Category: Business

At Home with Eastbrook Homes: Home Repair Services

Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes and Joel Ruiter of Home Repair Services sit down with Eric Hultgren to discuss the impactful work HRS does in the community. Learn about Home Repair Service’s mission of strengthening vulnerable Kent County homeowners to build strong communities, as well as Eastbrook Home’s tie to the non-profit. HRS offers classes, resources, financial aid, ramp building, and more to the Kent County community. One program they offer is ramp building, which Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes has helped with for over a decade. This podcast will delve into various community needs, HRS’ story and mission, and how corporations and individuals alike can make a difference in their community.

Learn more about Home Repair Services here: http://www.homerepairservices.org/

Learn more about Eastbrook Homes here: http://www.eastbrookhomes.com

How physical therapy combats COVID-19’s work-from-home aches and pains

two people do physical therapy at Advent PT

The home office that consists of hunching over a laptop while slouching on a couch.

The dining table that has been transformed to a makeshift desk.

The constant sitting when there’s no co-workers to stroll over for a chat or head out on a run for coffee.

Increased screen-time before, during and after work.

They’re all adding up to create an ergonomic nightmare with lingering impact – headaches, sore necks, back pain and more.

Gretchen Walsh, a veteran physical therapist, says the COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to work-from-home environments is taking a toll on adults. Similarly, stay-home and stay-safe orders that have also restricted adult and youth sports leagues are contributing to the impact.

“Our bodies need movement, and the impact of the virus has made many of us more sedentary,” said Walsh, who practices at Advent Physical Therapy. “We’ve also formed bad habits that are causing us to feel aches and pain that shouldn’t be normal. If those are ignored and go untreated, they get worse and the limitations will get progressively bigger.”

Specialists at Advent Physical Therapy’s 15 West Michigan locations have noted an increase in non-injury musculoskeletal problems that can be resolved with a physical therapy treatment plan. The services cover all areas of the body, and Advent has also developed programs to help patients who are recovering from COVID-19.

“We’re seeing a lot more people who have an injury, but can’t pinpoint a day, time or one thing that happened and now they hurt,” said Walsh. “It was an accumulation of issues over time and they didn’t necessarily correlate it with working from home or a more sedentary lifestyle.

“You shouldn’t be in pain, and if you are, your body is signaling to you that something is wrong.”

The progression has left muscles weaker, endurance sapped and bodies breaking down, all symptoms that physical therapy can help overcome.

Advent physical therapists are available to help with or without a doctor’s referral. The group practice pairs patients with experienced professionals for in-clinic visits, through virtual care and even branching out to at-home treatment.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU: Discover Advent Physical Therapy’s 15 West Michigan clinics

REQUEST A FREE SCREENING: Here’s how to start restoring your health with physical therapy

Therapists perform an initial assessment to determine the source of the discomfort and then design an individual plan that can include evidence-based manual therapy and/or therapeutic exercises for pain-free function. In general, recovery programs involve two to three clinic visits per week and daily routines of varying length to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles as well as work on total body conditioning.

“Everything is designed to get you back to where you were and what you were doing,” Walsh said. “We really tailor our sessions and our patient experiences to the individual and their personal goals.”

Successful outcomes occur with less dependence on pain relievers or opioids and often at a lower cost than going to a physician who could simply end up referring patients for a physical therapy regimen.

Advent Physical Therapy has also helped COVID-19 patients bounce back from the virus with a respiratory recovery program and training sessions that restore range of motion, flexibility and strength deficits that developed while ill. Physical therapy begins to minimize any discomfort and offers pain relief, Walsh said.

“We’re another helping hand in recovery,” she said. “Our goal is always to get patients back to what they love as quickly, and as comfortably, as possible.”

