We had the good fortune of connecting with Daron Babcock and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daron, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Bonton Farms started with the conviction that every, single person was created in the Image of God (Imago Dei), and that every person has the ability to fully manifest this full potential. We started in order to provide what this community said it needed most; jobs. In order to do that, we created a farm, a car program, a café/coffeeshop and a farmer’s market, so we could provide jobs that paid the members of our community and gave them meaningful work. But we came to find that there is more to the story of restoration than just jobs. We believe that there are 7 essential tools that every human needs in order to thrive, regardless of background or socio-economic status. These include community, economic development (jobs), safe affordable housing, access to fair credit, education, access to fresh food, and access to reliable and affordable transportation. What we do at Bonton is identify which of those tools have been absent, and work with individuals in order to create an individualized “roadmap” or Life Plan that works to remove barriers to these tools. What we didn’t know when we started is that there is an actual science called the Social Determinants of Health that aligns almost perfectly with these 7 essential tools. It states that whenever a person feels safe, has community, meaningful work, a place to call home, has access to transportation and is in proximity to beautiful green spaces, they are more likely to have a longer, healthier life in which they can thrive and become exactly who they were created to be. So what started as a way to provide jobs for this community, quickly became a conviction that every person has the ability to thrive when given the proper environment to grow and cultivate their life.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am a social entrepreneur. That means we create businesses that with the aim of solving social problems and effect social change. For the many Americans that have found themselves, for one reason or another, in prisoned, addicted, abused, trafficked, homeless, etc., the truth of the matter is rebuilding what has been lost is almost insurmountable for more reasons that I can mention here. However, we believe and are proving that another chance is always worth it. Case in point, take the men and women we serve that have previously been incarcerated, in our nine years, we have not yet had a single person re-offend. Compare that to the national average of over 70% in 4 years and almost 50% in the first 12 months from being released. That outcome, to us, proves that investing correctly in people yields outcomes significantly worth more than the investment. Is it easy, hell no. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but then again, not much that is worth while comes easy, does it? We overcome the challenges we face by earnestly listening to those we serve and following their guide on what they need and what works. We overcome by getting back up when we get knocked down. We embrace pressing boundaries to the point of failure to learn what true boundaries are and to test our limits, but we learn from it and get back up and go again. Our brand is all about the potential that exists in each human being and how when nurtured and tapped into, there is no one that is beyond help, and they is no one not worth the investment. Will everyone make it? No. But most will and that makes it all worth while.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Is there anything better in life than good friends, the mountains, great food and live music? Not for me. So, I’d gather up some good people and head for the hills. For me, Portland, Oregon is my go to spot. They have an amazing authentic farm to table food scene, great live music and a choice between mountains (Mount Hood) if the weather is right, or the beach (Cannon Beach) if the surf is up. Both are not more than two hours from the city. In fact a perfect trip is to surf the beach one day and snowboard Mount Hood the next. There is nothing like waiting on the beach for the fishermen to return to the beach with their catch. It’s always best to have a fire on the beach with some of your favorite beer, tin foil, lemons, fresh herbs and butter. When the fishermen come ashore, purchase from freshly caught salmon, steelhead or tuna and wrap it in the foil with butter, lemon and herbs and place it beneath the coals of the fire for a couple fo minutes or enough time to drink your first beer…whichever comes first. That always usually coincides with the a beautiful Pacific sunset. To me, there isn’t much better in life than that.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
For me, my faith is center, so the Bible is the book that guides my life and journey. In addition, Malcolm Gladwell has written several things that influence and direct our work. The book Tipping Point speaks to the power of investing deeply in early adopters and that they become the influence to change culture around them. In Outliers, Mr. Gladwell talks about Human Capitalization Rate and how systems, poverty and power impact ones ability to reach their potential. And in his short story “Million Dollar Murray,” Mr. Galdwell tells a true and powerful story of how important it is to stay with those we serve past their point of “graduation.” People don’t graduate from needing to belong and be part of something that they believe in and in turn believes in them.