Business Success is Sustainable in Mason County

Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Business leaders and entrepreneurs know the ideal location will go a long way toward delivering success. Whether involved in a startup, relocation or expansion, these key decision-makers seek sites that offer growth in sustainable models for years to come. Sustainability goes far behind just short-term economic success, however. It refers to a business model that is economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly. Mason County is quickly becoming a region where businesses embrace sustainability and showcase the ability to achieve economic success.

Consumers increasingly demand businesses focus on community impact and economic vitality. While past standard business practices may have found this idea limiting, current research indicates companies can maximize profitability while doing well by the local community. Focusing on their operations’ social and environmental impact will help them center along delivering positive results for people, the planet and profit.

Sustainable Farming

Mason County businesses are embracing a sustainable business environment. Grant Jones had been living and working in Seattle for twelve years in 2017 before moving back to his family’s farmhouse on farmland in Shelton, the site of his family’s Hungry Hollow Farm since 1888. His great-grandfather began growing and delivering vegetables and grapes throughout the South Puget Sound region, but the farm has existed as a small-scale livestock operation since the 1940s. After purchasing the remaining cows from his uncle, Jones relaunched Hungry Hollow Farm in 2018 as an e-commerce, direct-to-consumer farming operation with a mission of providing convenient, local and pasture-based chicken, pork, beef and eggs as alternatives to factory farms. Jones’ farming philosophy is grounded - pun intended -  in agroecology, indicating the practices utilized at Hungry Hollow are regenerative and fit into the natural environment.

Environmentally Friendly

Jones’ agroecological principles revolve around improving soil health, which improves animal health and, ultimately, the health of humans. 

Environmentally Friendly Farming“The idealist in me knows that biodiversity is critical for our health,” he said. “I am drawn to creating health at every trophic level in the ecosystem because that will create health in us.”

Conventional mono-crop agriculture’s reliance on chemical fertilizers is an ecological paradigm, focusing on meeting the nutrient requirements of plants or "feeding the plants." Agroecological practices focus on "feeding the soil” because healthy soil will feed the plants and lead to healthier plants that are more resistant to pests and more nutritious food. An example is managing the impact of manure by cycling grazing patterns, such as having cows first consume the long grass in a pasture, followed by pigs, then chicken with short grass. The practice better spreads animal manure and eliminates the need for artificial fertilization.

“The practice attempts to mimic natural biology,” said Jones. 

Jones is also experimenting with rotating cover crops to improve the level of nutrients in the soil. Even more importantly, rotating cover crops improves soil structure and increases the organic matter in the soil, which creates a habitat for microbes and feeds the soil food web. Cash crops like corn or pumpkins leave a pasture over-compacted, so adding plants with deep root systems, like radishes, can improve water filtration and pump nutrients into the soil.

Research supports such farming practices, including a recent study by University of Washington professor David Montgomery that touted the benefits of regenerative farming on soil health and crop nutrient density. The study indicated that “regenerative farms produced crops with higher soil organic matter levels, soil health scores, and levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals."

Socially Responsible

Sustainable Farming in Mason CountyAnother sustainability segment is social responsibility, in which businesses adopt policies that promote the well-being of their community, society and the environment. As consumers demand more socially-responsible business practices, those operations with products incorporating such methods should increase in popularity. Socially-responsible themes fit naturally with Hungry Hollow’s farming practices.

“We seek a better value proposition for everyone and everything involved, beginning with an eye on the planet by improving soil health and for the animals by better living and end-of-life conditions,” said Jones. “Ultimately, our products have a higher level of healthy characteristics for humans to consume versus those from a factory farm.”

Economically Viable

As an endeavor within a free market society, a business will only achieve long-term success and the ability to deliver socially responsible and environmentally-friendly products if it can maintain economic viability. Jones started with local shipments in 2019, but as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, demand for his products skyrocketed. They sold out of their meat products for an entire year in less than a month. Instead of seeing a spike, the demand has remained high, said Jones.

“The panic-buying for meat has led to more return orders,” he said. “The trend to keep more meats and food on hand has increased, evidenced by the fact appliances like freezers themselves are still back-ordered.”

That demand has led Jones to employ a farm manager and two part-time farmers. Other Mason County agriculture businesses have remained economically viable with a growing local food market.

Socially Responsible Farming in Mason CountyShelton’s Riverbird Farm is a new pastured-poultry operation raising chickens and ducks.  The Humble Stump Farm produces vegetables with a mission “to produce the healthiest, tastiest and most environmentally and ethically responsible food possible.” Skokomish Valley Farms is a collection of Shelton neighbors that focus on agroecological principles and are the cornerstone of the Shelton Farmers Market. Aquaculture is a prime Mason County industry as well. The fifth-generation aquaculture business Hama Hama Oysters has built a reputation of quality in Lilliwaup. Taylor Shellfish Farms began in 1890 in Totten Inlet and continues to base its shellfish business on sustainable farming practices. 

Increasing demand for natural food sources leads farmers to review their business models. Jones’ plan for 2022 is to add a small market garden with fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetables to supplement current customers' orders.

“We love to see so many suppliers meeting the demand of a burgeoning local food movement here in Mason County,” said Jones. “It is about connecting the dots between what nature can provide and sustaining that for our community for years to come.”

Business Support

EDC Mason understands the importance of the sustainability of economic growth. Our team of experienced professionals who serve as consultants and facilitators ensures your business needs are met. Business owners can turn to us for free consulting services such as market intelligence, business development connections and site selection assistance. In addition, EDC Mason works with a wide range of community partners who can and will remain involved in supporting your needs!

Reach out to the EDC Mason or call 360-426-2276 to see how we can help your business achieve sustainable success in Mason County today!

Category: News

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