We had the good fortune of connecting with Steve O’Shea and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steve, is there something you believe many others might not?
I disagree with the broadly accepted notion that a person/business has to succeed financially at all costs before subsequently using some of their gains to hopefully give back to the greater good through philanthropy. That seems backwards to me. If we aren’t looking out for each other and the planet that sustains us throughout the whole process of growing our business, then we are missing out on an opportunity to create real value and live a life of real worth…not just net worth. Philanthropy is good, but it’s kinda like tipping the busboy $10 on your way out of a restaurant you just helped destroy. Most people see the upfront costs of doing the right thing as a loss. That perspective is missing the larger picture though. Paying your employees well, using local/organic ingredients, or installing solar panels do cost more up front, but the long term benefits outweigh the upfront costs. Customers want to support a business that works with integrity. They want to live in a world with integrity and they will be much more loyal to you than if you just have a cheaper product with flashy marketing. Quality and Integrity are rarer in business than they should be. Business has more leverage to impact the world than any individual, so it’s critical that businesses be positive contributors to the health of the world and it’s inhabitants, or we are just all contributing to a dog eat dog existence that pits people and businesses against each other and degrades the very resources we all need to survive in this generation and the next. Invest in your employees. Invest in the environment. Invest in local businesses. Invest in your community. The margins don’t look good at first glance, but the return on investment over time will be magnitudes greater.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
From the day we started, we committed to putting principals before profit. Organic farms are generally considered sustainable, but sustainability goes beyond just how you grow your crops. Power consumption and carbon output is a huge and often overlooked impact in agriculture. We started by installing enough solar to power the whole farm in the first year. Every time we expanded our energy usage, I installed another solar system so that 10 years later we have over 150 solar panels that produce more than enough energy to run all of our infrastructure. We also run all of our transport vehicles on recycled vegetable oil. The net carbon output is near zero since it’s a plant based fuel source. The solar installations were actually quite simple and as a self installer, we eliminated a huge portion of the cost, while increasing our tax credits, thereby getting a 2 year ROI and saving huge amounts on electrical bills as well. Our Instagram feed has a link to our solar stories that show videos of every step of the installation and also a cheat sheet for all the financial incentives that farmers/small business can use to make it affordable. I’m also excited about our ability to provide fair wages and a safe and respect-filled workspace for all of our employees. It’s not always easy in this low margin industry, but we believe strongly that when you treat employees with respect, appreciation and empowerment, they reciprocate by helping you to build a better business. They want to be here and they care about every detail. It’s what sets us apart.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The honest truth is that we’ve been so head down at the farm for the whole decade I’ve lived in GA, that we haven’t spent much time in ATL outside of farmers markets. So, despite how much I enjoy the little bits of time I’ve spent there, I’m not really a good source of advice for what’s good in Atlanta. In general, I just love the vibe of all the people I’ve met in Atlanta and the strong support there is for locally owned ventures.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jubilee Partners is of note. There’s around 4500 religions in this world and everybody’s talking a lot more than they are walking. This organization puts all their emphasis on walking the walk. They help the most oppressed and dislocated peoples on this earth to regain footing in a safe and supportive environment. Some of those people have worked and do work for us and a few have become like family. We are quite grateful for the work they do to make a positive impact on this world and we appreciate being able to partner with them to give refugees an opportunity to work with us in a safe and respectful environment, with fair pay, and a decent quality of life. It makes our business mission even more meaningful to be able to work with refugees. You can find them here