Making a Difference with Beans!

By: Natalie House

Today I attended “Making a Difference & Making a Living,” an conference event hosted at GMC featuring alumni and others in career fields including business, agriculture, energy efficiency, education, and more. The purpose of the event was to answer the questions many students at GMC have regarding how we can go on to pay off our student loans and live comfortably while still doing meaningful work.

Starting at 3 PM, six speakers of all different personal and career paths gave short TED-style talks in Ackley. Following the talks, four field-specific panels were offered.

I found Joe Bossen’s talk especially interesting – Joe graduated from GMC in 2008 with a degree in Sustainable Enterprises but had started his career in sustainable agriculture early on. By his sophomore year, Joe had decided he wanted to pursue a bean burger business. His logic for doing so surrounded around the fact that beans are a sustainable and nutrient dense crop and can be grown in the VT region. He wanted to make real change for his community by targeting a specific and tangible product.

In the past 5 years, Joe’s business, Vermont Bean Crafters, has grown a lot. He says it’s been hard work but very rewarding. As a member of a panel discussion on Natural Resources, Environmental Services, and Sustainable Agriculture, Joe was one of many who gave advice to the audience to be more patient in terms of following their dreams. Even though his business has manifested into a reality, he says that sometimes things don’t always add up at first.

Many other alums from recent years (07′-13′) agreed with this advice; because most post-graduates take on many jobs in their lifetime, it’s not uncommon to not have landed ones’ dream job right away. Still, the common theme of taking the steps towards achieving a goal was very prominent among the group of guest speakers. In Joe’s case, his career path was entirely driven by his motivation to start his own business. Students in the audience had similar dreams, especially students majoring in sustainable agriculture.

Vermont Bean Crafter’s has come a long way in recent years, and in 2014 Joe was named the Vermont Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The business sell not only bean burgers now but falafel, muffin and cookie batters, and smoked or roasted peppers. VBC also has partnerships with Vermont public schools and colleges to feature their burgers and cookies in cafeterias. Here on campus, the bean burgers can be purchased in the Buttery.


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