What Happens When 5 Bakers from NYC Come to Vermont for the First Time?

May 31, 2016

Ben & Jerry's & Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, NY

Every way you look at it, this is a pretty sweet story. It involves brownies and ice cream and, as you know, few things in this crazy world are better than brownies and ice cream. That’s just science. 

What's Even Sweeter Than That?

This story is about the people who bake the brownies and make the ice cream

We’ve been working with Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, NY, since 1988—almost 30 years of collaboration, partnership, and brownie deliciousness. All those fudgy chunks you love in Chocolate Fudge Brownie? Thank Greyston!

But after three decades working side by side, we started wondering: was there something else we could be doing to get even closer? It was time for our companies to get as cozy as brownies and ice cream in a pint of Half Baked…

Ben & Jerry's & Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, NY

So We Swapped Employees For a Week

Greyston is a special place. Like Ben & Jerry’s, Greyston considers its social mission to be just as important as its financial success. From their revolutionary open-door hiring policy to their many community-based projects and programs, Greyston lives up to its motto: “We don't hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” The open-door hiring model embraces any person’s potential to be an incredible employee, no questions asked. For the community of Yonkers, it’s been revolutionary.

We’ve introduced some of these bakers to you before. But they had never visited our ice cream factories, and our ice cream makers had never visited their bakery. Despite our long history together, how well did we really know each other? "We felt like we had to make this more personal for our employees,” said Rob Bellezza, Ben & Jerry’s Factory Director.

A thumbs up from Baker, from Greystone

Making Friends in the Big City

A team of five long-term Ben & Jerry’s employees traveled down to Yonkers. They were chosen because of their passion about our social mission and couldn’t wait to find out what things were like at Greyston and in Yonkers. Some had never been to New York before, so a side trip to the top of the Freedom Tower in Manhattan was a memorable treat.

The Ben & Jerry’s crew had the chance to bake brownies at Greyston’s facility, which was an eye-opening experience. Some were surprised by how physical the job was, compared to the Ben & Jerry’s factory experience. The team also visited the Greyston Early Learning Center and Community Gardens and pitched in with some of the remarkable work they’ve been doing all around Yonkers.

They were even treated to a dinner by culinary arts students who were receiving their certification through Greyston’s Workforce Development.

“It was an honor to be chosen,” said Vicki Keel, a sentiment shared by everyone else on the trip.

A First Time for Everything

The Greyston team came to Vermont the very next week. They spent time at both our factories, in Waterbury and St. Albans. And, of course, they helped make some batches of Chocolate Fudge Brownie! They had a chance to lunch with Jostein Solheim, our CEO, and learn more about flavor creation. Then they volunteered at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta to experience firsthand the kind of work Ben & Jerry’s does in the community.

Ben & Jerry's & Camp Ta-Kum-Ta

Vermont can still be chilly in early May, and the Greyston team definitely noticed. “It’s cold,” was exclaimed more than once. On the bright (and warmer) side, one of the crew had never had Vermont maple syrup before, so we were sure to hook him up. (We put syrup on everything in Vermont.) Rob Hackett told us that, when he was told he’d been selected to come to Ben & Jerry’s, he couldn’t wait to get going. “I felt great. I packed my bags about an hour after I was told I was going to Ben & Jerry’s.”

Employees raking things up

A Common Purpose

Our first employee swap was a huge success and there are already plans for further in-person collaborations. There’s nothing quite like meeting people where they are, shaking their hands, and listening to their stories.

Rob, our Factory Director, said it best: “It was immediate chemistry. At the end of the day it wasn’t two groups of people coming from two different walks of life, or two different locations in the country, it was two groups of people with a common purpose.”

Ben & Jerry's & Greyston Bakery, arm in arm