For Steve and Heidi Crandall, clean water is personal. The streams and creeks that originate on their land in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains flow hundreds of miles across the state to the James River, and then to the Chesapeake Bay. Keeping their waterways clean is a responsibility they take seriously. "I make a point to maintain the creeks and the water sources, because to me, water is life," says Steve.
As founders of Devils Backbone Brewing Company, the Crandalls support CBF through a special partnership. They donate to CBF's education and restoration programs, and have a Bay-themed beer called Striped Bass Pale Ale, which they designed to complement a day on the water. "It's been a great vehicle for us to support the foundation and educate folks about clean water," Steve says.
From the beginning, public education has been a key part of the partnership. The beer's packaging puts CBF's conservation message into thousands of people's hands each year. In addition, the Crandalls invite CBF outreach staff to many of their events, raising awareness about actions people can take to help restore local rivers, streams, and the Bay. The Crandalls have also reached out to Devils Backbone's network of distributors, organizing educational fishing trips on the Bay, and challenging them to contribute as well. Several of these companies have become loyal donors in their own right.
Wanting to do as much as possible to restore our waterways, the Crandalls have taken steps to reduce the environmental footprint of their company.They landscaped their brewery and brewpub to minimize runoff and installed a wind turbine to reduce energy use. "We've always been mindful of protecting the watershed. It was a natural progression to take what we do as a family into the brewery," Heidi says.
Although Steve and Heidi share a passion for the outdoors, their love of nature isn't the only reason for their generosity. Steve notes that a clean Bay helps the region's economy. "I'm a business guy. I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. If it's properly managed and maintained, the Bay generates a tremendous number of jobs," he says.
When asked to reflect on their partnership with CBF, the Crandalls agree that it has been rewarding to see the recent improvements to the Bay's health. "It excites me to see the needle moving towards cleaner water. That means more people are listening and caring and trying to do the right thing," Heidi says.
As they look to the future, the Crandalls plan to continue the partnership for many years to come. Steve puts it this way, "We need to try to do something greater than ourselves. This is one way that we can support, in a very small way, something that helps to improve the world."
Photo Credit: 1. John Rodenhausen/CBF Staff, 2. Jay Fleming.