LEARN ABOUT OUR COVID-19 PROGRAM: Recovering from coronavirus? See Advent’s Respiratory Treatment

National coffee day with Biggby

Eric Hultgren holding a Biggby coffee sitting in bed

What could you do with 200 hours? The average coffee bean’s journey from farm to coffee cup is 200 hours and mutliple stops along the way. Biggby wants to change that, and is taking steps now to be 50% farm direct by 2023 – a move which will benefit farm employees, communities and sustainability.

Check out the video below to learn more, as Eric Hultgren explains how many steps it takes for a coffee bean to become a cup of coffee on National Coffee Day.

Find out more about Biggby and farm direct coffee at: onebiggislandinspace.com

 

 

 

Biggby co-founder offers no-nonsense advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

Mike McFall, Biggby Co-founder

Mike McFall has a lot to say about being an entrepreneur.

Most of the advice and strategies are not what you’d expect to hear from the co-founder and co-chief executive of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, a 25-year-old, $100 million franchise with more than 250 locations in the Midwest.

McFall shares his thoughts, ideas and much more in his recently released book “Grind: A No Bullshit Approach to Take Your Business from Concept to Cash Flow.” The anecdotes, information and calls to action do exactly what the book title infers, McFall says, by providing real-world experiences in building a start-up.

Here’s a sampling of outtakes about the book from a recent conversation with McFall:

  • “People will talk about market research, price points, competition, the commodity, but you never hear anyone talk about the mentality and mindset that you have to have to do the work. Being an entrepreneur is not a get-rich-quick idea. If you’re not willing to invest 7 to 10 years of your life and be the most dependable part of the business, you’re going to fail.”
  • “Are you comfortable being a salesperson because 83 percent of CEOs on the Inc. 500 list were the only or primary salesperson in their business. If you’re scared of sales, if it’s not your thing, you really have to think about if this is a good idea.”
  • “Being an entrepreneur is no super power. The real key is you have to understand your strategic abilities and be clear about what you don’t know, can’t do or who you need to bring in to get the job done. You can’t have an ego that you know everything.”
  • “Partnerships have all the complexities of a marriage without the benefit of the hanky panky. Just like committing your life to someone, you have to make sure you’re right for each other.”

front cover of Mike McFall's book 'Grind'The book project has been a decade in the making for McFall as he evaluated how Biggby’s growth mirrored – or more importantly didn’t reflect – what he had read in other books about entrepreneurship. The others, McFall said, were either written from the perspective of jet-setting, ultra-successful billionaires who were looking back through rose-colored glasses or written by academics who were presenting their theories and case-studies.

“I didn’t see any who were in the middle of it,” McFall said. “I wanted to bring the practical side of starting a business with the voice of somebody who lives it day in and day out. It’s not a textbook.”

Discover Biggby: What the coffee franchise stands for and why coffee brings people together.

Grind tracks different situations that McFall and his co-founder/co-CEO Bob Fish encountered while building their business from a single location in Lansing. He writes about a loyal customer’s willingness to buy them outdoor furniture so that others could sit and relax, and how that gesture left an impression that helped form the company culture.

The book also tracks successes and pitfalls from both the Biggby perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections, as well as those that weren’t able to make it and why they came up short.

McFall shares how he and Fish made Biggby work by defining clear expectations and roles, and the importance of holding each other accountable while also not meddling.

Throughout Grind, McFall shares the necessity of entrepreneurs to be themselves while being aware of others. Leaders need to be brave but balance it with humility and display a willingness to understand differing perspectives.

“In 25 years, we’ve not had one knockdown, drag out battle, and that’s because we approach each other with a high degree of respect,” McFall says when talking about being a leader and a partner. “We can call each other out and do it while listening to why we feel so strongly and so passionate about something.

“If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t be in business together.”

Praise for the book has come from business leaders, educators and investors, including:

  • Tasha Eurich, New York Times bestselling author (Bankable Leadership & Insight): “If you have ever wondered what it might be like to open your own business, read this book. Even if you have no interest in starting a business, the insights in this book are valuable for life in general.”
  • Michael Williams, Director of Entrepreneurship Activity & Director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Clinic, University of Wisconsin, Madison: “This is a must read for every new start up. Every entrepreneur needs to learn how to sell and discern good advice from bad. Mike does a great job breaking all of this down through real life examples.”
  • Michael Soenen, Partner, Valor Equity Partners: “If more entrepreneurs considered this message it would be great for my business, as I would have more late stage companies to invest in.”

