While you were filling the bird feeder, planting your winter garden, or overseeding your lawn, Bainbridge Island’s very own Bay Hay and Feed was quietly contributing to our community, preserving Island history, and working to save the planet. It’s all in a day’s work for owners Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker (2008 Bainbridge Island Business Couple of the Year) and their dedicated staff.
And now they’ve got a new award, a new building in process, and a Thanksgiving weekend event to support Island nonprofits.
Last month, Bay Hay was recognized by Seattle Business magazine as one of the top 50 sustainable businesses in the state, along with Alaska Airlines and Starbucks (and Bainbridge’s IslandWood and Poulsbo’s Watson Furniture), by awarding the business the 2011 Green Washington Award. The award is given to the 50 companies best “demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to making their businesses sustainable.”
Bay Hay, which has earned 5-star certification through the EnviroStars program, lives sustainably every day:
- They provide their employees a living wage and health benefits.
- They host styrofoam recycling collections twice a year.
- They have installed solar panels on the roof (on sunny days their panels feed energy back into the grid).
- They have been recycling cardboard for 25 years, and they recycle everything including plastic.
- They try to purchase products that are packaged in environmentally sustainable ways and let manufacturers know if they won’t buy a product because of its packaging.
- They compost whatever they can, including coffee.
- Last year they hired a sustainability director, Els Heyne.
- They purchase 100% green energy.
- They collect water in rain barrels to water the nursery.
- They provide free CFL recycling to the community.
- They collect wood scraps from local builders and packaging to offer free to local chicken coop builders.
- They recycle all the waste paper for the next door Post Office.
- They partnered with Sound Food to offer locally grown food for sale daily. They started in April. They offer eggs, meat, produce, Pan d’Amore bread, and cheese from Port Madison.
- They helped sponsor the purchase of recycling and waste containers for Winslow Way.
- They started a permaculture garden on their property.
- They financially supported their coffee shop’s purchase of compostable cups.
- They are upgrading their heating system to improve its efficiency.
The building that houses Bay Hay is 99 years old, and Howard Block likes it that way. He told me how much he enjoys the “look” of Rolling Bay, with its early twentieth-century buildings and style. Back in 1999, he approached the City with the idea of building an additional structure for the business in the style of the original. But he received no support for the idea, so he let it drop.
That is, until last year when, inspired by the success of the Lynwood Center remodel, he approached the City again. Architect Devin Johnson made a presentation to the City at Block’s request. This time, according to Block, they said, “Wow! That’s great,” and he has found them to be fully supportive of the project, telling him that they are eager for the several small business communities on the Island—Fletcher Bay, Lynnwood, and Rolling Bay—to develop and thrive. In fact, the City approved the project so quickly, that Block wasn’t even completely ready to begin, but he threw himself into the project to prepare.
Block assembled a team of local suppliers and contractors. As an example of the team’s commitment to making the project as local as possible, Block told me that Bainbridge’s Coyote Farms milled wood cut from a tree that fell in Heyne’s Rolling Bay yard to make one wall of the new building.
The plan is to move the nursery portion of the business into the ground floor of the new building. The move will enable Bay Hay to meet customer demands for new products including more agricultural products and more everyday clothing. And Heyne explained, the new space will enable them to display many of the items they currently stock only in the barns. The upstairs will house office space and a meeting room.
The project is expected to be completed by February. In keeping with the historical nature of the other building, Block has been pushing contractors to keep the trimmings downscale, simple, and a la 1912. But true to the business’s green ethic, the new building was wired for phantom power switches so that, at the end of the day, employees can, with the flick of a switch, turn off all non-essential equipment.
You know the little red envelopes that appear in your mail box? The ones designed to facilitate end-of-the-year charitable giving? The staff at Bay Hay want you to know what those envelopes are for. So they have partnered with the organization behind the envelopes, One Call for All, to draw attention to them and to raise money for local nonprofits.
For the second year in a row, Bay Hay and Feed will be donating 15 percent of sales on Thanksgiving weekend’s Friday and Saturday to One Call for All. At checkout, shoppers select the local nonprofit to which they want Bay Hay to donate profits. A One Call for All representative will be on hand both days to answer questions.
Block told me that he likes the idea of keeping shoppers on Island during this important holiday shopping weekend, and he figures that the added incentive of seeing some of their shopping dollars go to local organizations might help.
Other Cool Things
They’re green, they care about Island character, they work to help the community. They sell those awesome Bay Hay shirts with rows of little tractors, pigs, bunnies, or horses. In the spring they have baby chicks. It’s where you get your rain boots. And there’s more:
- Block and his son dug out the crawlspace under the original 1912 building, which was only 6 inches, using two buckets, shovels, and a wheelbarrow. They increased the crawlspace to 30 inches.
- Hoadley House, another building on the Bay Hay property, was moved there and salvaged when the original owners were going to tear it down. Bay Hay uses it as its classroom for its many educational offerings. Bay Hay donates proceeds from the classes to local organizations, such as Sound Food and Friends of the Farms. In January, you can take a class on caring for fruit trees.
- Luca Rodal built the Bay Hay and Feed building in 1912. Back then it was the Central Store Building, and it sold feed, livestock, gardening supplies, fencing, and farmwear. Sound familiar?
Photos courtesy of Bay Hay and Feed. Photo of Bay Hay and Feed by Julie Hall.