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Farmers Market on the road
Briggs & Stratton focusing on healthy initiative
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After completing her shift at Briggs & Stratton, Terrell Johnson, left, takes a taste of cane syrup being offered up by Stacey Freeman, right, of Freeman's Mill as local farmers bring their products to employees of the plant last Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      As part of Briggs & Stratton's company-wide sustainability initiative, the corporation invited the Mainstreet Farmers Market Friday to its manufacturing plant located in Gateway Industrial Park.
      The Market served as the culmination of the Statesboro plant's first Sustainability Week, which was designed to provide employees information regarding different ways to care for the planet.
      "Our company has had sustainability awareness weeks at the corporate level for the last few years," said Steve Holmes, a Statesboro-based environmental manager for the company. "Two years ago, we issued our first sustainability report addressing people, planet and profit. We believe our environmental stewardship is not only about engine emissions, but also includes our day to day business practices by our employees, our manufacturing processes and creating value for our shareholder and stakeholders."
       The farmers market at Briggs & Stratton was held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when approximately 250 of the plant's 500 employees were on the site.
       "I was very pleased by the employee turnout," said market manager Debra Chester. "This was another outreach effort into our community to educate folks about the markets, and our mission to encourage healthy eating",
       According to Chester, the concept of taking markets into plants and factories is beneficial for several reasons, including increased productivity of workers by virtue of healthier eating habits.
       "There is also a sense of community which is established when employees shop together, and positive feedback when they recognize that management invests in a proactive program to improve eating habits," she said.
       Additional topics covered during sustainability week included water and energy conservation.
       "Georgia Power brought information on energy conservation day," said James Suchovsky, manager of the Statesboro plant. "They handed out energy efficient light bulbs, and our employees seemed genuinely interested in learning how to use less electricity. I thought the information that they provided was very good. The farmers market went very well too. I would really like to see that event grow, and have employees from other manufacturers in the industrial park come to the market as well."
       In addition to reaching out to the manufacturing community, the farmers market also travels to Georgia Southern's campus twice a month under the supervision of the Wellness Center.
       "Efforts are underway to get more fresh produce into the hands and stomachs of students by offering these products in campus stores as well," said Chester. "The USDA has indicated GSU campus as a food desert meaning that locally grown foods is not readily available on the immediate campus for purchase and the Mainstreet Farmers Market is working hard to change that."
       Holmes said he used Georgia Southern as a resource in planning the Statesboro plant's sustainability week.
       "This was the culmination of a few months of research," he said. "Lissa Leege, director of Georgia Southern's Center for Sustainability helped us with it. We weren't exactly sure how much budget for the event, but I think now that we have our first one under our belts, we have a much better idea of what to do next, and are looking forward to it. This is a commitment for us."
       Even though there is a focus on outreach, the primary location of the Mainstreet Market will continue to be in the Sea Island Bank parking lot.
       "Our first market this year was held on April 7, celebrating the fifth season with over 2,200 people," Chester said. "It was GSU day at the market which showcased the partnership Georgia Southern has with the market including exhibits and demonstrations from Eagle Dining and Nutrition. Dr Keel and Dr. Shulue served as honorary market managers."