McFall said readers have offered great feedback and engagement since Grind’s debut in August.

“It’s been fun to listen to what others took away from it or how they got through some of their start-up positions,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is satisfying, but it takes commitment and desire. You can’t walk in talking about an exit strategy or accumulating wealth. It has to be about being the best at what you do and giving everything you have. If you don’t do that, it probably won’t work.”

Find Grind today at independent bookstores, online at Amazon or in Barnes and Noble locations.

How a southwest Michigan event venue staged unique events through the pandemic

people watching a concert at a drive in movie theater

When the reality of COVID-19 hit, things came to a screeching halt in mid-March. For The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, that meant the cancellation and postponement of more than 100 events and performances.

The Mendel Center, located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, features two performance stages and 12 meeting spaces. It hosts everything from weddings to business gatherings to national touring acts – but things are different this year.

“It was a good year we had to slam the brakes on,” said Mike Nadolski, executive director of The Mendel Center. “When it first started happening, there was a little disbelief. We had a kicking the can down the road mindset.”

But that mindset didn’t last long. As an event venue meant to bring in large amounts of people for a connected experience, The Mendel Center faced obvious hurdles in the midst of stay-at-home orders. Despite the difficult times, Nadolski and The Mendel Center set out to find new ways to serve its southwest Michigan communities.

“We moved from kicking the can to pivoting,” Nadolski said. “We moved to see what we could do online. We created the Remotely Interested program. We are still a community center; we are about connecting people.”

Remotely Interested is a series that features local and regional artists who will perform from the comfort of their homes or studios while the audience sits back and enjoys online. From musical performances to interviews, The Mendel Center was able to provide artists a platform.

Discover more: The Mendel Center Remotely Interested Online Events

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton HarborAs time progressed, The Mendel Center continually sought ways to innovate and pivot as a means to stay active in the communities as restrictions remained. They started hosting micro-weddings, where attendance is limited to fewer than 10 people and is broadcasted to everyone else to view at home.

Recently, a drive-in concert series — aptly named Drive-In Live! — was also launched.

“With almost all of the usual summertime activities in the region cancelled due to the pandemic, the Drive-in Live! concerts fill a void and create a sense of connection in our community that has been missing during these challenging times,” Nadolski said.

At the concerts, each vehicle is issued two parking spaces, one for parking and one for tailgating. An FM radio signal provides the audio, while a large projection screens shows all the action occurring on stage. Additionally, each concert features trivia contests and prize giveaways. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also available for purchase via cell phone and delivered directly to each tailgate zone.

Nadolski said precautions are in place to protect the health and safety of the concertgoers.

There are two concerts left in The Mendel Center’s Drive-In Live! series. On Saturday, September 19, Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler, Sankofa and The Big Payback perform. On Sunday, September 27, Mike Talbot, John Latini and Alex & Erin take the stage. Tickets are $10 per person with up to six people per vehicle. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the music starts at 6 p.m.

Buy tickets for Drive-In Live!

Through all the challenges of putting events on this year, Nadolski said the southwest Michigan communities and sponsors have been incredibly supportive in making it all a reality.

“I’m emotional just thinking about it,” he said. “Some of these businesses are struggling as much as we are. It’s nice to know there is a community out there that’s appreciative of what we do. It can make us come back stronger than ever.”

Nadolski highlights southwest Michigan’s vibrant arts scene as a reason The Mendel Center managed to push through the difficult times this year.

“They trust us if we are bringing something new or different in,” he said. “They know our standards are high.”

With generous communities and supportive sponsors behind them, The Mendel Center managed to stage unique, creative events. The show goes on.

