Our Common Home

Our Common Home

Shaggy Coos Farm

Sustainability is an area of focus for the Society of Jesus. The Fairfield community heeds the call.

In 2019, Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus announced four “universal apostolic preferences” to guide the work of the Jesuits for the following 10 years. They include: to show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises, to “walk with the poor and the outcasts of the world,” “to accompany young people,” and lastly, to “collaborate in the care of our Common Home.” Of the fourth preference, inspired by Pope Francis’ second encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, Sosa wrote that “all human beings share responsibility for care of creation” and that the mission of the Society would be “to collaborate with others in the construction of alternative models of life that are based on respect for creation and on a sustainable development capable of producing goods that, when justly distributed, ensure a decent life for all human beings on our planet.” Over the last few years, based on their alarm at climate change, the Jesuits created the Office of Justice and Ecology, located in Washington, D.C., which works to increase awareness and engagement with legislators, public officials, corporations, and the Jesuit network on issues including immigration and environmental justice.

“The Jesuits really want to focus on bringing together care for our common home [and] care for one another, particularly those who are most vulnerable, those who are most impacted by environmental harm and degradation,” said Cecilia Calvo, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States’ Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice.

“Jesuit institutions, like Fairfield University, [need] to take actions towards sustainability and to connect those actions to our Catholic faith,” she continued.

Fairfield as an institution and community has taken this call to action seriously. The University is currently at work on an updated comprehensive Campus Sustainability Plan and a host of sustainability efforts are underway.

The greater University community has embraced sustainability as well. Here is a look at how three young entrepreneurs are effecting change for both people and planet with their inspired company missions.

Shaggy Coos Farm


Above: Conover milking one of of her eight cows at dawn.

A typical morning for Brittany Conover at Shaggy Coos Farm in Easton, Connecticut, starts with a milking at about 5:30 a.m.

Conover can be found inside her barn, kneeling beneath her dairy cows, dipping their udders with an iodine-based cleanser, wiping them all down, hand massaging out milk and attaching an electric pump to each teat. As the cows milk, Conover sips her coffee and eases into the day.

Then she hauls the steamy, 22-gallon stainless steel jug over to her milk room and creamery — a refashioned shipping container steps from her barn. A few days a week, she also serves as a microbiology and organismal lab supervisor in the Biology Department at Fairfield where she has taught for the last three years.

Conover is part of a new generation of farmers — fresh blood, at age 29, in a male-dominated industry that has always been a struggle. On her own she manages the 15-acre farm she lives on with her husband Jake.

Conover, who has an MS in environmental science from the University of New Haven, has a calmness to her, which obscures her shrewd business sense. She’s diversified the products at her farm, producing dairy, meat, and eggs. She also boards horses and sells her products at a market on the premises.

At the top of her mind and at the heart of her farm — and her teaching — is the notion of sustainability. For Conover that means keeping her dairy and meat livestock small scale and manageable, staying constantly vigilant about ways to reduce waste, and treating her animals with respect. She brings her knowledge of agriculture back with her to the Fairfield bio lab.

Conover founded Shaggy Coos on the principles of raising livestock humanely and without the use of any artificial aids. All of her animals are given a high-quality diet of grass, hay, and grain which are antibiotic-and hormone-free, and her livestock is harvested under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“We treat our animals the way we would want to be treated,” Conover said, her boots breaded with manure and pine shavings. “From pasture management to their overall environment, health, and feed, we consider all of that very carefully.”

Learn more at shaggycoos.farm

Graziella Coffee Company


Above: Tony Ponte ’13 holding a bag of his Graziella Coffee.

Tony Ponte ’13 starts his workday by fulfilling his Graziella Coffee Company orders. He scoops the rich, roasted fair-trade beans into 60-percent compostable paper bags, packages them for shipping, slings a giant sack of them over his shoulder, and rides his bike one-handed to the post office. To Ponte, every little bit that he can do to support the environment helps and is part of an important cycle of change.

“I see my role not only as supporting sustainable agriculture and production,” Ponte said, “but as offering consumers a choice they can feel good about.”

