Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the Farm with Joel Salatin

Found this in the Richmond Times while researching another story. Joel is a definately a pioneer in the local food movement and proof that we can grow food differently. This is a good read, hope you enjoy!

On the farm with Joel Salatin (Added: December 11, 2011)
Alternative farmer and author Joel Salatin says returning to the simple life is perfect antidote for today's fast-paced times. (more) 0 Ratings | 276 Video Views Post a Comment or Rate this Video
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Next Image > < Previous Image Credit: BILL LOHMAN Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things, at his Polyface Farm in Augusta County. Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things, at his Polyface Farm in Augusta County. Credit: BILL LOHMAN The Polyface Farm in Augusta County owned by alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin where he raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things. Credit: BILL LOHMAN Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatinhas written a new book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World." Credit: BILL LOHMAN 1 By: Bill Lohmann Richmond Times-Dispatch Published: December 11, 2011 Updated: December 11, 2011 - 12:00 AM » 1 Comments | Post a Comment SWOOPE -- Last summer, Joel Salatin and his wife, Teresa, were eating breakfast at their farmhouse in Augusta County when they realized they were not alone: a couple with two children — strangers — were standing on their back porch. "They're peering in the kitchen window, saying, 'Here's where they live! Here's where they live!' " Salatin recalled with a laugh. Salatin is far from an A-list celebrity, but in some circles — farmers and foodies, in particular — he's as famous as they come. His Polyface Farms is on a quiet country road west of Staunton, but many people find their way here, usually to buy fresh meat or eggs, or to see how he does what he does. Rarely, though, do they come to watch him eat breakfast. Salatin, 54, has become the face of the alternative farming movement, the plain-talking antidote to industrial agribusiness. He has been cast as hero in food-related documentaries ("Food Inc.") and books (Michael Pollan's "Ominvore's Dilemma"). He gallivants around the world — he's on the road 140 days a year — talking about his pastured chickens, grass-fed cattle and the pigs he sends into the woods to forage for acorns. Like a pied piper, he encourages others to come along, for the good of their food, their families and their planet. It's heady stuff for someone who self-deprecatingly characterizes himself as "a peasant with a pitchfork" whose primary crop is grass. Whatever fame he has achieved goes in the closet with the suitcase when he returns home. Influential as he is on the road, he's just one of the crew at Polyface, toting feed, digging postholes and cutting wood. The dirt under his fingernails represents a badge of honor as, in a way, does the "Steve" patch stitched to his ancient work shirt. Steve? "It's just a shirt from down at the thrift store," he said during a late-November interview at his farm. "We don't care what names are on them. They cost 50 cents, and when they wear out you just use them for rags." To Salatin, that's just normal, which also happens to be the thrust of his new book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World." It's his eighth book, but the first one he's not self-published. Center Street, a New York publisher with a Park Avenue address, is betting the folksy but outspoken Salatin will appeal to a broad audience longing for simpler times. * * * * * "I enjoy the theater" of media interviews and the speaking circuit, Salatin said as his all-terrain vehicle bumped along a dirt road on his farm. "But, man, do I enjoy getting out there and just grubbing and sweating. "My calluses are still plenty good and hard." Salatin is not an easy man to categorize. He's a champion of the local food movement, natural farming and self-reliance; he's no fan of pesticides and man-made fertilizers, government regulations and the wasteful ways of modern society. A graduate of Bob Jones University, a conservative Christian institution, he is welcomed warmly as a speaker at liberal outposts such as the University of California-Berkeley. His faith is deep, his politics well to the right and he's something of a tree-hugger. He's gregarious, but not in an acquiescent way. He's blunt and opinionated; he says more of us should raise chickens instead of parakeets. For those struggling to label him, Salatin saves them the trouble, describing himself as "a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer." "I have a really odd constituency," he said. "I'm loved and hated by everybody." Matthew J. Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which represents farmers large and small, sometimes agrees with Salatin, and sometimes doesn't. "We absolutely agree on many core values, chief among them the importance of home-grown agriculture," Lohr said. "His low-impact methods appeal to many people who prefer food grown under certain production practices. Joel has raised the consciousness of many people across this nation about the importance of farmers and of buying locally and eating seasonally. We thank him for that." * * * * * Salatin was 4 when his parents moved to Swoope, acquiring a farm that was overused, under-loved and visibly worn out. Shale poked through where lush grass should have been. But the Salatins couldn't be too choosy. They had come from Venezuela, where they had tried farming — his father worked for an American oil company as an accountant, which is how he wound up in Venezuela — but they lost their farm and their savings to political unrest, and returned to the United States for a fresh start. Though his parents never made a living from farming, they nurtured the property back to health by focusing on soil development and composting. His father developed a portable electric fence system that allowed him to move grazing animals from one patch of pasture to another, proving beneficial to the animals and the land. Joel Salatin took to farming immediately. At age 10, he managed his first flock of chickens and started an egg business. He wanted to farm, but wasn't convinced he could make a living. After college, where he majored in English and honed his debate skills, he returned to live at the farm but took a job in town as a newspaper reporter at The News Leader of Staunton. In 1982, having saved a small sum from living with his parents, he and Teresa took a leap of faith: He quit the paper and gave full-time farming a try. "It was about three years until we looked at each other and realized, 'This is going to work,' " Salatin said. "We weren't making much money. Just enough to live on. But it was working." National attention was about the furthest thing from his mind, but it started knocking at his door. In the late 1980s, a writer from the Stockman Grass Farmer magazine attended a field day at Polyface, liked what he saw of Salatin's approach to farming and wrote about it. Before long, Salatin was writing a monthly column for the magazine. Then came invitations to make public speeches. There seemed to be a genuine hunger for information about the sort of small-scale farming he was doing. He started getting phone calls from farmers and would-be farmers. He wrote a manual, thinking that might stop the calls. He cranked out 40 pages on his typewriter about raising pastured poultry, made photocopies, clipped together booklets — and sold 1,000 of them. All that did was lead to more speaking invitations and more books. "Joel Salatin is the alternative food industry's true pioneer," said Allan Nation, editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer. "He has never been afraid to leave the comforts of the fort to expand the frontier for everyone who is following him. When things go wrong he's quick to warn others, and when things go right he's never been afraid of spurring competition for himself by telling others about his success. He is one truly exceptional person." Salatin still farms the way he always has, but he's no longer small-scale. Besides the 550 acres of Polyface, he leases eight other farms to accommodate his multitude of chickens (20,000 broilers and 3,000 to 4,000 layers) and 1,000 head of cattle. His son, Daniel, manages the day-to-day operations, and Polyface apprentices run the satellite farms as subcontractors. Polyface has become an economic engine driving business to other small farmers in the area, Salatin said. The Salatins refuse to ship their food long distances. They prefer selling direct to customers at the farm or through buying clubs across Virginia, although their products are in select stores. He finds farmers markets too inefficient for his taste. Too many "nibblers," as he calls some shoppers. He wants to see people "really buying their food" at farmers markets, not just "little ribboned bottles of condiments and cute bow-tied mini-breads," and seriously move away from supermarkets. Salatin and his wife live in the house he grew up in, his mother lives next door, his grown children live on the farm, and his grandchildren roam the place as he did. Four generations at Polyface is perhaps Salatin's happiest harvest. * * * * * Polyface is open to visitors, who are welcome to shop, look around the farm, even watch the processing of poultry if they wish. Salatin says it's a wonderful idea for people to have a "visceral connection" to their food. He says people must take a greater interest in their food, where it comes from and what it takes to grow. He says they should get to know a farmer, grow vegetables and stock their pantry. Salatin says Americans should change their eating habits — starting with not eating as much processed food and clamoring for out-of-season fruit and vegetables — and become more self-sufficient. "I've met people in the middle of pretty big cities who have a freezer and a large pantry," he said. "They show you their dried goods and all the things they've gotten locally. It's available. You have to plan for it. You have to think about it, and you have to prioritize your life. "It's a mind-set that says, 'Our family is going to re-establish normalcy in our life.' "

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meat processing for organic and local products

Great news in this release as well as additional verification that more people are showing a concern over what they are consuming and taking steps to make changes in their food choices. Hope this trend continues and that Stokes County can be a participant in thes evoulution:

December 7, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE N.C. Meat Processor Goes Organic

Taylorsville, North Carolina- In a boon to the local and niche meat industry in North Carolina, a Taylorsville meat processing company has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to process certified organic meats. For over 30 years, Mays Meats has provided custom and inspected meat processing services to local farmers who produce and sell niche meat products in local marketing channels. Mays Meats has been a leader in supporting the growth of the local meat industry by providing high quality inspected meat processing services (e.g., slaughter, fabrication and value-added product development). Longtime Mays Meats employee, Misty Dyson, coordinated the effort for USDA National Organic Program certification. “Our customers do a great job raising animals responsibly; having the option for processing under organic certification provides them with a level of third party verification that many consumers find valuable. Mays Meats is happy to provide this service to farmers as part of an overall effort to help them better market their meat products,” Dyson says.

