Green Roofs and a 300 Year Old Business

Emory Knolls Farm has succeeded as a family-owned business for over 300 years.  Six generations have farmed the 150 acres in northern Maryland seeing it through stages of traditional farming, raising corn, cattle, llamas, and even Christmas trees.  Ed Snodgrass, the current owner, international horticulturalist, author and avid conservationist, moved operations into raising green roof plants over the past 2 decades when all family farms have faced difficult times.

Today, the majority of the Emory Knolls Farm land has been moved from crop land into an agricultural preservation trust now supporting indigenous trees, native meadow plants, native fauna and over ninety species of birds.  A small portion of the land is the only nursery operation in North America that’s dedicated just to green roof plants.

Green roofs offer a myriad of benefits including a longer roof life, some roofs in Europe being close to 100 years old and still viable.  Green roofs provide better insulation facilitating energy efficiency, the reduction of urban heat with the accompanying increase in the metabolism of nitrogen, sulfates and tolerance to smog particulates deposed as soil, storm water management, not to mention the increase in pollinators and the beauty factor.  Even solar panels are more efficient with the temperature moderating effect of green roofs.

As business and public policy see the long-term economic and social advantage to the up-front expense of using green roofs, green roof technology is a growing industry.  Before the cost of energy reaches its ultimate peak, there is a window of opportunity for creating green-collar jobs as people are trained in the technology and acquire skills to build successful green roofs.  Emory Knolls Farm is currently involved in over 800 projects.

Emory Knolls Farm has incorporated as a B-Corporation (Benefit Corporation) and actively uses the principles of the Natural Step process, a set of four principles developed in Sweden for sustainable manufacturing.  Step 1 addresses the balance of taking and replacing the earth’s resources.  Step 2 develops products that decompose and break apart through natural processes.  Step 3 protects the natural systems that help with the decomposition process, and step 4 addresses the larger social impact on the world.

Internal to Emory Knolls, corporate governance maintains the triple bottom line of planet, profit and people.  Although growing and providing green roof plants is highly seasonal, experience is valued and employees are permanent and paid year around with benefits.  The business runs without the use of fossil fuels and instead uses a vegetable-oil boiler.  They conserve water by using composting toilets rather than flushing with drinking water.  The plants are raised with integrated pest management using predator species instead of chemical pest control.  The organization is cash-based and loan-free.

Ed Snodgrass refers to small island mentality where decisions are made with conscious review of the long-term implications for each decision.  Growth is carefully controlled, and although business opportunities may be turned down because of the requirement for financing, long-term stability and business health may be increased.

Please visit Emory Knolls Farm at and learn more about the use of green roofs and the application of the triple bottom line for successful business.  Visit our Social Impact Marketing Facebook page to join in discussion about this episode and others.  Tell you friends about the show, and take a step each day to contribute to bettering the planet.

About Robin Eschler

Robin L. Eschler, the founder of Social Impact Marketing, started her career in developing foundational marketing strategies for companies of all sizes, from Fortune 500 to individual entrepreneurs and local businesses. She has developed and implemented international campaigns to launch high tech products and services and guided new business owners to successfully navigate the difficulties of growing a business.

Her life-long passion for helping others led her into nonprofit work for over a decade. Early on, she recognized the need for nonprofits to adapt to a rapidly changing world in which technology dominates and for-profit business practices are central to success. Her determination to help social causes in a sustainable way led to her creation of the Women’s Radio show Socially Conscious Investing.

Impact investing in for-profits with a mission of social change such as the fight against extreme poverty is a blossoming business sector around the world. With the economic decline, it’s clear that Wall Street requires change. Social impact investing addresses that need in a way that provides financial and social ROI.

As the Host of Socially Conscious Investing on WomensRadio, Robin’s goal is to educate people about the growth of social impact investing and social venture. Interviews are conducted with socially conscious business experts including foundations and nonprofits, social venture investment firms, micro-loan organizations, investors, educators, authors and social entrepreneurs.

This show’s mission is to help change the world through sustainable business practices that contribute to the economy, combat poverty, end hunger and provide better lives to all.

Twice, Robin has been recognized and received the highest honorary award that Rotary International gives, the Paul Harris Award, for service above self. Her community work has included developing local programs for disadvantaged populations such as foster children, troubled teens, and people with disabilities.

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