( Photo courtesy Markon Cooperative )

Definitions of sustainability are in no short order, and while there is not a universal definition, many in agriculture see sustainability as achieving triple bottom line benefits to people, planet and profit. 

For some, these words represent corporate social responsibility jargon or tools for marketing. Others recognize that to be credible, these concepts need to be backed by solid metrics. 

Take it one step further, and forward thinkers — like Alvaro Nieto of Church Brothers and Arnott and Kathleen Duncan of Duncan Family Farms — see sustainability as something much larger than themselves and something to be passionate about. 

Passion runs deep with Nieto, a Mexican farmer for Church Brothers who I met in 2016. Nieto co-manages food safety and environmental stewardship. He is responsible for having spearheaded the creation of biodiverse habitat areas for birds, animals and reptiles so they don’t need to go into a produce field for food or water. 

This same drive can be seen with the Duncans, fourth-generation farmers based near Phoenix. I recently joined them to head about an hour south of the U.S. border to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) where they have been traveling on vacation for 25 years. 

Troubled by the lack of education and opportunity for young, local residents, in 2012 Kathleen began helping at an emergency children’s shelter. Her work there fueled a passion for creating change, and she and Arnott have since committed significant hours and resources to improving the lives of children there, many of whom are unable to stay in school because their parents are forced to choose between education and meeting their family’s basic needs. 

Since beginning their work three years ago, supporting 72 children, the Duncans now have helped more than 500 children go to school and succeed academically. While initially self-funded, a Phoenix based nonprofit, Steps of Love, now helps the Duncans raise money to support the program in Rocky Point. The Duncans are creating a model that will live long beyond them. 

I met many children during my visit, but one stood out: Yolanda, a 10-year-old girl very intent in her homework and studies. She was careful completing her lessons, which she then takes home to teach her mother how to read and write. The ripples in the pond are spreading.

At Markon, we too are involved in people, community and supporting local causes. Our employees donate more than 100 hours per month in volunteer work, which we also hope has ripple effects. While we may not all have the resources to get involved in every area that inspires us, the important part is to get started and do something positive. 

Find your passion and make a difference when and where you can. It’s part of your sustainability story, which is increasingly important to customers. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do to help build a better tomorrow. 

After all, isn’t that what sustainability is really about? 

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative.

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