Prosperity for All Community at the ForefrontNov 27, 2020 09:45AM ● By Gisele Rinaldi Siebold
When consumers make the choice to buy local, a profound ripple effect spreads across communities creating a circle of prosperity that reaches beyond the point of purchase to create change. Human decisions, interactions and relationships have the power to transform social and cultural institutions.
The diverse team of innovators at ASSETS, a nonprofit organization in Lancaster, has extensive experience in social change, entrepreneurship and economic development. They focus on transforming communities through business and work with established businesses to improve their social and environmental footprint.
“We believe in harnessing the power of business to alleviate poverty and build vibrant and sustainable communities,” says CEO Tina Campbell. “We change the way business is done to build an economy where everyone can prosper.
“The ASSETS vision is to see our communities in Lancaster, Berks and Central Pennsylvania transformed by increasing business ownership among women and people of color, and increasing the number of social enterprises seeking to address social and/or environmental challenges through their business models,” she explains.
ASSETS programs focus on economic opportunity and entrepreneurial leadership, business training and mentoring for low and moderate-income persons, women’s leadership, microlending, social enterprise training and incubator programs.
Lemon Street Market is one example of a local, female-owned business. Patricia Haverstick, co-founder and owner, participated in an ASSETS program for women and business leadership. "It's incredibly hard to compete in a market like Lancaster, where we’ve seen a number of large grocery chains open in the last few years, so we are proud of our nine years as an independent, women-owned grocery store,” she says.
“Community is at the forefront of every decision we make while operating Lemon Street Market,” she avows. “When there is a local option for a particular item that meets our standards—taking into consideration the use of genetically-modified (GMO) ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, etc.—we will usually choose that option. We also have a ‘Suggest a Product’ form on our website where we take requests from customers if there is an item they would like to see us carry.
“We often talk (behind the scenes) about how we serve as a kind of ‘grocery incubator program’,” she explains. “Because we are so small and autonomous, we can work with extremely small makers and farmers, sometimes just one person painting watercolor cards in their city apartment or a farmer growing on a small plot of land just inside the city limits.
“It’s not easy to get products into big chain stores, so that’s something we can offer to folks who are just starting out. We often work with them on adjusting their labeling, figuring out pricing, promoting them on our social media channels, and even revising their ingredients and packaging in order to meet our standards and focus on organic, non-GMO and sustainability,” describes Haverstick.
Lemon Street Market’s #givelocal campaign also pushes local dollars back into community initiatives.
Shoppers donate an average of $800 per month to the various organizations the
market partners with through their register round-up initiative. Additionally,
the store donates to a number of local charities and projects throughout the
Education is a large component of the mission of local businesses. Business owners use social media platforms to share resources on food justice initiatives with their followers and intentionally share to increase knowledge about the importance of fair trade, small-scale farmers and food scarcity/waste.
“Because so many of the items we sell are local (made or grown within 50 miles of the store) or regional (within a day's drive), revenue from our shoppers goes right back into supporting those makers and farmers,” she explains. “About 60 percent or more of the products are considered local or regional, and we work with more than 120 different local farms and creameries.”
Bent Limb Farm, in Shoemakersville, is another example of a local business with a female owner. “Local support of smaller, family-owned farms develops relationships that connect the community,” shares Pam Ellenberger, owner. “Of course, part of farming is making a living, and receiving financial support from neighbors and customers that choose to buy our products keeps the farm going.
“But what is also essential to the well-being of the farm and the farmers is the extension of appreciation that comes from customers. We value knowing how the animals are raised and what they ate. It is very gratifying and confirming when our customers appreciate these same values as well,” she says.
Purchasing from a chain may sometimes feel
easier, but shopping small and local has an impact on real people, family
businesses and the livelihoods of people living right here around us.
“My small business would close if folks stopped shopping small and local,” affirms Haverstick. “The hundreds of local and regional vendors whose wares we sell would lose money if that happened, or would have nowhere to sell their products.
“We have heard from a few of our local vendors during the pandemic months who have told us that Lemon Street Market is their only reliable source of income right now. That means something. We’re a channel for a lot of people to reach the shoppers who need and want their products. If we can get our shoppers to consider where their food comes from, and all of the ways that plays into how our society functions or fails, that feels like a little success,” she shares.
“Offering many different types of products helps us get closer to our aim for our farm—sustainability” says Ellenberger. “We have alpaca fiber available in many forms: raw fiber, roving and yarn, plus finished goods for all ages. The same is available with angora rabbit fiber. Our pork, chicken and eggs will be some of the best that you have ever tasted. Whether it’s fiber products, food or animals for your own farm, we look forward to sharing our farm and knowledge with you and your family.”
“There’s a lot that a small business can do,
customer-service-wise, that a larger chain can’t,” explains Haverstick. “For
us, that means things like offering special
orders with discounts, getting to know our shoppers so
well that we can recommend new products we know they’ll love and responding
quickly when there are issues or concerns at the store. As a small business, we’re
not always perfect, but we’re always listening, learning and adjusting in order
to serve our shoppers safely and efficiently.”
“I believe that business can help to transform our community, and I believe that our collaborative work can make that happen,” affirms Campbell.
ASSETS, 24 South Queen St., Lancaster; 717-393-6089; AssetsPA.org
Bent Limb Farm, 592 Stone Hill Rd., Shoemakersville; 484-797-2263; BentLimbFarm.com
Lemon Street Market, 241 W. Lemon St., Lancaster; 717-826-0843; LemonStreetMarket.com