Local beef producer Shelly Eagan, of Cleveland County’s Proffitt Family Farms, worked closely with Mays Meats in navigating the application process for organic certification. “Misty and I started working together on this back in February 2011. I really don’t think we could have done it without working together. Our beef has been certified organic for the 3 years but we couldn’t legally market using an organic label because we had nowhere to have the animals slaughtered under organic certification. We’re thrilled to now have that option. I think there are a lot of folks out there who are actually raising animals ‘organically’ who might consider getting certified now that they can actually make those claims on their labels.”

NC Choices Coordinator, Casey McKissick, notes, “It’s exciting to see the positive outcome of farmers and processors working together toward a common goal. It’s these types of partnerships across the supply chain that are moving the local meat industry forward in North Carolina. Mays Meats is the only commercial processor in North Carolina to provide slaughter and cut and wrap services under organic certification. This will create more market opportunities for local livestock producers and product choices for local consumers.”

Niche meats are meat products marketed based on attributes such as “organic,” “local,” “pasture-raised,” “grass-fed,” “humanely raised,” and “grown without antibiotics or added hormones.” The local and niche meat industry in North Carolina has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, bringing new economic opportunities for farmers, processors and other industries that support the local food economy.

A recent review of meat and poultry sales through natural foods retailers shows the “natural and organic
sector” growing at a much stronger rate than conventional meat and poultry sales. For example,
between 2008 and 2010, nationwide red meat sales increased 1.7 percent whereas natural and organic
red meat sales increased by 15 percent (Mintel 2010).

According to the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), there has been a steep
increase in the number of farmers in North Carolina who are securing their meat handlers’ registrations—a
requirement for transporting and selling packaged, inspected meat. As of November 2011, 499 farmers held a
meat handler’s registration. That number is nearly four-fold increase since 2007 (NCDA 2011).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Think Stokes First: Holiday Night on the Town in King

Friday - December 9- 5:00-9:00 pm- Holiday “Night on the Town” The King Chamber of Commerce invites you to an evening of holiday celebration and shopping in the local shopping centers and downtown stores. There will be carolers from Miss Joyce’s Dance Studio and Wishful Thinkers will perform from 7:30-9:00 pm at Coffee, Tea & Me. Many merchants plan to offer refreshments in sharing the holiday spirit. Habitat for Humanity will be celebrating the Grand Opening of their Re-Store with a ribbon cutting at 7:00 pm, and with a Holiday Market of vendors in their building. Dalton’s Crossing, a new clothing store coming to the downtown area will also provide a “sneak peek” and their corner building will house Bubble Me Pink girls’ accessories, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Tupperware vendors. Stop by the Chamber office to visit vendors there including Elke’s Shoppe collectibles, Mimi’s Accessories for Women, Pitter Pat Boutique with decorative clothing and accessories for children, Bill McKinnis and Jennifer Sealey with tinware and beeswax candles, the Loveday’s woodcrafts and Jan Rollyson’s ceramics. Stop by Bunny’s Trees to have your picture made with Santa. Stores including those below will be open in many locations with special merchandise ready for your gift giving:Downtown King -Gentry’s Store-Radio Flyer toys, Schrade Commemorative Knife-150th anniversary of the Confederate States of America, Eden Pure Heaters and sleds Terry’s Furniture-great selection of quality furniture ready for delivery now Nothing Ordinary Unique Gifts-huge variety of gifts and decorative items with up to 75% from 6:00-9:00 pm on selected items Carroll Memorials-marble bookends and desk nameplates, fossil stone candlesticks, pen and pencil sets and flags Mickey & Co. Hair Designs-specials for the evening: single color shellac-$20, double color shellac-$23, French shellac-$25; Waxing: eyebrows-$7, lip-$5, lip & eyebrow-$10 Gift certificates , flat irons and haircare products will be available for purchase. Coffee, Tea & Me-live music, women’s accessories, and of course wonderful beverages King Music Center-instruments, music and lessonsKing Computer Center-electronics and suppliesB.J’s Shoes-boots, Converse and Pointer Brand overalls. Miss Joyce’s Dance Studio- dancewear, gift certificates and performances by the Musical Theatre students Dalton’s Crossing-men and women’s clothing store opening in February Talley’s Flower Shop-live plants, home d├ęcor, candles, stuffed animals and much more Habitat for Humanity of Stokes County-Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting at 7:00 pm on Friday, December 9 at the new office and ReStore, 117 Dalton Road. Habitat will also have a Christmas Market in their new facility featuring Carolyn Tilley with Handmade Baskets, Kim Burroughs with quilted items, Amanda Hamilton with Premier Designs Jewelry and Jeanette Pardue with Scentsy. King Shopping Center King Antique Mall-antiques, collectibles, advertising items, glassware and Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies
Tradewinds Consignments and Jewelry-nice collection of winter apparel and accessoriesAbba’s Family Thrift Store-toys, clothing, books and holiday decorating items. All porcelain dolls-$3.00, all Christmas items-25% off, all books $0.25 .King Chamber of Commerce –Limited Edition King T-shirts - (Construction Survivor). Prices are (S-M-LG - $10.00) and (XXL - $12.00) Yhese make great socking stuffers

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lodging Needed

A common theme during my time in Stokes County has been the lack of available lodging. Here are the facts: we have nearly 1,000,000 visitors a year, they have very limited options on where to stay if they want to extend their visit.

We understand the reality of the situation, it is very unlikely that one of the large chains will pick Stokes County as a location. That means we need to look at other options: campgrounds, RV Parks and individual cabins. This idea works in other areas across the state, especially along the coast and in the sparsely populated rural areas of the Appalachian Mountains, there is no reason that it will not work here.

The EDC Board and I have discussed this in detail, along with our Planning and Envirnmental Health Departments. We believe that we can work with prospective lodging developers with the guidelines that are already in place to assist them in creating the rooms necessary to fuel tourism spending.

We already have mechanisms in place to help with marketing cabins or vacation rentals. Our PurePlay tourism website receives 70-80,000 visits each month, we work closely with Hanging Rock State Park, all our river hosts and the other tourism venues across the county. What we need are people who believe in this opportunity to step in and make things happen.

We have scheduled a meeting to discuss this matter in more detail on December 12 at 10 AM. It will be held in the third floor conference room of the Reagan Building in Danbury. I ask that if you know of anyone who shares our passion and the vision of the future to join us. Good things are taking place, be a part of it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Assistance for Organic Farmers

I received this today and wanted to share it. Please pass it on to anyone who is farming organicly or looking to do so.


Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 22, 2011) – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a national initiative being offered in North Carolina. Administered under the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative helps certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production meet their conservation goals. Technical and financial assistance will help producers plan and implement conservation practices to allow their organic operations to be environmentally sustainable.

Funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative will be available soon. Now is the time for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic productions to work with their local USDA Service Center to establish eligibility and apply so that their applications can be considered when funds become available.