Learn more about the arts & culture scene in southwest Michigan.

How sugarbeets helped Michigan bounce back after the lumber industry vanished

sugar beets in front of a Michigan Sugar Company processing plant

The death of the lumbering industry in the late 1800s helped bring about the birth of the sugarbeet industry to the Saginaw Valley’s farming and food-processing economies.

After loggers had cleared the pine forests in the area, the land was virtually unusable due to the massive expanse of tree stumps left behind. State and local leaders were searching for a substitute for the jobs and money generated by now-departed lumber barons. A solution was needed that could be replenished each year, bringing a stabilizing influence to the economic base of the region.

Enter the sugarbeet.

piles of sugarbeets at a Michigan Sugar Company processing plantIn 1884, during a trip to Germany, Joseph Seemann, a Saginaw printer, observed how well the sugarbeet was doing in that country. He sent a sample of seeds to his partner, who forwarded them to Robert C. Kedzie, professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural College. Kedzie’s enthusiasm for the beet’s potential earned him the title “Father of the Michigan Beet Sugar Industry.”

He imported 1,500 pounds of seeds from France and distributed them to farmers across Michigan. The success of the planting helped encourage people to clear the stumps and better utilize the once-again valuable acreage.

Michigan Sugar Company was founded in 1906 when six smaller sugar companies merged their operations. In 2002, Michigan Sugar Company became a grower-owned cooperative and in 2004, it merged with Monitor Sugar Company to form the company that exists today.

Headquartered in Bay City, Michigan Sugar Compay has sugarbeet processing facilities in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing. Its nearly 900 grower-owners plant and harvest about 160,000 acres of sugarbeets each year in 20 Michigan counties, as well as Ontario, Canada. Those beets are sliced at the factories and turned into about 1.1 billion pounds of sugar annually. That sugar is sold to industrial, commercial, and retail customers, primarily under the Pioneer Sugar brand.

bags of Pioneer SugarIn 2020, the company launched its new line of red retail bags for its white granulated, Golden Light Brown, Dark Brown and Confectioners Powdered sugars. The company sells white granulated sugar in retail sizes of 2 pounds, 4 pounds, 10 pounds and 25 pounds. The brown and powdered sugars are sold in retail sizes of 2 pounds and 7 pounds.

Michigan Sugar has 930 year-round employees and an additional 1,100 seasonal workers. The company’s annual payroll is more than $65 million and its annual local economic impact is about $500 million.

Michigan Sugar Company runs robust Young Farmer and Youth Project programs, offers internships, and provides a variety of scholarships, including the annual Michigan Sugar Queen Scholarship. The company annually donates upward of 100,000 pounds of sugar to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the state and supports countless community events and festivals throughout its growing region.

Of the nine sugarbeet processing companies in the United States, Michigan Sugar is the third largest and Michigan is one of 11 states where sugarbeets are grown in the country.

Read more at michigansugar.com.

 

In a Time of Screens and Falls in Munising, MI

Across Michigan kids are learning virtually, one of the upsides of this is that if they aren’t in a classroom – they can learn from anywhere. So why not take them to one of the most breathtaking spots in the state, Munising, MI? Munising is home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, nearly 20 different waterfalls, 7 lighthouses, and did we mention incredible shipwrecks?

If this is your first time in Munising the interactive app makes it easy to navigate the area and plan some truly memorable adventures for your kids. Plan your trip today at Munising.org and create your own Michigan adventure.

 

 

 

5 incredible recipes using Michigan-made, barrel-aged food products

Foods made with Blis Gourmet barrel-aged food products

Steve Stallard has lived by the mantra “Because Life is Short” since he was a teenager, but the creation and impact of one of the most popular Michigan-made line of food products is anything but fleeting.

Stallard, who was trained at the legendary Culinary Institute of America and later worked at gourmet restaurants including Taillevent Restaurant of Paris, The Greenbrier Club, Dow and The Amway Grand Plaza, created Grand Rapids-based BLiS Gourmet in 2004.

