He had every intention of retiring from medicine and becoming a gentleman farmer. Eight kids to see through college but a recent bequest had left him acreage in South Florida right on the Intercoastal Highway. His dream, an aquaculture farm. What to do/ Shrimp or Tilapia?
Such was my research brief for a project back in the early 90’s. Amazing what a medical librarian will be asked to do when she is considered one of the best value adds for recruiting physicians to a tier two regional hospital. But I loved it! What did I find? That the biggest concerns were soil erosion and water quality.
Fast forward to today. We all know now that even a small business like a farm needs to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors. Most small businesses are family concerns, always interacting and relying on good neighbors. So I was struck by the dichotomy of two farms in opposite directions from my home. West of Cleveland is one of the nation’s leading sustainable family-owned farms, supplying produce to some of the country’s top chefs.
East of Cleveland is another family-owned farm. This farm is a new venture rather than a second or third generation enterprise. They have a great idea, aqua-farming shrimp for the local restaurants and hospitality industry. They have run into a big problem. The local city wants to shut them down for noncompliance with zoning permits.
Seems that the new farm is hesitant to address those two big issues I identified in my research nearly twenty years ago. Add to that the lack of a fence to keep wanderers out of the ponds and you have a recipe for disaster.
Now this region applauds innovation and new business development. But is it worth the risks to the citizens and the environment to allow this business to continue? I suggest that the bad publicity would be a huge negative. One also wonders what the health of the shrimp will be in a few seasons if the ponds are contaminated with run off.
Well, on the positive side, that sustainable farm is reaping huge rewards. They are well on their way to becoming celebrities for the hospitality industry. They have primo produce, a hugely entertaining spokesman who is on the circuit for culinary events in the US and really give back to the community. Their non-profit culinary program takes nutritional education to the elementary schools, they provide produce to the local food banks and they are always ready to assist in charity functions.
The really important consideration is that their approach to sustaining the environment and improving the wellbeing of their customers through healthy products and education is the core of their business. Corporate social responsibility is a way of life, not a marketing project.
Check out the featured video to see an interview with the CEO of another family owned business who shares a similar philosophy and corporate mission.
Then let me know where you weigh in. I believe that all businesses need to consider CSR as part of their mission while they are small enough to incorporate it from the start.
Comment below on whether you agree or not.