EQIP is primarily used to provide financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices to address soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. An organic provision targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production:

Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production
Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period
Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP
Producers must be pursing an organic certification or in compliance with their organic certification The initiative is available for farmers who are certified organic, transitioning to certified organic, or organic exempt according to USDA’s National Organic Program regulations. Farmers can submit applications for the initiative anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin ranking eligible EQIP Organic Initiative applications on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered complete for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met. Applications that are not complete by the first ranking date will be deferred to the next ranking period, which is anticipated to occur on March 30 and June 1, 2012.
Under the EQIP Organic Initiative applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources including: experimenting with cover crops and crop rotations, installing intensive grazing infrastructure (grazing plans, internal fencing and water lines), establishing wildlife and pollinator friendly habitat, and installing seasonal high tunnels. Applicants who apply for the national initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the general EQIP program.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at www.nc.nrcs.usda.gov. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marketing opportunity for local farmers

Please take a moment to look over the list of available areas where several social media workshops for farmers will be held over the next 12 months. Sound like a good opportunity to help de-mystify these marketing opportunities:

Dear Friends,

This winter and summer, CFSA is excited to present Social Media for Farmers workshops designed especially to help farmers reach new customers and expand their farm businesses. This workshop got rave reviews when it was offered at the Sustainable Ag Conference earlier this month!

We will be offering the same great workshop 7 times in locations throughout NC (see below for dates and locations). And, through the generous support of the Golden LEAF Foundation, we're able to offer the workshop for just $10, including lunch!

All workshops are limited to 25 participants to allow for lots of hands-on, one-on-one training. Register now at - http://carolinafarmstewards.org/socialmediaforfarmers.shtml

Please pass this information along to any interested farmers or ranchers!

Social Media for Farmers

Want to harness the power of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach new customers and grow your farm business?

You won’t want to miss this all-day hands-on workshop designed especially for farmers and taught by social media experts, Johanna Kramer (@durhamfoodie) and Cary and Grace Kanoy (GeoCore Films).

You will leave this workshop with a fully-functioning Facebook and Twitter page (or upgrade your existing pages), the skills to shoot your own short farm video using your cell phone, camera, or iPad, and the training to take better farm photos. Includes lunch.

Cost: $10

All workshops will be held from 9:00-4:00 PM.
January 24 - Guilford County

January 31 - Watauga County

February 1 - Gaston County

February 16 - Lenoir County

March 6 - Buncombe County

August 16 - Chatham County

August TBA - Forsyth County

Call 919-542-2402, Email cheryl@carolinafarmstewards.org or On the web at CFSA's online store http://bit.ly/dUjvcS

These workshops are funded by a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation and presented in partnership with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, 10% Campaign, Food Corps, NC Cooperative Extension, and Know Your Farms.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A piece of good advice.

Thanks to my good friend Derek Edwards for passing this along. I am thankful every day for the guideance and wisdom of my grandmother and my mother. I am very fortunate to have had a wonderful relationship with all my grandparents and to still be able to depend on the wisdom of my mother.

Why execs turn to grandma for business advice
October 31, 2011: 11:55 AM ET
Quaint as it may sound, successful executives often turn to the insights they gleaned from grandparents to navigate today's business world.
By Vickie Elmer, contributor
FORTUNE -- Some people turn to a mentor or maybe even a boss for management insights. Others look to Peter Drucker's books for pearls of business wisdom. Atlanta-area attorney A. Wayne Gill counts on the wisdom of his grandmother.
Gill runs a law firm outside Miami; he's bought and sold a few businesses and he is the author of Tales My Grandmother Told Me: A Business Diversity Fable. Despite his considerable business experience, he often recalls lessons he learned while at his grandparents' general store in Jamaica, which he visited in the summers as a child. The store, which was located in the town center in Moneague, Jamaica, sold fish, meat, rice, sugar, sandwiches, and sodas for workers. His grandmother offered ice cream and even ran a small bar in the evenings.
"She was just such a central figure," Gill says. She served as the sales person, and the deal maker, managing figures in her head and creating an ideal business environment.
Gill's grandmother was all about diversification. She bought land and a couple of gas stations. Gill followed her model by moving into public speaking and minority business consulting.
His grandmother, known as Doris (her real name was Irene Macosta) also taught him to deal fairly with vendors and other business people. "My grandmother was already practicing win-win," he says, which to him means being strong in your negotiations but not going overboard. Suppliers always wanted to do business with her, he recalls. Now, when he's negotiating: "If I get a little less, if I make the other guy happier, we can have a long-term deal, and treat each other with trust and respect."
A silent army of grandma disciples?
Gill is far from alone among executives who refer to their grandmothers as leadership guides, whether her name was Estee Lauder or Louisa.
Tim Sanders, a former executive at Yahoo and currently an author and consultant, weaved his grandma Billye's insights and lessons on gratitude and confidence into his latest book, Today We Are Rich.
"She taught me confidence, and with confidence I could do anything at all," says Sanders. "I understand where it started. I'm challenging other gurus and biz authors to 'fess up' on their grandmothers' contributions." Sanders says that he runs into half a dozen people a week who refer to their grandmother as a source of business inspiration.
Executives do not spend much time talking about their family and family histories, but their impact is considerable, says Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. "I've always been impressed in how many people I encounter -- how much the family, their ancestors did what they did and influenced how they think about life now," he says.
Sometimes it's grandma or grandpa, and other times it's an ancestor going back several generations. When Useem asks people who participate in his leadership programs which leaders they most admire, he often hears Nelson Mandela or PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi or the recently deceased Steve Jobs. Around 10 to 15% refer to their parents, which is an extension of grandparents' influence, Useem argues.
Cultivating a grandmother's business sense
It may seem like a quaint idea in an era of constant change, where we receive a barrage of management insights and ideas via Twitter, blogs, and other sources. Leaders today must understand international finance and world economic crises, changing social media platforms and evolving societal tastes and trends. So how can grandma's ideals or sampler-stitched wisdom really resonate amid such a dense business landscape?
Some say they use their grandmother's wisdom as a firm foundation for how to behave in the business world. They rely on her principles and ethical standards.
Michael Platt, co-founder of hedge fund BlueCrest Capital Management, credits his grandmother with starting him in stock trading. "My grandmother was a serious equity trader," he told Bloomberg News in an interview last year.
Alexandra Lebenthal, president and CEO of Lebenthal & Co., works at a desk that her grandmother used every day and says that she sees her lessons as useful in navigating Wall Street's unsure waters. "She was very passionate about doing things the right way. I definitely got that from her," she says of Sayra Lebenthal, who co-founded the Fifth Avenue municipal bond trading firm in 1925 with her husband Louis.
Her grandmother would always encourage clients to educate themselves about finance and their investments. "She would always caution people not to live beyond their means, which is important to business as well," Alexandra says. So while other Wall Street honchos talk up a complex new product, if Lebenthal doesn't see it clearly, "at the end, I say no." This bit of wisdom has saved her from investing in some faulty products in recent years, she says.
Tim Sanders was raised by his grandmother, from the age of five until he graduated from high school. Grandma Billye, who is now 96 years old, loaned him $100 to start his first business, a fireworks stand he established in the 8th grade. When he hired friends and gave too much to them, she helped him understand profit margins. "You've got to get better at hiring people," she told him.
Billye showed Sanders the lesson of the pecan -- "eat the nut, dump the shells" -- after he was teased at church camp. They called him squeaker because of his high voice. Billye showed him a pecan and asked him, "Can you eat this thing?" He said, "of course not," and was then told to crack it open. "Every piece of criticism is a pecan," Billye said. "Your job is to crack it open and find the nut and throw away the shell. What can you see that's good? Every piece of criticism is a gift. Every failure is a gift -- if you throw away the shell."
Sanders says that he returns to this notion all the time, as he's promoting his book and seeing reviews or receiving feedback from a speaking engagement. "People are incredibly direct, both negative and positive," he says. Yet the criticism teaches you something you need to know; a lesson learned that would make any grandma proud.
Posted in: Careers, Elders, Grandma, Grandmother, Grandparent, Leadership

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

News on Tobacco Trust Fund Grants

I wanted to share info on changes in the Tobacco Trust Fund Grant Program. After you have a chance to review the information, if you have any questions, contact me and I will attempt to point you in the right direction:

We are excited to announce the 2012 Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund Grant Cycle! Most of you know that our program was in jeopardy due to the State's budget reduction of the Tobacco Trust Fund. Last week we got the good news that we have been awarded $225,000 to give out in farmer grants this year, of which around $75,000 will be granted in the Western Piedmont. We will be making grants up to $10,000 to individual and collaborative farm projects. Early Bird Applications will be accepted for review until November 22nd. Grant application deadline is December 15, 2011.