He pioneered using barrel-aged items with the launch of domestic roes and maple syrup, following up with one-of-a-kind products such as barrel-aged vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, and fish sauce, as well as salt and spices. The ingredients were all chef-driven and developed as the finishing touches to dishes.

Stallard began dabbling in barrel aging while working professionally and using maple syrup and bourbon as his “house” cure. He wondered: “What would happen if I put syrup in a barrel?” The discovery, through trial and error, was a revelation.

He began a quest to source the best barrels and perfected the craft syrup. The barrels that hold syrup for 6 months to 1 year then get another use as roughly a gallon of the syrup is absorbed into the wood, providing an environment that boosts flavors of other ingredients used in food prepration.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re adding products that would benefit from that (syrup),” Stallard said, noting the items are used in professional kitchens around the world but are equally friendly and adaptable in home kitchens by cooks of all skill levels.

DISCOVER THE STORE: The complete BLiS product line is available here

The recognition of BLiS products is long, including awards as best in show at the Bissel Maple Farm Craft Maple Syrup festival the past two years and a SOFI award from the Specialty Food Association for the best dessert topping.

The sauces, syrups, rubs and oils have also earned praise in nationally renowned magazines and food sites such as Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits and Bon Appetit as well as cooking show and media celebrities like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

On the horizon, BLiS teases, is a limited-edition Jamaican rum that will launch at Mammoth Distilling tasting rooms Labor Day weekend.

Check out the video below to learn more about Blis Gourmet products:

 

Here are five of the favorite recipes from the BLiS creative team:

Blis Gourmet vegetarian 'BLT'

Vegetarian “BLT” (sans bacon)

Ingredients:

  • Good whole grain bread
  • The best heirloom tomatoes available
  • 2 tbsp Duke’s or homemade mayo
  • 1 tsp BLiS rye aged apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce (per 3 slices of tomato)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, Red Leaf, etc.)
  • Cracked black pepper

Method:

  • Marinate 3 thick tomato slices in BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce and olive oil for 45 minutes
  • Blend mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, and apply liberally to toasted bread
  • Layer with marinated tomatoes, lettuce, and top the tomatoes with cracked black pepper

Blis Gourmet chicken wings

Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds meaty chicken wings
  • Frying oil (we recommend peanut oil)
  • 5 cups BLiS “Blast” hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup BLiS bourbon barrel aged maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Method:

  • Fry wings until crisp and done
  • Combine hot sauce and maple syrup, and then whip in the melted butter until emulsified
  • Toss wings in sauce and enjoy

Blis Gourmet Elote (Mexican street corn)

Elote (Mexican street corn)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 1/3 cup Duke’s or high-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp BLiS Santa Fe spice rub
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Mexican crumbling cheese (we recommend Cotija)
  • Cilantro

Method:

  • Grill corn in husks until tender
  • Peel back husks and liberally spread the mayonnaise on the corn
  • Sprinkle with BLiS Santa Fe seasoning
  • Top with cheese, cilantro, and lime zest

 

Blis Gourmet Green Chile Bison Burgers

Green Chile Bison Burgers

Ingredients: (makes 2 burgers)

  • 1 pound ground bison meat
  • 5 tbsp BLiS smoked soy sauce
  • ½ tsp BLiS Elixir
  • Sliced Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups roasted, diced, and peeled hatch peppers or green chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Adobo spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

Method:

  • Mix ground meat and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy thoroughly, let rest
  • Caramelize the large sliced onion, adding the maple syrup and elixir at the end to make an onion jam
  • Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil until clear, add the chilies, spices and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy and cook for 15 minutes on low heat
  • Cook burger to medium rare, lightly grill the bun
  • Add heaping tablespoon of chili sauce, then sliced Monterrey cheese and melt the cheese. Add the onion jam on top of the cheese, and one more scoop of the green chilies.

