SPRING CREEK TOFU GETS MAJOR AWARD - Local Product Known All Over America

SPENCER - Tofu made in Spencer is not just good for you, it's good for the planet.

Spring Creek Natural Foods has received this year's Green Entrepreneur Award from the West Virginia Environmental Council.

The award is presented annually to a company that works not just to advance its profits, but also to advance environmentally sustainable business practices.

"Spring Creek is honored that E-Council has chosen us as this year's Green Entrepreneur award winner," said Bob Hamburg, chair of Spring Creek's Board of Directors. "I'm accepting this award on behalf of all the founders and employees who have taken part over the past 25 years.

"We have been using organic ingredients to make some of the finest tofu in the United States. In making all our products, we strive to be friendly to both our community and our environment." Tofu, made from soybeans, is a vegetarian source of high quality protein that has been eaten for over 2000 years in China.

The award will be presented today at E-Council's 15th Annual E-Day! proceedings. Since 1990, the statewide non-profit organization has held E-Day! to focus attention on environmental issues and citizen lobbying on current legislation.

This year, about 30 environmental groups and eco-friendly businesses will gather at the State Capitol to showcase their work. The official awards ceremony will be held during an evening reception and benefit for the E-Council at the Perfater Law Office, 1311 Virginia St. E., Charleston.

Spring Creek's tofu is known nationwide.

Jean Marc, the chef with the Dean Ornish Lifestyle Advantage Program, has said that where he lives in California he cannot get any tofu as good as the product made in the Spencer soy dairy.

When a Columbus, Ohio whole foods wholesale distributor that carried Spring Creek's tofu was bought up by another business and closed down, many people panicked. The soy dairy's bulletin board is full of e-mails from people upset that they could no longer get what many termed the very best tofu available.

Fortunately, other distributors were located. Through their own deliveries and through the new health food distributors, Spring Creek products reach most states east of the Mississippi.

Today, with 15 employees, Spring Creek converts about 6,000 pounds of organic soybeans into 12,000 pounds of tofu and tofu-based products each week.

Yearly sales are about $500,000, a figure which is attributable to Spring Creek's reputation for quality products, and increased public awareness of the many health benefits of eating soybean-based products.

Another E-Council award winner this year is Janet Fout, co-director of the Huntington-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. Fout won E-Council's highest award, the Mother Jones Award. She, too, can attest for the fine quality of products available from Spring Creek Natural Foods.

"I recently was in Spencer to get my computer repaired," Fout said. "I made certain to stop by Spring Creek and buy a whole case of soysage patties and many packages of tofu. It's simply the best around, and it sure helps me keep my energy up as I work to coordinate the West Virginia Clean Elections Coalition. I guess you could say that work is tofu-powered."

Spring Creek Natural Foods began in 1978 as a worker-owned cooperative based in southern Calhoun County kitchens. In 1979, the soy dairy moved into a storefront in Spencer, then moved to its current location on East Main St. in 1989.

During this period, over 200 local people have worked at the soy dairy. Gradually, the worker owned aspect of the business changed. Today Spring Creek is a closely-held stock corporation, with many employees owning stock.

From the beginning, the soy dairy's aim was to keep the business' impacts on Earth's resources minimal. Soybean-based vegetarian foods deliver far more protein per acre of land, at much less negative impact than animal-derived foods.

Little is wasted at Spring Creek. Local farmers pick up okara-soy fiber created during tofu production- to feed their livestock.

"We have the best tofu products on the market, made right here in central West Virginia. Who would have thought it? And now we have the E-Council's Green Entrepreneur Award to show that not only are our products tasty, they are good for the environment, too," Hamburg said.

Spring Creek's products can be purchased at the shop in Spencer, as well as Healthy Life Markets in Charleston, Kanawha City and Cross Lanes; Krogers in Kanawha City and Ashton Place in Charleston; the Purple Onion in Charleston's Farmer's Market; and Mountain Peoples' Coop in Morgantown. Charleston's Delish Restaurant, the Charleston Area Medical Center and Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown all serve Spring Creek products.

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