We began as a tiny enterprise to promote a vegetarian lifestyle. Now we’ve grown into an environmentally friendly company providing excellent employment for more than thirty people.
In 1977, when the natural foods industry was in its infancy, Norman Holland and Andrew Schecter envisioned a business to serve as a vehicle for positive social change. With the help of $7000 in loan money from friends, Northern Soy (that’s our company name, SoyBoy is our brand name) began making organic tofu. From the conviction that happy workers produce higher quality foods, Northern Soy has since strived to create a workplace where people can enjoy their work and have their needs fulfilled.
Fast forward to the present: the natural foods industry has experienced explosive growth over the past four decades. Big food conglomerates have largely taken it over. At SoyBoy, we remain independently owned, and Norman and Andy still manage the daily operations. In 1977 our first small tofu-making factory was a scene right out of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Over time, the system has evolved profoundly.
Back-breaking repetitive jobs have been replaced with microprocessor-controlled state-of-the-art machinery, allowing people to focus on quality control and food safety. We have worked hard to remain true to our original ideals. Andy and Norman are still vegetarians. From our inception we have supported organic agriculture as both a business and a personal conviction. The extent we have succeeded can be measured by a loyal customer base that continues to grow, and in the dedication of our Northern Soy family whose average tenure is 10 years.
We’re determined to make a net positive impact on the world, and we think it’s exciting that our biggest waste-reduction effort helps us play a big role in our local organic-food-production community. Part of the tofu-making process is to squeeze the milk out of a whole lot of soybeans. That steps leaves behind a substance called okara — the insoluble fiber from the beans. Instead of sending tons of okara to the landfill each year, we send this certified organic would-be waste product to local organic farmers as feed for their organic cows. All we ask is that they cover the cost of shipping. This ensures that their cows are getting genuinely organic feed, and it helps the farmers keep their organic products affordable. We supply organic soy pulp byproduct to: Har-Go Farm (Pavilion NY) Cottonwood Farm (Pavilion NY) Brent Tillotson Farm (Pavilion NY)
We believe in eating local, and we source our ingredients locally whenever possible. In the last year, we’ve used organic soybeans from the Finger Lakes region of New York (50 miles), Ontario, Canada (150 miles) and Eastern Michigan (260 miles). We always try to buy as close to home as we can, but market conditions sometimes mean going a little farther to get the high-protein organic beans that we need. But our US-Canada Grown Organic soybeans have always come from dedicated Organic North American farms. We buy organic soybeans from: Rosedale Organic Farm (Rosedale NY) Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm (East Aurora NY)
Investing in Safety
For decades, we’ve been investing in two things — producing high quality products and creating a really good place to work. Safety is an important part of both, so we invest in food safety and people safety. It’s part of the fabric of everything we do. Our “Hawaii 5-0” team on the production floor is responsible for enforcing the culture of cleanliness and hygiene. These folks back up all our safety systems with the element of human observation. They ensure procedures, guidelines, and best practices are being followed every day, by every member of our team. It’s a tough job, and they’re proud to do it. To improve food safety, we’re constantly looking for ways to reduce the potential for human error to impact our products. We’ve isolated the production of gluten-containing ingredients to dedicated equipment. From signage to process automation, we’re doing everything we can to ensure that our products are trustworthy.
We came to Rochester to find community at the Zen Center, but when we started making tofu, we found a family in our local community. Part of loving the people around us is creating great jobs. Having a company that employs dozens of wonderful, interesting, diverse local people is one of the best parts of our success! All of our people really know one another, and most of them stay for at least a decade. To help support the individuals on our team beyond their paychecks, we’re committed to offering the best benefits package anywhere in the Rochester area.