NEW THIS YEAR: Due to the reduced number of grants we will be awarding this grant cycle, we have chosen to limit applicant criteria as follows:
1. Applicants must receive 50% of their household income from farming to be eligible to apply. For community applications, at least 3 farmer leaders in the group must receive 50% of their household income from farming to be eligible to apply.
2. Farmers or groups who have received a grant through the TCRF grant program or from the Tobacco Trust Fund in the past are not eligible to apply.

Attached is the news release, flyer and a copy of the producer and community applications.

Please visit our website our website for additional details: www.ncfarmergrants.org and don't hesitate to call if you have any questions.


p.s. Due to the reduced number of grants we will be awarding this cycle, I will only be hosting 3 workshops in the Western Piedmont Region. I chose locations that would require no more than a 1.5 hour drive from the furthest points in the region. The schedule is as follows:

Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Office -- November 3, 2011. 7pm
Surry County Cooperative Extension Office -- November 8, 2011. 6pm
Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension Office -- November 14, 2011. 7pm

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eye-opening article on jobs

and the relationship between employee and employer.

I have been on both sides of the jobs equation. It is easy to sometimes forget that both sides have responsibilities. Please take a few moments to read the article below and give consideration to whether or not you are living up to your part of the agreement.

Who Owns the Jobs, Anyway?
It's a simple trade relationship

By Jim Walton
CEO, Brand Acceleration, Inc.
Indianapolis and Charlotte

Recently, I met a young man who, for the first time in his life, is self-employed. A custom cabinet maker, he specializes in high-end cabinetry for homes, offices and commercial buildings. Curious, I asked, “How did you come to be self-employed?” “I was fired,” he told me. “Because of the economy?” I asked. “No, it was because of my laziness and bad attitude, but I’ve learned a lot since being on my own.” “Really,” I asked, “like what?”

He told me that he had been employed by another cabinet company for several years and that he had become overconfident, self-absorbed and arrogant about his own value. When his employer didn’t place him on the pedestal he felt he deserved, above his co-workers, he became sullen, angry and lazy. After several months and a few heart-to-heart talks, his employer asked his to leave.
“So, what was the biggest lesson you learned from being fired?” I asked. “I learned that the job didn’t belong to me,” he said. “It belonged to my employer.”

He explained that, as an employee, he failed to understand the terms of his employment, or anyone else’s employment. Here’s how he explained it: “When anyone accepts a job, it’s not something that is given to him or her, it’s a trade arrangement. The employee is expected to show up every day, on time, work hard and do great work. The employer will then provide a pay check and competitive benefits in return. If each party honors the terms of the agreement, all will be well. When one party underperforms, breaking the promise, the deal is subject to termination.”

I was thoroughly impressed. This young man had had a revelation, but I was curious about his sudden awakening. When fired for lack of performance, employees usually just go away mad and blame the boss. “What was your moment of clarity?” I asked. “What made you suddenly see that you were the problem?”

“Because I couldn’t find another job,” he said, “I decided to take on some cabinetry work on my own. I had the tools and skills, so I decided to go for it. It was a very scary endeavor. I was fortunate that my wife had a job and we had saved a few dollars. We risked it all. Things went well and I eventually had to hire an employee. Having to deal with payroll, benefits, vacations, customer expectations, taxes, two trucks and a wife and child, I learned what it was like on the other side of the employee-employer equation.” “Looking back,” I asked, “how do you now view your previous employer?” “I would have fired me, too,” he said. “The job didn’t belong to me. It belonged to him and I disrespected my agreement with him. I broke the promise. If I had been a better employee, I would probably still be there.”

Over the past few months, I’ve attended several economic development conferences where workforce has been a presentation topic. A common theme at each conference has been about worker skills and work ethic. Even though education and training are sometimes lacking, employers are frustrated by employees who are just unwilling to show up and do the work. “In addition to laziness,” an owner of a placement firm, said, “there’s a very significant sense of entitlement out there. People expect high wages and extensive benefits from day one, and then they might consider giving the employer a day’s work. The real world just doesn’t work that way. People need to wise up.”
What I heard at these conferences was that there are numerous jobs out there for skilled workers who are willing to show up (on time), work hard and become a valuable asset to their employee.

So, back to my cabinet maker friend, here’s what I asked next. “What advice would you give someone looking for, or in, a job?” After a few moments of pondering, he said, “Without getting into the employers responsibilities to employees, which are significant, I’d make these recommendations:

1. Understand that it’s a mutually agreed upon trade relationship.
2. Clearly understand the expectations of your employer.
3. Show up on time, every day. Be completely reliable.
4. Work your butt off (His words).
5. Always, always, always over-delivered.
6. Get better. Take classes or find other ways to bring more value to the relationship.
7. Be a positive force rather than a whiner
8. Be a problem solver, not a problem.”

This guy amazed me. His experiences have transformed him. He has gone from a lazy (his word), complaining malcontent to a self-employed, happy, hard-working employer, service provider, husband and father. He takes great pride in his work, even though the hours are long and the demands are great. I found his respect for the “trade relationship” to be very refreshing. If each of us were to remember that and follow his recommendations, I’m sure workplace contentment and productivity would soar.

Have a great week,

Jim Walton

Friday, October 14, 2011

Agriculture touted as next big job creater... In Michigan?

In my daily reading, I came across a very interesting story that rings true not just in Michigan but in North Carolina as well. There is the petential that farming, yes farming will help replace a portion of the jobs we have shed during the "Great Recession". This could be really good news for our folks, especially if we are successful in cultivating (pun intended) our local markets and growing more of our food close to home. Please take a moment and read the story and share your thoughts on the matter:

SPECIAL REPORT: Michigan's next big job opportunity: growing agricultural industry?
Posted: Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.
Topics: Business Review, News

When a million-dollar machine started milking his dairy cows, measuring output and spitting out data analyzing daily production trends in the early 1990s, Manchester farmer Earl Horning knew farming had changed.
He’s still waiting for the agricultural industry — Michigan's fastest growing major industry over the last decade — to shed its image as a bad place to work.

