact.

Gary, a previous board member returned to SVN with Walter and spoke with familiarity and love. The friendship that the two shared was apparent in their humor.  Nevertheless, they presented stark realities; our agricultural issues are more complex, more drastic, with more uncertain effects than ever. 60%-100% rainfall in Iowa has tested containing herbicides, and the quantity of herbicides are increasing in tow. The road ahead is volatile and serious.

“The enemy is consumer confusion.” To combat this point in the system, Gary has transitioned from Stonyfield to the Just Label It campaign, advocating for the labeling of GE foods. Walter has directed his attention to his suppliers, by demanding that by 2018, all their vendors declare any GMO ingredients on their labeling. Can awareness of the consumer shift the market? Vermont has become the leading edge, so can we hope for a cascade of state-regulations to occur over the next few years? And beyond making labels more transparent, can we reveal the externalities of GMO agri-businesses and mono-cropping?

The discussion felt like a campaign to an issue the crowd already agreed upon, leaving no debate on whether the solution Whole Foods presented had any weak-points or side-effects of its own. Can SVN be that network that encourages companies to act now, and act as a voice of dissent against group think? Walter highlighted the need for immediate action instead of hesitating from systems overload.  It would have been fascinating to include a discussion around how we can collaborate as a community to recover when urgency leads to unforeseen externalities. Stretching ourselves reveals vulnerabilities and risks integrity, and here is where collaboration within in a network, or between an inner city community and a national grocery-chain, can simultaneously insure accountability and protection.

“To create meaningful change, communities and companies have to reimagine what it looks like to work together.” –WR

I am a personal advocate of collaboration through my own connectivity, my graduate work at B Lab for my MBA from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and my work to scale Starvation Alley Farms, Washington’s first organic cranberry farm and the only cold-pressed cranberry juice company in the NW.

How do you stretch yourself? In agreement with Walter and Gary, innovative solutions rely on collaborative efforts between education, policy, agriculture, grocers, communities, and businesses who approach the discussion not with assumptions or individual solutions, but contributive investments. I think we need to go deeper in these discussions, not focusing on how the current system is broken, but on how we can scale with transparency so that we don’t repeat history.

Venturing into a frontier of unconventional business, with qualities that would once deem impossible to quantify, requires frontiersmen and women that have the intellect, courage, and creativity to think outside the box and make the business case for collaborative efforts.

Quote of the night:

“No matter how cynical I get, it’s hard to keep up” – Lily Tomlin

Running A Mature Organic Food Business

Posted on: April 22nd, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Evan Coller, Social Venture Network

Introduced by SVN co-founder Josh Mailman as, “One of the great stories in Business”, the Organically Grown Company is the largest distributer of organics in the Northwest. Josh Hinerfeld, CEO, and, Natalie Reitman-White, Head of Sustainability for Organically Grown Company lead an afternoon discussion at the SVN 2012 Annual Member Gathering on the challenges of scaling up in a niche market.

Stemming from the cooperative living methods that grew out of the social movement crowd of the 1960’s, Organically Grown Company started in 1978 as a nonprofit group supporting local organic farming in Eugene, Oregon.

Over the next two decades Organically Grown Company was a catalyst in creating a legitimate market for organic produce and establishing laws that contributed to the ongoing success of the movement as a whole.  They have also helped to build a strong network of organizations that are working to preserve the authenticity of organic foods.

These “change agents in the food system” are looking beyond organic produce, setting their eyes on a new mission to lead a sustainable business as a whole:

Organically Grown Company continues to thrive as an employee and grower owned company thrives on their shared ownership business model with their growers and employees.

Some key challenges for Organically Grown Company looking forward that were highlighted in the video:

Conventional Transportation: Finding alternatives to conventional truck transportation and fuel systems.

Handling the complexity of running a business on small farmers: Greater capacity is reflected by an opportunity to increase differentiation. Differentiation means more specialization and compartmentalization in facilities. This increases the need for efficiency.

Increasing production while preserving locality: Providing full truck loads at every stop year-round isn’t possible without importing produce from out of state and outside the country.

Moving past a conventional business model: How can Organically Grown Company adapt its business model to further support the needs of growers, staff and community members that provide an invaluable contribution to the advancement of the organic food industry.

Continue to debunk the argument for big agriculture: Organic food sales are 5% of the market. There is a lot of progress to be made to ensure that organic foods hold a larger stake in the future. For more insight on why organic food is vital to our future click here.

Josh and Natalie see themselves as the “paramedics of the food industry”. Incubating the next generation of leaders in environmental justice and organic food production is an important step in the growth of Organically Grown Company’s goal to be a leader in sustainable business.

2012 Annual Member Gathering: Plenary: The Future Is Organic