Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
Each small business listed above had different kinds of social impact depending on the local, regional, and international levels.
At Chicory Farm in rural Washington Parish, Louisiana, we hired from an Afro-American community devastated by poverty and racism that existed along the Louisiana-Mississippi border. We provided employees with training in market gardening, mushroom cultivation, organic principles, dairying, and cheese making. We also encouraged other local, small-scale white farmers through milk purchases and helping to establish a goat dairy operation. The farm also hosted interns from universities in France and the United States, including the agricultural engineering school in Nancy, France, Colorado College, and Evergreen State College in Washington State. These interns interacted with the local employees in a positive way for both. In 1994 & 1995 Chicory Farm received 2 Small Business Innovative Research grants from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for projects in rural community development alternative mushroom cultivation technologies and creating a dairy sheep breed for tropical & sub-tropical climates. The farm was one of the first certified organic vegetable producers in the state.
Chicory Farm also expanded it social reach by encouraging a nascent movement in metro areas towards local food production and community-based agriculture. The farm sold to and helped educate chefs & kitchen staff at various New Orleans restaurants (including Emeril’s and Commander’s Palace), and also acted as an inaugural vendor at the green markets in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
In order to further promote the diversified agricultural products of Chicory Farm—which included 10 types of cultivated mushrooms, organic produce, 8 types of cheese from cow, goat, & sheep milk, as well as wild-harvested foods, flowers, and herbs—we opened the Chicory Farm Cafe, creating a first for food-loving New Orleaneans: a Creole vegetarian restaurant. The Cafe received local acclaim, garnering a 4 Bean rating for food from the Times-Picayune restaurant critic, and attention from as far away as the Los Angeles Times magazine.
The social business model developed in Louisiana was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Offices of Advocacy and Technology with the inaugural Tibbetts Award, a national honour presented by Senator Ted Kennedy.
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Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
“Problems” for us means lack of sustainable solutions as well as lack of general social moral support for sustainable options. Sustainability has been critiqued as a model or concept; however after 20 years we continue to find it an effective and motivating approach. Not social crusaders, we seek to create enterprises that benefit all those involved. A sustainable business will be a profitable business, and we make no excuses about being “business people,” however we operate with ulterior motives to profit, including social betterment, aesthetics, and compassion, as directed to our guests and our employees.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
The methods we apply to business creation and management have been successful. Our business model includes social-mindedness above profit-mindedness, but informed by the peculiarities of each location in which we operate. Our businesses reflect geographic principles. In most cases, our businesses allow our clients/guests to experience a new way of living, eating, or being—even if just for a few days. Whether living in a hand-dug cave in Granada, a mountaintop eco-preserve in Costa Rica, or a wilderness lodge in Nova Scotia.
Along with our planned business model, our enterprises are also held up for publicity, as innovators, and as models for others. Recognition in this regard has included:
--competitive SBIR grants in rural community development from the USDA
--The Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration
--Trout Point Lodge as a 2009 National Geographic/Ashoka Geotourism Challenge Finalist
--inaugural Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award from the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia
--inaugural Green Restaurant Award from the Nova Scotia Restaurant Association
--Trout Point Lodge accepted for membership in Relais & Chateaux, an association of the world’s finest small hotels and restaurants
--Inn at Coyote Mountain chosen as the 2005 Earth Day feature: "participate in the very best that responsible travel has to offer"
--Inn at Coyote Mountain chosen for Alastair Fuad-Luke’s Eco Travel Guide and Sawday’s inaugural Green Places to Stay
The Current global economic crisis presents challenges, particularly in terms of financing for growth and new projects, so we always return to a model of organic growth based on social business principles. All of our enterprises avoid long-term debt, and prefer to raise capital.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
Our current plan is to expand and refine our offerings at Trout Point Lodge, which has successfully faced a tourism crisis in the local region caused by the sudden cessation of ferry and air links with the United States. This will include more guided experiential offerings involving the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. We have had to transform the Lodge into a destination unto itself in order to survive the local downturn and attract visitation from the provincial, national, and international level. At Trout Point we also plan to add tent units as a more experiential and affordable tourism lodging option.
Our next primary innovative project is the creation of a small hotel, restaurant, and cooking school in the historic Albayzin quarter of Granada, Spain (a new venture apart from the vacation rental). This project will involve the recreation of a traditional Arab-era dwelling/garden called the “Carmen,” which is unique to Granada. Carmens were part pleasure gardens and part working farms, tied into a sophisticated irrigation system, yet in the heart of the city. This project will reflect Granada’s unique historic-cultural context as home of the last Arab kingdom on European soil the UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing the Alhambra and Albaicin.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
Yes—in Nova Scotia we have worked with government-- local and provincial --on usage strategies for the wilderness area as well as on local economic development, tourism strategy.
We engage directly with government decision makers—at the Municipality level, at the provincial level, and the federal level—to give input and suggest ideas outside the normal ambit of conventional wisdom about eco-tourism in Nova Scotia, including recently, for example, pushing for innovative solution to a recent transportation crisis.