But if there’s one thing that might change that perception, it’s this: The 1-million-person Michigan “agri-food” industry — which includes farmers, food processors, equipment manufacturers, specialists and local food sellers — has quietly become a major job creator for the state of Michigan.
“You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in the industry,” Horning said during a recent interview at his sixth-generation, 650-acre farm on Pleasant Lake Road. “The agricultural community itself has lots of opportunities, all the way from manual labor to the highest tech programs.”
That’s a message Michigan’s agri-food industry is desperate to communicate because the industry is surging as farmers benefit from a global uptick in food prices and as Michigan consumers buy more local products.
But the industry’s growth is threatened by a failure to recruit young talent, according to a new report by the Michigan Agri-Business Association.
Michigan’s 56,014 farmers sold $5.75 billion in products in 2007, up 52.5 percent from 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 farm census. Much of that growth is driven by foreign markets as exports surge — a trend that's likely to continue after Congress on Wednesday passed free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
But a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development study describes the broader agri-food industry as much larger — about $71.3 billion in direct and indirect economic activity, reflecting the trickle-down effect of a healthy agricultural community, which affects grocers, restaurants, local sellers, farm contractors, food processors and others.
Although agricultural subsidies are a divisive political issue in Washington, their role in Michigan's farm industry is declining. Michigan farmers got $118.9 million in government subsidies in 2007, down 18 percent from 2002, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
To be sure, many jobs on the farm still involve long hours and low pay. Salaries vary wildly based on the position.
Farmworkers who handle livestock and ranch animals are paid average salaries of $23,980, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Farm laborers are paid an average of $22,510.
But other industry workers are paid more, like agricultural inspectors ($53,640), farm purchasing agents ($64,750), agricultural engineers ($72,720) and farm managers ($69,720).
Washtenaw County — generally known to the rest of the state as a source of technological innovation because of the University of Michigan and a burgeoning entrepreneurial economy — also has a vibrant agricultural sector.
The county’s 1,300 farms sold $73.2 million in products in 2007, up 34 percent from 2002, ranking 29th among Michigan’s 83 counties. Washtenaw has the most sheep, lamb and horse operations.
The surge in Michigan’s agri-food industry is a recent phenomenon — which may help explain why many consumers don’t view it as a source of new jobs.
Agricultural jobs
Workers with experience in traditional industries like manufacturing, construction and engineering can often translate their skills to the agricultural industry.
Here are 5 agricultural jobs with translatable skills (and median salaries):
• Farm equipment engineers and agricultural research engineers: Engineering farm equipment, analyzing soil and water usage, examining processing procedures ($72,720)
• Farm product purchasing agents: Procuring products such as cotton and livestock for processing or resale ($64,750)
• Fence builders and installers: Constructing or repairing fences ($33,570)
• Agricultural equipment operators: Driving farm equipment, cultivating soil, harvesting crops, operating applicator machines (wide salary range)
• Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists: Diagnosing and repairing farm vehicles ($40,010)
Source: Michigan Works!
From 1969 to 2000, Michigan lost 30,300 farming jobs as global competition intensified, according to a 2010 report by MSU's Land Policy Institute.
That decline has reversed in recent years as local farmers found new markets for their products, including foreign countries, local grocers and local consumers.
From 2002 to 2007, the market value of crops sold by Michigan farmers rose by 52.5 percent. During the previous 10 years, the market value of Michigan crops rose only 24.4 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Hiring challenges
All of a sudden, the sector is growing and hiring — which recently led the East Lansing-based Michigan Agri-Business Association to take the unusual step of issuing a report acknowledging that the industry has an image problem.
Although the industry is booming, it’s also aging — and it threatens to slow the industry’s growth.
About 30 percent of the industry’s managers are expected to retire within five to 10 years, according to the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Their average age is 56.3, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“Their replacements must be found quickly to avert a vacuum in leadership and skills that could hold back the entire industry,” according to the report.
Michigan Agri-Business Association President Jim Byrum said the industry’s recruiting challenges start with a basic misunderstanding.
“A lot of folks don’t think about ag when they think about job opportunities, but we were the fastest growing segment of Michigan’s economy in the last decade and probably will be in the next decade, so it’s a pretty positive story,” he said.
First, Byrum said, jobseekers need to understand that the industry is diverse and high-tech. In fact, most agri-food job opportunities aren’t even on the farm. Michigan had about 56,000 “principal operators” of farms in 2007. Generally, their families work on the farm, too.
But the economic impact of the agricultural industry is amplified by the many people required to support a farm, such as truckers, machine technicians, various specialists, maintenance technicians and manufacturing companies.
As farmers flourish, they hire more specialists like Duane Kimpel, an Ohio resident who visits Horning Farm with an assistant to trim cow hooves once a month.
"For a large part of society, they would never see themselves working on a farm," said Jeff Horning, who runs the farm's day-to-day business. "There’s so many things on a farm that happen. It’s not the same thing every day. We do have specialists come here."
And, of course, farms generate jobs at local grocers and restaurants that are flourishing because of their focus on locally grown products.

Byrum said sales people are needed to market products and sell farm technology like crop protection systems, positioning farmers to expand their market presence.
“We can teach them ag, but they need to be able to talk to people and have great communication skills,” Byrum said.
The industry needs skilled workers capable of handling advanced pesticide applicator machines, soil scientists, grain elevator operators and truck drivers in the most rural parts of the state.
Central to the recruitment challenge is a difficulty in convincing young people to consider the industry as a place to work.
Groups like Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Future Inc. have pumped out numerous studies showing that Michigan’s top college graduates prefer to work in vibrant urban areas.
The Michigan Agri-Business Association acknowledges the dilemma.
For a lot of young people, it’s “a matter of the quality of life, including entertainment, socialization with peers of a similar background and experience, fast and reliable Internet access (broadband), proximity to cultural activities,” according to the industry’s report.
But the industry is not just having a hard time recruiting young people. Byrum said the industry is even having trouble recruiting laid-off manufacturing employees in the state’s most distressed urban areas.
“That’s why we’re reaching out as strongly and aggressively as we are,” he said. “Ag used to be viewed as a dirty, dusty occupation, and it’s not that way anymore for the most part.”
Horning, who co-owns his Manchester farm with his son, Jeff, said most farmers are using high-tech equipment to maintain their crops and livestock and using the Internet to monitor price trends.
The Horning farm owns about 750 to 800 cows and calves and grows about 600 acres of crops — corn, alfalfa and wheat — that are grown to feed the animals.
At any given time, 330 are milked twice daily in Manchester, and another 200 are sent to a farm in Chelsea to be milked due to limited space in Manchester. The rest are too young to produce milk or are resting.
From 4-9 a.m. and 4-9 p.m., the cows are milked. Two workers guide about 20 cows at a time into a high-tech milking station. The workers connect the cows’ teats to the million-dollar Bou-matic ProVantage IMS, and the machine milks the cows.
After each session, the machine’s software analyzes each cow’s production and tells the workers if there appears to be a health issue with one of the animals.
Yes, the days of milking cows by hand are long gone.
Horning said the farm is proud to say it produces an average of about 10 gallons of milk per cow every day.
“That’s very high,” he said.
Although machines do most of the work, the realities of farm life can be jarring for people not used to the workload.
There’s not as much manual labor as there was a century ago, but the Michigan Agri-Business Association acknowledged in its report that working the field can still involve “long hours” and a “lesser skill set.”
Many local farms, including the Horning farm, hire seasonal migrant workers and immigrant workers to fill those jobs.
But many have a hard time finding people to take those positions, according to the Michigan Agri-Business Association report. “The dairy, pork, poultry, fruit and vegetable industries in Michigan need people to harvest their crops and care for their animals. While many are critical that immigrant and migrant populations fill many of these jobs, it is not because they are low-wage positions with poor benefits,” according to the report.
Michigan agricultural facts and statistics
• Michigan farmers produce more than 200 products at 56,000 farms with about 10 million acres of farmland.
• 71.3 percent of Michigan farms are between 10 and 179 acres.
• 74.2 percent of Michigan residents say the agricultural industry is "very important" to Michigan's economic recovery, while 22.8 percent say it's "somewhat important."
• Michigan farmers sold $5.75 billion in products in 2007, up from $3.77 billion in 2002 and $3.03 billion in 1992.
• Farmers sold $37.3 million in products directly to consumers in 2007.
• Dairy is the largest segment of the Michigan agriculture industry.
• Farms sell 2.7 billion eggs a year for $211.5 million.
• The Michigan floriculture industry's 720 commercial growers sold $393.5 million in products in 2007.
• Michigan is the nation's largest producer of tart cherries, blueberries, cucumbers, squash and black beans, among other products.
• Michigan's grape and wine industry, including 70 wineries, had 5,400 employees in 2007.
• Farmers exported more than $1.6 billion in goods.
• Michigan has the fourth most farmer's markets in the U.S.
• 47,739 of Michigan farms' "principal operators" are men. 8,275 are women. Their average age is 56.3. 30 percent plant to retire within 5 to 10 years.
Sources: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan State University, MSU Land Policy Institute
“Many of these operations provide health care and other benefits, while paying well above the minimum wage. It has simply been very difficult, if not impossible, to find workers locally to do these jobs on a reliable basis.”
Business opportunity
The agricultural industry has become lucrative for many. In 2010, Michigan farmers, in aggregate, made a profit of $1.82 billion, averaging more than $33,000 per farm, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service.
At the Horning Farm, which has eight full-time employees in addition to the Horning family members and many contractors, the performance has been strong, though Earl Horning declined to offer details.
One misconception about local farmers is that the entire industry is run by major corporations. In reality, Michigan’s farming industry is dominated by families.
About 4.3 percent of Michigan farms reported sales of more than $500,000 in 2007, though that was up from 2.5 percent in 1997, according to the USDA. Individuals or families own 86.9 percent of Michigan’s farms, while non-family corporations own 0.4 percent.
At the same time, Michigan agricultural exports have more than doubled over the last half a decade, rising to $1.75 billion in 2010, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture. But small, family-owned farms often need help to pursue foreign markets.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development say that building infrastructure to support the expansion of agricultural exports offers an economic opportunity for the state. Exports of soybeans, feeds, grains and wheat are growing particularly fast.
Training Michigan’s workforce to fill the various job opportunities within Michigan’s agri-food industry must involve a number of players, the industry says.
Michigan State University is still the state’s top destination for agricultural education — and most managerial positions in the industry require a college degree.
But the Michigan Agri-Business Association says community colleges also need to get involved in training workers for industry jobs.
Workforce development agencies are also moving to provide resources to jobseekers interested in pursuing jobs in the agri-food industry.
Mary Jo Callan, community development director for Washtenaw County, said her office is developing an initiative to provide a new job training program to prepare people to enter the industry.
“We’re trying to provide some comprehensive job development training and opportunities for low-skilled, low-income folks, folks who have traditionally been left out of traditional workforce development efforts,” she said.
She added: “The reality is that the local food movement and the farm-to-table movement has really reshaped people’s perception about agriculture and about local food systems. So, is it hard work? Hell yes. But is it worth it, is it important work, is it work people can feel proud about? Yes it is.”
Contact AnnArbor.com's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or nathanbomey@annarbor.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's newsletters.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is the price really how you want to be judged?

