by Jon Olinto, Co-founder, B. Good
My best friend, Anthony, and I started B.Good 13 years ago with the dream that we could help improve communities by making and serving fresh, wholesome food. So, when we learned about an opportunity to restore a farm in the very city where we started, we were curious.
At first take, a couple of massive obstacles made the whole thing seem crazy. First, we were not farmers. Second, the farm was on an island in the Boston Harbor!
So, yes, it was a crazy project, but we weren't crazy to take it on
We saw that one-acre plot of land as something bigger than the food we could grow on it. We saw it as a platform for spreading goodness by growing real food, inspiring community participation and giving back. Best of all, since there was a summer camp on the island for at-risk youth, we saw a way to help impact the lives of kids in our community.
Ultimately, to us, the farm could be a living expression of the company we wanted to be, and the purpose and values we had always tried to instill in our team and promote to our customers.
"A couple of massive obstacles made the whole thing seem crazy. First, we were not farmers. Second, the farm was on an island in the Boston Harbor!"
Thanks to an agreement with the city of Boston, we were provided the chance to use the city's land not only to feed, but also to teach and inspire the kids of Camp Harbor View and give back to the city, while also including our customers and our own B.Good team members in the work. Together, we've accomplished a lot.
Already this year, with the help of more than 220 of our customers who volunteered, we've grown more than 7,000 pounds of produce and fed every camper lots of farm-fresh fruits and veggies. (We've also fed some of our customers, since 25 percent of the harvest goes to our restaurants.)
And we've learned a lot more than just basic farming skills
See, when we started the project, we thought impact meant donating healthy food to people who needed it. But, while that's an important piece and makes us feel good, donating veggies doesn't necessarily create a sustainable impact. Or at least, the kind of impact that's important enough to justify a restaurant company operating a farm on an island.
The more time we spent on the farm, the more we realized that our one-acre plot has a unique power to improve kids' lives through programming based on engaging, agricultural experiences.
So, we're proud of the work we do every day with the kids at "Farm Club." In the hour they spend with us, we teach farming, healthy eating and entrepreneurship.
And we're even more proud of a program that extends our impact off of the farm and back into the city. Every weekend, a group of the camp's "Leaders In Training" sell our veggies at their very own retail farm stand at local farmer's markets.
"We learned that, sometimes, we can't measure ROI with conventional metrics. So, we look beyond our P&L to quantify community impact, customer engagement and employee satisfaction."
These teens are empowered to think and act like business owners. And just like real owners, they profit from their own hard work. Every dollar in sales goes directly into their own college scholarship funds.
Last, we learned that, sometimes, we can't measure ROI with conventional metrics. So, we look beyond our P&L to quantify community impact, customer engagement and employee satisfaction.
For us, value is measured by the pounds of veggies donated and sold at our farm stands, the number of campers we've inspired at "Farm Club," how many happy customers volunteered to work on the farm and the survey data that indicates our farm and programs are providing experiences that will make kids more successful in life.
After 13 years running our business, we believe that high scores on these metrics guarantee a thriving business that is supported by a happy, healthy community. We see that happening every day in our restaurants and on our farm — even if we have to take a boat to get there.
Photo: Amy Reichenbach for B.Good