Ponte grew up in northwestern Connecticut, in a tight-knit Italian-American family where he and his sisters often passed the time in the nearby backyard garden of their grandparents. Farmers by trade in southern Italy before they immigrated to America, Ponte’s grandparents instilled in him a passion for the growing process — whether it was planting seedlings, birdwatching, or skinning and eating freshly picked carrots. Ponte absorbed their reverence for the land and their simpler way of life.

Coffee was also a part of his culture growing up. Ponte’s father and uncles owned a coffee shop and at most family functions small cups of espresso were passed around. Some drank it with sugar, while others poured in Sambuca.

“These memories make up the foundation of why I got into coffee in the first place,” Ponte said. “Coffee creates community.”

About two years ago, after having worked at a few jobs that weren’t quite the right fit, Ponte enrolled in a coffee-tasting course and soon founded Graziella Coffee Company — named for his grandmother — a coffee roasting and retail sales business with a focus on sustainable, transparent supply chains and sound farming practices that yield a premium product.

A marketing major while at Fairfield, Ponte purchases organic, raw, bulk coffee only from importers who are committed to fair-trade practices and sustainable agriculture; or he works directly with farmers who invest in their communities through education, initiatives for women’s rights, and health efforts. Then, Ponte roasts the beans in a shared commercial kitchen and sells the final product, in his online shop, to specialty stores and cafes.

Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Ponte hopes to continue to build community by opening up a storefront where he can host events.

“As long as the mission continues to stay the focus,” Ponte said, “your impact, the business, and the brand grow — the possibilities are kind of endless.”

Learn more at graziellacoffee.com

Prota Fiori


Above: left: Jennifer Stucko ’09, founder and CEO of Prota Fiori, poses with a citrus tree to highlight her company’s garden initiative for which they planted 100 trees to honor their first 100 customers.

A finance and marketing double major at Fairfield, Jennifer Stucko ’09 studied abroad in Florence, Italy, where her dorm abutted the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a Mecca for shoe-lovers like herself, which houses a collection of more than 10,000 shoes dating from the 1920s. That’s where she developed a taste for luxury fashion and became a bonafide Italophile. After building a career in fashion and working for companies like Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Valentino, and A. Testoni, Stucko was in search of something more.

“I learned that the fashion industry is the second most toxic in the world and is contributing to the climate crisis at catastrophic levels. I wanted to make a difference,” Stucko said.

Inspired by purpose-driven brands and her love of Italian craftsmanship, Stucko merged her passions and launched Prota Fiori (“protect the flowers”) in 2020, the first luxury shoe brand that is completely constructed by artisans with sustainable materials.

“I’ll never forget when I arrived in Le Marche, (on Italy’s eastern seaboard) for the first time to meet my second- generation footwear manufacturer,” Stucko said. “It was my first time in the region — there were rolling hills, vineyards, and sweeping views of the Adriatic Sea. I felt like I was home. I was in the right place. I could trust them and they could trust me.”

Stucko’s “old Hollywood, ladylike European stylish flare” shoes are made from sustainable components like upcycled grape and apple skins, chrome-free metal, vegetable-tanned and regenerated leather, and they’re packaged in Forest Stewardship Council Certified paper and recycled organic cotton.

How does a grape skin become part of a shoe? Stucko collaborates with Italian wineries to capture grape marc discarded during wine production (grape marc is composed of grape skins, stalks, and seeds discarded during wine production.) While most raw materials for leather alternatives are made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride), Prota Fiori uses a more environmentally friendly water-based PU (polyurethane), which has no chemical solvents. For the shoes’ coloring, Stucko uses only REACH compliant (a European Union environmental certification) dyes, and their production facility is powered by clean, solar energy.

Prota Fiori is now a Pending Certified B Corporation, which means it will soon achieve the certification with the highest standard of accountability for doing “business for good,” putting Stucko’s company in the class of others like Patagonia and Allbirds.

“No one’s ever made a shoe like this before,” she said with a smile.

Learn more at protafiori.com

Other Articles in the Summer 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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On the Mound

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Fighting Back

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From Raj to Republic

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Alumni Profile: Alexis Yannone '20 RN

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Alumni Profile: Erica (Trombly) Harp ā€™14, RN ā€“ BSN, CPLC

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Donor Profile: Shannon (Barry) and Steve J. Siwinski ā€™92, Pā€™16

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