I received the following from Jim Walton who is CEO of Brand Accelaration:In his most recent book, Collapse of Distinction, my good friend, Scott McKain, an outstanding speaker, trainer and author, states, "If you cannot find it within yourself to become emotional, committed, engaged, and yes, fervent about differentiation, then you had better be prepared to take your place among the vast throng of the mediocre who are judged by their customers solely on the basis of price. It is the singularly worst place to be in all of business. If you aren't willing to create distinction for yourself in your profession -- and for your organization in the marketplace -- then prepare to take your seat in the back, with the substantial swarm of the similar, where tedium reigns supreme."

This reminds me of the commercial that is currently running on tv, which ask the question: Who wants to have a huge foam finger showing that you are number 3? And yet I see it through-out the country, people are not engaged in what they are doing, just going through the motions, thinking that "good enough" is all that is needed.

My son recently had one of his first adventures into the world of beauracracy and while service and not price was his issue, he was met with the frustration of a world filled with people who did not return phone calls, who would not step outside of their box to assist him and left him wondering if the working world he will be entering in December (hopefully) is all there is. Luckily he persevered and was able to find the information he needed. This doesn's surprise me about him (knowing who his parents are and that they don't usually accept the status quo or suffer fools) but how many others are out there who throw up their hands in frustration and walk away.

I am asking the residents in Stokes County and the businesses here to try a different approach. We don't have retailers that will have the lowest prices, but if you look at the quote above, price can not be the only issue, service and the human side of the equation must be considered. And if our businesses expect the citizens to support them, they must make that extra effort and "try harder". It is a a big world out there and no one from outside our community really cares whether or not we succeed. Lets step up and support one another, show that we care and make the extra effort. Think Stokes First, treat each person as special and see what happens!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BE III Planning Underway

Planning for The Stokes County Business Extravaganza-BE III: Business Stampede is underway. The third iteration of this county-wide business appreciation event will again take place at YMCA Camp Hanes in King. The dining hall, which already has a rustic feel will be transformed into a scene from the "Wild West" as we bring together every business in the county that wants to participate to share a "stampede" of ideas.

The event is open to all business owners in the county. Booth space is limited (45 total spaces) and will be provided on a first come/ first served basis. There is no charge for this one of a kind event in Stokes County. There will be great food, fellowship, sharing of ideas, music and more fun thant a barrell of cactus. January 19th, 2012 is the date and Stokes County is the place to be. Contact Alan Wood at adwood@co.stokes.nc.us to reserve your booth, they will not last long!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Country Boy Can Survive...

but will there be any country boys left?

I have always enjoyed Hank Williams Junior's music and this song in particular (along with his Monday Night Football theme) and I have been thinking of writing this for several weeks.

The song, for those of you unfamilar with it talks about the independent nature of young men who grow up in the country. They learn to make due,say sir, mam, respect their elders and grow up living with nature,not needing all the trapings of modern society to survive (though I would miss my ESPN.)

What is alarming, when you look at the changing demographics in rural America is how few of the boys and for that matter young ladies are actually staying in the country. The jobs that made rural living viable are now in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc. and they are not likely to return. This increasingly drives them to abandon their rural heritage and head for urban areas where most of the jobs are congregating.

Many people have written that this is normal evolution, I think there is nothing normal about it and it is leading to a large imbalance that needs to be addressed. There is something magical about the largeness of our countryside and the characters that have tamed it or at least tried too. Cities are ok but I can always go to town for entertainment and then return to the quiet countryside, to relax.

As an economic developer in a small community, I and a few other hardy souls are battling against the tide to keep our area viable. To keep the tax base solid, to create jobs that pay a living wage and create opportunities that will allow our brightest and best remain in the county and not have to relocate to survive. We want country boys and girls to have the opportunity to maintain their heritage and keep their close ties with nature. Only moving away because of choice and not necessity.

Let me know if you would like to help! A country boy can survive ut not if they become extinct!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seems like there is always a thorn...

Below is a story that was recently in the Raleigh News and Observer. The points are valid and worth taking a few moments to look them over. Even with a growing "Local Food" sentiment in the country and all the reasons that this should continue, it is extremely difficult for small farmers to survive. If they market the product themselves, they must consideer if they have sufficent markets to survive and if the decide to enter into agreements with big-time retailers, they end up competing with themselves.

From the Raleigh News & Observer ---

Picking markets: Some local farmers discover hidden costs of selling wholesale

By MARIA PANARITIS - The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA Say you're a produce farmer near Philadelphia. You don't have Nebraska-size land, so instead of making money on high volume, you grow enough tomatoes, sweet corn, or apples to sell at your own farm store, or to swap with other local farmers who, like you, also run a retail shop.

Then supermarkets come to your door. The same ones that, for years, had stopped buying local produce because they simply stocked whatever their distributors sent from faraway warehouses. Now, they say, their customers want local. They offer to buy your crops in bulk and sell them with a "local" label, alongside the rest.

Easy money, you might think. A way, even, to unload extra produce at peak harvest that otherwise might have gone rotten.

But what may seem like an alluring opportunity is, in reality, a double-edged sword, say some growers with farm stands popular in their communities, who have come to realize that they are paying a hidden price for even modest deals with deep-pocketed supermarkets.

One farmer, Pete Flynn, eliminated his wholesale business entirely this year. His own produce was selling at a nearby Wegmans, under his farm's name, but at prices below what he was charging in his own little store.

The well-heeled customers driving into his Westtown Township, Pa., farm market in Land Rovers and BMWs asked time and again: "Why should I buy here when I see your stuff a few miles away for less?"

Flynn, who works 200 acres for his Pete's Produce Farm, sized up supermarket deals this way: "They're really good for the local farmers who don't retail in their market."

His business is not the only one wrestling with the costs and benefits of the growing interest in local produce among supermarket chains.

Linvilla Orchards in Delaware County has business relationships with a few supermarkets, but it is wary of the industry's penchant for "loss-leading," in which markets sell certain highly marketable items at prices lower than what they pay wholesale. They take a loss on apples but make up for it by attracting customers who will buy other stuff, too, once they come through the door.

"That's not great," said Ron Ferber, senior manager of the 110-acre Linvilla farm and retail store in Media, Pa., which is wholesaling more this year to Giant supermarkets.

Loss-leading is always in the back of a farmer's mind: "It's certainly a strong consideration. ... We're not excited about that," Ferber said.

For those farmers whose business is heavily focused on retailing what they grow, it's a calculation being done with greater frequency, as consumers ask for more and more local produce, and supermarkets respond by making wholesale-buying decisions that reflect it.

Ferdinand Wirth, an associate professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University with a focus on agriculture, said the swell in shoppers' demand for local produce seemed to begin after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as perceptions about safety became a bigger part of people's lives.

Surveys have pointed to two forces driving the consumer clamor for locally grown food, Wirth said.

"They believe they want to support local businesses, support the local community, keep their money there, help their neighbor out, that kind of thing," he said. Also, a spate of food-contamination problems in recent years fueled a perception "that locally grown foods are fresher and of higher quality."

Consumer demand for local goods further intensified as a result of federal country-of-origin laws, which require major retailers of perishable products to identify where their products come from. The law became mandatory for seafood in April 2005 and for produce in September 2008, Wirth said.

Some might expect the resultant rise in demand from supermarkets, with their vast buying power and customer reach, would be greeted as good news by small farmers, whose struggles are well-known.

