Replicable lessons in how tourism, food, & agriculture can sustain rural communities

Replicable lessons in how tourism, food, & agriculture can sustain rural communities

Tipo de organización: 
Lucrativa
Presupuesto: 
< $1,000
Resumen del Proyecto
Presentación del Proyecto!

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A partnership of 3 social entrepreneurs, our enterprise turns 20 years-old next month. In July, 1990, we bought a farm in rural Louisiana, which became a model of sustainable agriculture. In ensuing years, we established a respected Creole vegetarian restaurant in N.Orleans, a wilderness lodge & cooking school in Nv Scotia, an eco-sensitive inn in Costa Rica, and a cave home for travelers in Spain

Sobre ti
Organización:
Abel, Perret, & Leary & Trout Point Lodge
Sección 1: Sobre ti
Nombre

Charles

Apellido

Leary

País
Sección 2: Sobre tu organización
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Nombre de la organización

Abel, Perret, & Leary & Trout Point Lodge

Teléfono de la organización

+1 902-482-8360

Dirección de la organización

Calle San Luis 12, Granada

País de la organización
How long has this organization been operating?

Más de 5 años

tu idea
Country your work focuses on
Innovación
What makes your innovation unique?

The notable aspect of what we have done is to apply heart-felt principles of sustainability and earth-friendliness to various, related small businesses in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Central America. We innovated by remaining small, manageable, and in tune with the economic & social realities of each locality in which we chose to operate. Each enterprise also supported, through time, the other through idea innovation and cooperative marketing.
To briefly summarize, we founded a number of small businesses, some of which are now closed or sold to others, that expressed a distinct sense of place. These included:
--a diversified, small-scale agricultural enterprise in Washington Parish, Louisiana that grew certified organic produce, produced European-style cheeses, cultivated edible mushrooms, and collected wild foods: Chicory Farm;
--a Creole vegetarian restaurant in New Orleans: The Chicory Farm Cafe;
--a 5 Green Key rated wilderness lodge & cooking school in Nova Scotia: Trout Point Lodge;
--a community-centred country inn in the Costa Rican mountains: Inn at Coyote Mountain;
--an eco-friendly vacation rental in Granada, Spain: Rauda House & the Granada Cooking School.
We have always been in business--for a profit--but with an eye towards the different levels or hierarchies of community surrounding each enterprise, some of which were operated simultaneously with others. The locations in which we chose to operate have often been isolated and economically marginal, and so innovation became a necessity.
The primary social business principle we employ is to identify the immediate resources & distinct characteristics of local society and the hiring of local employees within their social context: betterment of the most-local of communities through hiring, training, support, and friendship.
The 2nd principle is to look for integrated, sustainable solutions--whether in agriculture, construction, or hospitality management. This has meant adhering to a concept of graphically

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impacto
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.

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

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.

Sostenibilidad
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operando más de 5 años

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

We always remain open to partnership with government, NGOs, as well as other businesses that combine social consciousness with profit. For example, we recently worked with Nature Air of Costa Rica on a concept for brining experiential air service to the local airport in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, once again linking the local community with Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park.
About the non monetary partnerships with businesses the contrast between Nova Scotia and Costa Rica in this regards is profound. In Costa Rica, partnership and cooperation among businesses is common and free-flowing, based on a major tourism economy and business operators who realize the benefits of cooperation. There is also a common awareness of the importance of nature and the environment. In Nova Scotia, the tourism field is more closed, with little cooperation—everyone is viewed as a competitor and the geo-physical aspects of a locale are often underappreciated. This has begun to change for us somewhat recently, and we now cooperate regularly with some local small businesses, including a tour operator, an oyster farmer, and a seafood processor not just in terms of supply, but also in terms of providing unique tourism experiences for our guests.
In Spain, we cooperate with a local language, flamenco, and culture school named Carmen de las Cuevas.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We are a for-profit enterprise. Start-up funds came from a combination of our own capital, seeking out investors who receive accommodation benefits as well as equity, and in some cases (Nova Scotia) the sale of land with restrictive covenants.
For the Spain hotel/restaurant project, we are seeking investors now, and will use a similar model.

La historia
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

A desire—after each of us had already successfully entered other careers in academia and law—to reconnect with the earth and food production in a socially- and environmentally-meaningful way. This was in 1990.
My partners and I had departed from traditional career paths as lawyers and professors to become organic farmers, cheesemakers, sustainable agriculture investigators, and finally restaurateurs in Louisiana during the 1990s. In 1996, two of us visited Nova Scotia, following the Acadian-Cajun French cultural connection. As farmers, we had always emphasized small-scale, integrated, sustainable solutions to quality food production. The New Orleans restaurant we opened brought us in greater contact with the public, where we found a fascination with learning about food & ingredients. In the Yarmouth area of Nova Scotia, we found a land rich with natural beauty, diverse cultures, a wealth of local food possibilities, and an intriguing history. We decided to follow our instincts to create a tourism destination, even though tourism and accommodations was not a field we had previously experienced.

As we investigated the region's history, we discovered that a well-developed tradition of nature camps, lodges, and guides had existed starting in the 19th century (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tent_Dwellers), which had all but petered out by the 1950s, when the wave of roadside motels and seaside cottages took over. Checking in to accommodations in Yarmouth was like stepping into a time machine, taking you back to 1970. Our sojourns at the "El Rancho Motel" in 1996 & 97 were emblematic of this state of affairs.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

One of a trio of entrepreneurial partners, I grew up in Oregon, California, and Colorado before attending college and graduate school in Ohio and Upstate New York. In 1990, along with Vaughn Perret & Daniel Abel, I started Chicory Farm in Mount Hermon, Louisiana. The farm practiced diversified agriculture, including dairying, cheesemaking, mushroom cultivation, wild foods harvesting, and certified organic vegetable production. The farm won research grants in sustainable agriculture from the U.S.D.A. and in 1996 won the 1st annual Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Administration in a ceremony presided over by Senator Ted Kennedy. In 1998, Vaughn Perret and I moved to Nova Scotia, where we founded a seaside cheese dairy and in 2000 opened Trout Point Lodge. While the dairy closed in 2002, Trout Point thrived and became a leader in eco-friendly tourism, winning a 5 Green Key rating from the Hotel Association of Canada and the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award in 2007.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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