Ethan Schaffer for BGI Stories

Ethan Schaffer

Co-founder, Director of Business and Organizational Development · Viva Farms · Skagit Valley, WA

I found BGI on Cortes Island, one of the coolest places in which BGI operates. I was working on a forest restoration project on Cortes at the same time the very first BGI cohort was holding their graduation ceremony at Channel Rock. At the time, I had already started with the goal of helping farms become more self-sufficient, and had plenty of non-profit and fundraising experience through my work at Climate Solutions, but I knew I needed to understand the business world—sustainable business, to be exact.

The full immersion of sustainable business and management into the curriculum at BGI was incredible. I loved being surrounded by a peer group working on all sorts of issues, but always in the context of sustainability. I applied these hard business skills as the Marketing Director for Tango Card, an innovative gift card company in Seattle that I helped found, before starting my latest venture, Viva Farms, a 33 acre farm incubator in Skagit Valley.

Five years since graduating, I still feel immersed in the BGI community. The friends I made in school are lifelong friends, and I run into new members of the BGI community everywhere I go. A number of my organization’s supporters are alumni of BGI. It feels great to still have that circle of support.


Ethan grew up on a hay and tree farm in Northern Idaho. He founded, and organization connecting 25,000 people between food and farm opportunities. He is also the co-founder of Viva Farms, the organization that won the Social Innovation Fast Pitch non-profit category, along with audience awards for “Best Presentation” and “Most Innovative”. Watch Ethan’s five minute pitch below:

More BGI Stories