Farms have dwindled in number as residential and commercial development has extended deeper into the suburbs of dense metropolises such as Philadelphia.

Flynn, for example, only got into produce farming after difficult years as a dairy farmer, when one farm after another where he worked disappeared. Produce, by contrast, seemed to have retail-market value.

That is what he discovered by planting produce as side crops on a Chester County dairy farm and selling it at reliably good prices each day to Westtown community shoppers. That dairy farm went idle about a decade ago to make room for a new high school in the affluent, vastly expanding community.

So in 2000, Flynn planted new stakes down the road - but as a full-time produce farmer with a retail store. He leases what had been long-standing farmland from Westtown School, a centuries-old Quaker boarding school. He tills one-third of the 600 acres that trustees have refused to divest, despite development pressures.

"Keeping the land open, keeping it in agriculture, keeping it open for future generations of students, keeping the farming experience close to the school, all were more important and trumped the money that we would have gotten from a onetime influx (of cash) from selling the land," said David Jones, a Westtown alumnus and board member, who recently helped reach a new 10-year lease with Flynn.

In that regard, Pete's Produce Farm is a utopian bubble, buffered from the raw real estate market forces that might otherwise have made his farm unsustainable as a business in Westtown. He even has the good fortune of being surrounded by the higher-income households that retailers covet.

And yet, with all those advantages, Flynn still needs to be able to charge premium prices for his corn, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and beans, because 90 percent of his income comes from retail sales at his own store.

When Flynn first began supplying Wegmans in nearby Downingtown, Pa. about six years ago, business was strong all around. Even with the competition, his farm stand's business was holding up well.

But sales fell 20 percent between 2008 and 2009 and have been flat ever since, thanks to the poor economy. It's more important than ever to keep retail margins healthy. That means saying no to supermarkets.

"We were approached by Giant," Flynn said, "and we were approached by Whole Foods" - just last spring, an offer he declined, knowing the chain would be opening a store in nearby Glen Eagle, Pa.

For several decades, Wegmans has made an effort to stock fresh-picked produce because it's a customer draw and helps support farmers in the communities where it has stores. Despite its sometimes-aggressive pricing, the Rochester, N.Y., chain has not run into trouble keeping up a steady supply, said Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral.

"We've been operating this program for over 25 years," Corsi said, "and we've had over 500 growers partnering with us for a long period of time now, and we haven't found it challenging for too many growers."

At Linvilla Orchards, one thing that makes supermarket wholesaling attractive is that it provides a ready market for higher-than-expected yields - and on balance, that seems to be more of a good thing than a bad one.

"Overall, I think it's good to promote local produce no matter who's selling, because hopefully it keeps farmers in business," said Linvilla's Ferber.

Still, Flynn remains confident in his own unique retailing model. He sells corn picked that same morning and is equally vigilant about the freshness of other produce sold at his store.

He is not fearful even of the eventual arrival in his territory of Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods.

"Nobody can do what we do," he said.

Martha Glass
Manager, Agritourism Office

Marketing Division, NCDA&CS

Monday, September 26, 2011

Can you live on $9/hour?

I found this story on-line today and it was an eye opener. I challenge you to take a few minutes and see if you can make it through the month. I make it but it calls for some tough choices and many of the ones I made went against what I would normally but to be true to the challenge, I opted to save money and not to spend money even when it was for a real need. I understand that it is only a game but it will make you think. Let me know how you do.

http://lifeinc.today.com/_news/2011/09/26/7926328-can-you-live-on-9-an-hour-play-the-game or http://www.playspent.org/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saying Good Bye to Yam at Plum Granny Farm

Everyone who has ever had a pet or worked on a farm understands how losing one makes you feel. I think our friends at Plum Granny have done a great job of expressing their feelings and I wanted to share them with you:

Yesterday we said goodbye to a good friend. On a beautiful clear morning, with the sun just coming up and warming her back, we let Yam go in search of new pastures where she could graze pain-free and roam in search of the perfect patch of clover. Yam, our 14-year old cow, had been getting weaker and was obviously in much discomfort. It’s always hard but we knew it was time.

We liked to call Yam “Badge 1” at Plum Granny Farm. She had been an employee here long before we moved back. She served as official greeter and as our entry into agritourism. She is an icon around here – because of her, everyone knows where the farm is: “Oh yeah, I know – it’s the one with that big black cow, right?” She graces hundreds of photographs taken by tourists and locals alike. People would stop and talk to her; children would wave and come and visit the pretty cow. She was called Bessie, Elsie, and more names than we know.

She was an orphan and so was a “bottle baby” which gave her a special bond with humans. Sometimes she did seem a bit more like a dog than a cow. And she put up with a lot – like the Santa hat for Christmas one year. Her personality was wonderfully unique.

We will miss seeing her peacefully gazing into the distance, chewing her cud. That’s when she was practicing the Zen of Yam.

So now our pasture is empty and our hearts are sore – we miss our Yam but know that she is here, as a friend told us, just beyond our ability to see her and she is waiting to train the next bottle baby heifer in the ways of Plum Granny Farm.

Plum Granny Farm is responsible for the content of this email.
Cheryl Ferguson, 1041 Flat Shoals Road, King, NC 27021

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coldwater Clean

I wanted to change gears a little on my blog post today. As with many things in life, it is all a matter of perspective and about making sure you ask the correct questions. I hope you enjoy this snippet, I chuckle each time I think about it, Thanks to my wife for forwarding it to me:

Can Cold Water Clean Dishes? (This is
for all the germ conscious folks
That worry about using coldwater to clean.)

John went to visit his 90 year old
grandfather in a very secluded, rural area of Saskatchewan.
After spending a great evening chatting
the night away, the next morning John's grandfather prepared breakfast of
bacon, eggs and toast.

However, John noticed a film like substance on his plate, and questioned his grandfather asking, 'Are these plates clean?'

His grandfather replied, 'They're as clean as cold water can
Just you go ahead and finish your meal, Sonny!'

For lunch the old man made hamburgers
Again, John was concerned about the plates,
As his appeared to have tiny specks around
The edge that looked like dried egg and asked,
'Are you sure these plates are clean?'

Without looking up the old man said,
'I told you before, Sonny, those dishes
are as clean as cold water can get them. Now don't you fret, I don't want
to hear another word about it!'

Later that afternoon, John was on his
way to a nearby town and as he was leaving, his grandfather's dog started
to growl, and wouldn't let him pass.
John yelled and said, 'Grandfather, your
dog won't let me get to my car'.

Without diverting his attention from the
football game he was watching on TV, the old man shouted!
'Coldwater, go lay down now, yah hear me!'
Meet Coldwater !

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Think Stokes First buy Local Campaign

The Stokes County Economic Development Commission (EDC) along with assistance from the King Chamber of Commerce and the Walnut Cove Main Street merchants are embarking on a “Buy Local” campaign for Stokes County. The campaign, to be tagged “Think Stokes First” is intended to raise the awareness of why making purchase of goods and services is important to not only the businesses in Stokes County but for our residents as well.

Let’s start the conversation with a number: $397,030,630. That is the estimated gap or amount of retail purchases made by Stokes county residents (in this case residents includes businesses located in the county) outside of the borders of the county or 62% of all retail purchases. Why should this concern you, you ask? There are many reasons but the most important are:
• Sales tax is now reimbursed to counties based on where purchases are made, not on the population of the county. When you make a purchase outside of the county, your are in effect supporting the economic health of those counties, not where you live
• Choosing to make your purchases outside of the county takes away revenue from local businesses that are the heart and soul of the community. These are your friends and neighbors who support your schools, churches and local charities. If you don’t support them, they can’t stay in business and we all suffer
• Making a special trip outside the county to make a purchase probably costs you money. If you have a 40 mile round trip to make a purchase you should add at least $20 to the price of your purchase (IRS allows .555/mile so you can consider this as your break-even rate) plus the value of your time it take to make the trip, your $100 purchase suddenly cost the equivalent of $135, not much of a saving, is it.
We know that it isn’t as simple as this, a large percentage of our residents work outside the county and there are many products that we have less than an adequate supply. That is okay, we do not expect to capture the majority or even a large minority of these sales but think about this: a change of 5% would mean an additional $19,000,000 in revenue to businesses in the county and a significant increase in sales tax revenue. Before you make your next purchase, Think Stokes First, it will make a difference.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stokes Stomp Time of the Year

It is hard to believe that, with the cooperation of the weather, over 10,000 people will be in Moratock Park this coming weekend. Yes it is Stokes Stomp time again. This annual event, brought to you by what I believe to be the "Best Arts Council in the World" provides two full days of entertainment, food and fun. It all starts with a parade from the Government Center in Danbury to Moratcok Park. Don't miss a minute of the fun. During the slow times, stop by the my booth near the stage and let me tell you about our "Buy Local Campaign. Have fun and be safe.

