B Corp Spotlight: Happy Dirt

Founded in 2004, Happy Dirt partners directly with farmers to get seasonal, quality produce to retailers in an effort to make it accessible to everyone! As a certified B Corp, Happy Dirt has people, planet, and profit at the forefront of their business.  

We had the privilege to connect with Sandi Kronick, CEO of Happy Dirt, to learn more about Happy Dirt’s story!

Tell us a little about your company! What do you do, and what is your mission?

Happy Dirt is a farmer and staff owned wholesale produce distributor, connecting retailers and food businesses with organic (and conventional) produce. By pooling diverse harvests from over 90 farms in different regions, Happy Dirt is able to meet the demand for a steady stream of high-quality, seasonal food choices throughout the year. The company started in 2004 with the goal of helping transition tobacco farmers in North Carolina into organic vegetable production, to meet an increasing need for local and organic produce in the marketplace. Since Happy Dirts inception, it has put over $20 million dollars in the pockets of farmers.

As a certified B Corporation, Happy Dirt is not only committed to environmental sustainability, but it is also committed to the social and economic sustainability of its farmer partners and staff. They are also steadfast in their commitment to make organic produce relatable for all and to better connect the consumer to the farmer. 

Our mission statement:

Good food is really simple. Yet sometimes it seems so complicated. With so many options it’s hard to know what’s best. At Happy Dirt we are on a journey to make organic more relatable and accessible for all. From our farmers to chefs, retailers, shoppers and guests we are a bridge towards healthier days and sustainable ways.

Building a path for everyone to eat happy.

Why did your company decide to become a B Corp?

As a company, we were already doing things operationally that would’ve helped us make the grade needed for B Corp certification. By deciding to invest the money and time into becoming a B Corp, we knew that it would help further the positive impact we have on our farmer partners, our customers, and the consumer. Being a certified B Corp holds us accountable on our journey to not only educate farmers, customers, and consumers about sustainability as a three-legged stool (environmental, economic, and social), but to also make sure that we are consistently going above and beyond to enhance the personal and professional lives of the Happy Dirt staff. You can’t educate the outside if you aren’t living up to your mission on the inside. Change always comes from within first and foremost!

Any advice to other impact-driven businesses thinking about becoming certified?

One thing for businesses to think about if they are considering becoming B Corp certified is that there is a significant upfront cost and cost as far as time investment, but that investment of time is part of the integrity of the program. It is meant to be incredibly stringent so that it is incredibly respectable and impactful to be part of the community of a B Corp operation. The other piece is to embrace that doing good is a journey – a spectrum. You might think that you are doing great, and you might be doing really great things in whatever business that you’re in, but there’s always more that we can do. Being a B Corp doesn’t just help improve your values and impact environmentally and socially, but it also does translate into being a better business from a bottom-line standpoint. I really would like to encourage people to not think about how it taxes you, but how it enhances and renews you and the world around you.

As B Corporations, our work is ever-evolving and we’re constantly working on improving our sustainability efforts. What are some social and/or environmental goals that your company is hoping to achieve by the time recertification comes around?

From an HR and culture perspective, we have been investing more into how we support our team growing not just professionally and personally. Even if they end up moving on from the industry or the company they are in, we are excited to enhance their personal and professional development to go off. We like how certain values can be blurred and spill over into the personal and professional world.

We are absolutely committed to being part of the solution in terms of the environmental impact of food packaging. That’s something we’re making a very big investment in so that we are not reliant on plastics to sell strawberries.

How does being a B Corp influence the way your company does business?

In several different ways being a B Corp influences the way we operate as a business and think as a business. From an operational standpoint I can say there’s less direct impact because we were already doing a lot of things that easily qualified us to make the passing grade for the B Corp certification. But there are many ways that being part of the B Corp network does impact us operationally in terms of how we organize our culture and meetings. As an employer and as a partner to our vendors, being part of the B Corp network has enhanced the thoughtfulness that we already had into more transactional productivity for our staff and our farmers. 

Even though there is a pearly gate of sorts that you have to pass for B Corp certification, it’s more than just that for us. Being a B Corp influences us to continue on the journey of self improvement, environmental improvement, etc. long after we’ve passed that pearly gate. While we do want to pass every year, we want to increase our score every year. We don’t want to just happily pass. We are constantly looking for ways that we can improve as a company in terms of the impact that we have on this planet and in our community. We are constantly trying to consider what resiliency and sustainability look like and that means that we’re always going to try and do better. At any given moment we might be thinking about doing something for the team, planet, or our customers, and we usually always think, “Oh, that might be good for our B Corp certification as well.”

How has being a certified B Corporation shaped your company’s core values?

Our core values can be summed up in seven words: connection, growth, ethical, empathy, diversity, mindfulness, and balance. These were our core values before becoming B Corp certified. Being part of the B Corp community just helps to enhance these values!

How have you kept your team members engaged through the work-from-home cultural shift?

The following are a few ways in which we kept team members engaged through the work-from-home cultural shift:

1. We used (and still use) Slack in order to stay connected with each other. 

2. When it was safe, we had a few outdoor gatherings for staff members with food from a local food truck. 

3. Each week the staff members were able to take home a staff-bag filled with fresh produce. This was a way to make sure that our staff had access to healthy produce in order to keep their bodies and minds healthy.

4. We offered a wellness stipend for employees to seek mental health counseling during 2020 through Q1 of 2021.

How does your company typically celebrate success and achievements?

We are big on verbal affirmations and sharing success and achievements with the whole team. The team actually does a great job of celebrating each other before anyone from the leadership team chimes in! It’s really beautiful to see how everyone lifts each other up. It’s one of the many great qualities about the team as a whole.

What is your company’s approach to team building and career development?

Over the past few years we have made a significant investment in racial equity training, bystander training, active shooter training, open-book financial training, wellness training, social and emotional meditation practices, etc. We will be offering financial literacy in the near future. We’ve also made more of an investment in the culture of fun. 

We recently created an Employee Life Cycle Sustainability Plan that we will share with every employee and future employees. With this plan, employees can keep track of their professional growth and goals at Happy Dirt.