Street Talk: What do you want to B? Good examples abound

Imagine working for a business that wants to improve your quality of life and increase the power of your impact outside the workplace — and where you are rewarded for reducing your travel impact, volunteering in your local community, eating local food, or reducing your waste.

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Brewery Vivant is doing just that. And it’s also leading the way in organizational transparency by publishing an annual report about its economic, social and environmental impact. In the past year the brewery has: donated 11 percent of its profits to charities; shared all profits with its employees on its annual employee appreciation day; made 57.7 percent of all its purchases from Michigan companies; encouraged volunteerism, with employees volunteering 130 hours in the community.

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Brewery Vivant recently joined the ranks of three other B Corporations in West Michigan and is now sharing and learning from other values-aligned businesses at monthly meetings facilitated by Local First.

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One of the B Corps — Gazelle Sports — was so inspired by Brewery Vivant's employee incentive program that it implemented a similar program.

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“Gazelle Sports is thrilled to be part of a growing group of certified B Corps in West Michigan. Local business peers offer a greater opportunity to share and access innovative best practices,” said Chris Lampen-Crowell, owner.

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“In the past month, we have implemented an employee incentive program that supports individual change toward sustainability that was shared from Brewery Vivant, and an employee training program on diversity and culture from Cascade Engineering.”

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Grand Rapids Community Foundation announced it is partnering with Local First through a $200,000 grant over the next three years to expand social entrepreneurship programming and to foster further connections between B Corp business owners in the Grand Rapids community. Programming will be open to all businesses and will give a forum for entrepreneurs and business leaders to discuss best business practices related to B Corp implementation.

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“B Corporations embody so many Grand Rapids Community Foundation values. By adopting best practices around social equity and the environment within their business structures, they are leading significant change in our community.” said Laurie Craft, GRCF program director “In addition to the social impact of B Corporations, we also look forward to the possibilities that await our community as B Corporations collaborate with the nonprofit sector. There is great potential for expanding local social enterprise.”

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Local First recently launched a shortened assessment tool in conjunction with B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corporation, which allows businesses to assess their practices and compare themselves to other businesses across the nation. This free tool is a modified version of the assessment companies can take to become certified B Corps.

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“We at Local First have always believed that business has the power to positively transform community. This generous grant will allow us to expand our efforts to build connections between businesses to share best practices, and encourage businesses to do good in our community,” said Elissa Hillary, executive director.

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For original news article, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Brewery Vivant.

Visser Farms: Rooted in the Lakeshore

Since 1902

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Visser Farms has been a community staple for over 100 years. Since 1902, to be exact. In the early days, the Vissers and other farmers would go door to door to sell produce and set up markets in urban locations for those that couldn’t have gardens of their own, or those that wanted to supplement their personal gardens. Almost everyone canned and preserved seasonal produce.

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The farmers markets slumped in the 70s and 80s with the rise of big box stores and pre-packaged food, but in recent years, people are more educated about their food sources. They want fresh, local food. And the place to get it? Farmers markets. “Farmers markets have become mainstream places for food, knowledge, and a way of living,” says Megan Visser, wife of fifth-generation Case Visser and an employee who wears many hats in the family business.

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Local partnerships

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Along with supplying conscious shoppers in West Michigan with fresh produce, Visser Farms provides produce for many local restaurants. On the Lakeshore, 84 East, 8th Street Grille, and Butch’s Drydock are just a few businesses that source their food from Visser Farms. In Grand Rapids, Grove, Bistro Bella Vita, Reserve, the Electric Cheetah, and others serve meals made with Visser Farms’ produce. But there’s always room for growth. Visser says “We look forward to partnering with other businesses and restaurants in the future through our network at Local First.”

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Giving back

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Visser Farms donates produce to area food pantries and shelters, and they volunteer equipment and time at their church food distribution center for the community. They also like to sponsor local foodie events such as The Carve, Salsa Showdown, and the Chef Series at the Holland Farmers Market. And – they host farm tours for kids to educate them about agriculture and nutrition. Supporting the community is just natural: “Our family settled here all those years ago and it’s where our roots run deep.”

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Rewarding work

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One of Visser’s favorite events is the Strawberry Extravaganza that Visser Farms hosts every spring. She says, “It’s so much fun to see our customers and friends enjoying our farm and the produce we raise.” Their customers matter: “We really enjoy the stories people share with us about our farm, doing business over the years with our family, recipes, and photos. People feel connected to our family and our product and we love that! We appreciate their loyalty and that they love what we’re doing too. It makes it so worthwhile.”

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Shopping tips

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  • Bring a list with you
  • Get to know your farmer
  • Look for the most colorful, best smelling vegetables
  • Come early!
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Find Visser Farms’ produce

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Grand Haven Farmers Market: Wednesday and Saturday 8am – 1pm
nHolland Farmers Market: Wednesday and Saturday 8am – 3pm
nSouth Haven Farmers Market: Saturday 8am – 2pm
nFulton Street Farmers Market: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 8am – 3pm
nRockford Farmers Market: Saturday 8am – 1pm
nThe Farm: Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm

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Learn more about Visser Farms and other Local Treasures at localtreasure.org.

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Originally published in Urban St. Magazine