 

Blis Gourmet lime glazed salmon

Lime Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

  • Four 5-6oz Salmon fillets – skin on – scaled (cross score the skin with a razor blade or very sharp knife)
  • Olive oil or 
Grape Seed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2T BLiS Blast Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce

  • 2T BLiS Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 small clove of minced garlic

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare glaze by whisking Blast hot sauce, maple syrup, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  • Set aside.
  • Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt
  • Heat a liberal amount of grape seed oil in a large oven-safe nonstick pan over high heat until very hot
  • Place salmon in the pan skin side down (making sure there is plenty of oil beneath the salmon to prevent sticking)
  • Sauté for a few minutes until a crust begins to form
  • Remove from heat, spoon/brush some of the maple syrup/Blast glaze over the salmon (reserving about half the glaze)
  • Slide the pan into the oven and continue to cook the salmon until just cooked through
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the pan sauce
  • Plate salmon and spoon the remaining lime glaze over the salmon

Nursing Facilities Must Be A Priority in Fight Against COVID-19: Testing is Key to Prevention

A nurse checks a patient

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, particularly southeast Michigan, it became clear that this virus is most severe to our senior citizens. A shocking 69% of all of Michigan’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 70. The average resident in our nursing facilities is 82 years old, often with multiple medical conditions. Therefore, it is no surprise that these individuals are particularly vulnerable once the virus enters a facility.

Through June, 46% of the state’s nursing facilities have reported no COVID-19 cases, and a significant number have reported fewer than 10 cases. This raises the question of what causes the spread in some nursing facilities but not others. The answer to that question will help determine proper policy going forward to prevent and curtail the spread among this highly vulnerable population in this highly vulnerable setting.

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Research recently released by Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago has important findings related to COVID-19 in nursing facilities that not only help explain the primary factors causing the spread, but also what does not cause it. The studies conclude that the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community is the main predictor of the virus entering a nursing facility, with larger facility size also being a factor. It further shows that no correlation exists between significant COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing facilities and various measures of overall nursing facility quality, such as the national Five Star rating system that rates all nursing facilities based on surveys, staffing levels and quality measures.

According to David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, “COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are related to facility location and size, not traditional quality metrics such as 5-star rating and prior infection control citations.”

Tamara Konetzka, professor of health services research at the University of Chicago, found “no meaningful relationship between nursing home quality and COVID cases or deaths.” Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reached the same conclusions.

Researchers from Genesis HealthCare, Brown University and Florida Atlantic University found that COVID-19 prevalence in the surrounding community and higher number of beds were the most significant and consistent predictors of large outbreaks and mortality rates among nursing facility residents — not a facility’s Five-Star Quality Rating or infection control citations.

At the onset of the pandemic, nursing facilities were not a top priority at either the federal or state level for adequate staffing, personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing. Attempts to control the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities instead focused on identifying individuals who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and prohibiting their contact with residents and staff in nursing facilities. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now show that individuals without symptoms — “asymptomatic” and “pre-symptomatic” individuals — infect multiple people without ever showing signs of the virus themselves.

Given that the virus is often spread by individuals who are asymptomatic, the research notes that if a community has a high prevalence of COVID-19, there is simply a greater risk of new nursing facility residents or staff serving as infection sources. Larger facilities accept more admissions and have more employees, thus they encounter more movement of people to and from the community.

This research tells us that the best way to prevent and curtail the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities is to do whatever possible to prevent it from getting a foothold from the larger community in the first place. Providing sufficient PPE for staff and conducting more testing with immediate results are critical to this effort. Only through broad and aggressive testing that delivers immediate results can facilities identify those infected — staff and residents — and quickly take appropriate measures.

Although the state of Michigan has recently implemented short- and long-term strategies to establish universal baseline testing and ongoing testing of all nursing facility residents and staff — a measure which we support — it still takes too long to receive the results. A new testing instrument to be distributed soon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promises to deliver results in minutes. If this works as suggested, it will give nursing facilities the capability to screen and test both residents and staff and provide the means to swiftly mitigate the spread of the virus.

Testing with quick results is also important to allow residents to visit with friends and family in person once again. Current restrictions have proven difficult for residents, families and staff. For visits to occur in a safe manner, adequate supplies of PPE and proper testing are essential.

We didn’t create this pandemic or choose to have it come upon us. There is no blame or finger pointing. We can make an enormous difference in the outcome of the COVID-19 battle in Michigan nursing facilities with the support from the state and our healthcare partners if we focus on the correct, research-driven solutions.

Please click HERE for further details on the research referenced above.

 

Melissa Samuel
President/CEO
Health Care Association of Michigan

Michigan coffee company’s future focused on 100% farm-direct sourcing

When Bob Fish, the co-founder of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, talks about the future of the business, some might be shocked to hear his assessment that “coffee as a product is unsustainable.”

But that’s exactly what Fish says and why Biggby is trying to change the equation.

And it starts with the goal and benefits of farm-direct sourcing 50% of Biggby’s 2 million pounds of coffee purchased each year by 2023. After that accomplishment, Biggby will set its eyes on buying 100% of its product from farmers with whom Biggby has a lasting relationship.

Here’s why that’s important and what it means both for Biggby and its farm partners:

There are more than 200 labor hours to produce a single cup of coffee, Fish explains. It includes a supply chain that involves farms, workers who are often mistreated, brokers, roasters and more middle layers that seemingly work against each other.

“Between climate change and traders driving the price down, farmers simply cannot economically survive,” Fish said. “So, what happens? The farms can’t make it and are being abandoned. This puts the whole supply chain at risk.

“We believe businesses are here to solve problems, not create problems, but that’s what’s happening in coffee, and it’s why we are focused on doing business directly with farmers that treat the planet right and treat their people right.”

The straight line from farmer to Biggby involves extensive research and travel to confirm that the grower has the same passion for social responsibility and community investment, Fish said. As part of the evaluation, Biggby requires:

  • Farmers who pay workers above the national average and employ no child labor.
  • Farms that employ sustainable and organic practices.
  • Farmers who engage others with strong and local social missions.

Fish and his wife, Michelle, visit farms and stay for days at a time, and at different times – during the growing, harvesting and off-seasons – to assess the commitment, he said. Biggby can be a stabilizing force for the growers, providing a premium payment by eliminating the broker/middleman and granting the farmer financial safety and security for their coffee. That allows for future investment in the farm and the community. It also ensures Biggby a sustainable pipeline of coffee for the future.

Follow the journey: Bob and Michelle Fish blog about farm-direct sourcing and local heroes

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

One of Biggby’s farm partners is the El Recreo Cofffee Estate in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There, Leanna Ferrey and her family have an established farm that pays its workers fairly, shares a quest for growing a quality product and displays a care for its people that goes above and beyond.

Ferrey established an on-site school for the workers’ children to attend through the fourth grade, and she does not allow youth to work on the farm. Each child earns a scholarship and transportation to attend school in a nearby town through high school. She helps them find a way to go to college, if they choose, Fish said. She’s also helped educate the workers, many of whom were illiterate, provide basic health care and provide certainty that there is food for three meals a day.

“It’s really just amazing what she and her family have done,” Fish said. “And this wasn’t because of us but because it’s what they believed in and how they think people should be treated. She is making a difference now and for future generations.

“It’s exactly what we want, and it fits with our belief that you should feel good about doing business with people. And to take that to the next step, we hope a consumer can feel good about doing business with us because they know what our establishment stands for.”

Biggby has a second relationship with a Zambian farm that supports an orphanage. Fish and his team are cultivating more partnerships that create an impact abroad and reflect the coffee company’s values.

“We could go out and get the cheapest coffee and continue to pressure the fragile coffee economy, but we’d rather put money directly in the hands of the farmers who are doing their best,” Fish said. “We want to be involved with people who care for and are engaged with their community just as we are with ours.”