Main Stage Entertainment
Saturday, September 10, 2011

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Stokes Stomp Parade (Theme: Music, Music, Music)
11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Opening Remarks by Danbury
Town Mayor Janet Whitt
Boy Scout Troupe from Sandy Ridge will post the colors and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance
North Stokes High School Marching Band will play the National Anthem followed by a program of music
South Stokes and West Stokes Marching Bands will perform
12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Matt Dylan
1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Star Catchers
1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Travis Frye and Blue Mountain
2:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Announcements
(which may include intro of Miss Tara Schiphof
(NC Cinderella Teen) and Suzie with Suzie’s Law) (maybe)
2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. 36 Degrees North
3:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Miss Joyce’s Dance Company
(in front of the main stage)
3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tyler Nail
4:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Miss Joyce’s Dance Company
(in front of the main stage)
4:45 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stoney Ridge
6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Matt Dylan

Sunday, September 11, 2011

11:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Opening Remarks by Danbury Town Council Member Wendi Uselton
Boy Scout Troupe from Sandy Ridge will post the colors and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance
(Robbie Voss has been contacted to play Amazing Grace on the Bagpipes) – still waiting on a return call!
11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. One Special Blend
12:15 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. CC Dance Company
12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. One String Over
1:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. CC Dance Company
1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Blu-Vue
2:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dance Perfections
2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Holly Creek Girls
3:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dance Perfections
3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Katelyn Marks
5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Blues Creek

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Using the Right Equipment

Stopped by Danbury General Store on my way to work this morning for a jolt of caffene and noticed in the parking lot a truck with fishing equipment in the back. This is not a rare occurance in Stokes County but taking another look, it struck me as odd that it was really heavy duty gear, not what you would anticipate for fishing in local ponds or the Mighty Dan River. The owner wasn't in sight, so I couldn't ask what he was fishing for and left scratching my head.

As any of you that might know me are no doubt aware, I have a vivid imagination and I started thinking about huge catfish that might be in the local depths and what fun it would be to hook one. It is more likely, however that you would land a 1/2 lb sunfish and not the monster you were after. That led me to my next thought: how often do we go fishing with the wrong tackle and end up empty handed or overmatched.

In my business, the right equipment includes making the right contacts, providing information in a timely manner, creating good content on our websites, preparing useful marketing materials and listening to what my clients and co-workers are asking for and responding in the proper manner.

I think I will take some time today to review the equipment that I have at my disposal, make sure I have the right bait and maybe daydream a little about a visit to my favorite fishin hole to try my luck!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wise words from a friend

I am reposting a blog from Mark Wells that I received today. Mark is the Executive Director of the Rockingham County Business and Tech. Center and a real ally for the farmers and small business oweners not just of Rockingham County but Stokes County as well. His words ring true and we should all take notice:

Local Green: Food, Environment, Money…Envy
August 16, 2011 | RCBTC

Local food has become trendy, chic or whatever “hip” word you want to throw at it. For those who have become local foodies because it makes you feel like one of those words, thank you. For those who have become local foodies because you truly believe supporting local farms improves lives, thank you even more! What’s the difference you ask? Well, the latter will likely be local foodies for a long time, while the former will only be local foodies as long as it’s in fashion.

Let me be frank; farmers need your money no matter why you might purchase, but our economy needs our farmers to keep people working. People have talked about “off-shoring” for years, mostly in the context of manufacturing, textiles and furniture, in the Piedmont Triad. But we have been letting other people grow and prepare our food for us even longer. Do you know where your last meal actually came from? Statistics tell us food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate. That’s roughly a trip from Greensboro to Denver. Let me assure you that food picked in California, Mexico or China and shipped to North Carolina was not picked at the peak of freshness.

So what is the alternative you ask? There are several. farmers’ markets, CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture) and road-side stands have been around for a long time, but they haven’t changed our dependence on food grown far away. I argue that this is largely due to the convenience factor. Namely, if we can’t buy it when and how we want it, we go somewhere that will let us. Have you heard of delayed gratification? If not, don’t worry. Most of us don’t believe in it so it doesn’t matter.

That’s where Piedmont Local Food comes in. The Rockingham County Business & Technology Center, and Rockingham County Cooperative Extension have partnered to create a virtual farmers market. It’s different from the other local food efforts mentioned above. First, it’s online, which means it’s open for shopping 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. Think that’s convenient? Next, we don’t give you a “mystery box” of food that is typical of most CSAs. You order exactly what you want, period. You also get to choose from a variety of locations from where you want to pick up your food. This isn’t as convenient as ordering a pizza and having it delivered in 30 minutes or less, but PiedmontLocalFood.com hasn’t been around as long as pizza delivery; give us some time!

So as you go about shopping for your fresh produce, meats and even breads and jellies, remember that buying from your local farm supports your local economy, which ends up helping you. Every dollar invested in local agriculture is estimated to have a local economic impact of seven dollars. Every food item purchased locally helps burn less gasoline, which can provide positive environmental impact. And I assure you that after you compare the taste of local food to what you’re used to, you’ll take pride in knowing how envious your friends will be of the great food you’re eating!

Mark Wells is the founding Executive Director of the Rockingham County Business & Technology Center (RCBTC

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Being Intentional

I look forward each month to receiving my newsletter from Thomas Dismukes. Sometimes the information is full of humor and other times it pulls at the heartstrings. I don't always share them but the one below was very touching and I needed to send it along to those that read this blog. I am sure most of you have had a similar situation and I wonder how many handled it as well as young Thomas. Hope you enjoy:

Be Intentional Principle by Thomas Dismukes

He was the meanest kid I ever worked with. By the end of the first day, I wanted him gone. No way both of us would survive six days of camp. He was intentionally mean to other campers. He was a destructive disturbance and had to go back home, now!!

During college, I worked for the Clemson University Outdoor Laboratory, a camp and conference center. During the summer months it supported a number of “special population” camps that focused on specific needs such as children with cancer, visual impairments, muscular dystrophy, or mental handicaps. Camp Sertoma, one of the summer camps, was designed for children who are either underpriviledged or have a speech or hearing impairment. Sertoma campers were great kids with a vast majority growing up in tough environments. With most campers, you could crack their hard outer shell within a few hours and consequently have a joyful and memorable week. Matthew, on the other hand, was not like any camper I had ever had. Within an hour of his arrival he had intentionally star ted four fights, intentionally broke toys and seemed to intentionally tick me off. I wanted him sent back home, which rarely happened at camp! But we rarely had campers this mean!

Three days into camp, our cabin of 10-year old boys was in total chaos due entirely to Matthew. To make matters worse, we were scheduled to campout that night. No one wanted to be around him much less be stuck in the woods with him. When we arrived at our campsite we set up our shelter, made dinner over the fire and once it was dark, we told a few stories to encourage the kids. We then rolled out our sleeping bags and called it a day. Everyone was ready for a nice, quiet sleep, under the stars but apparently, Matthew had a bit more meanness he wanted to dish out.

It was the strangest thing. Everyone had found their places on the ground and was settling into their sleeping bags when Matthew would walk up and intentionally kick another camper. If he didn’t kick them, he would punch them in the chest or head. Oddly enough, that was the norm for the week. It was what he did immediately afterward that was strange. Matthew would walk up, punch or kick, and with a sincere and tender voice ask his victim, “Hey, can I sleep beside you?” It was bizarre! He would hurt a kid and then in the same breath ask if he could lie beside them. Of course, no one wanted him anywhere near them! In the darkness all you could hear was, “Ouch!”… < /span>“Can I sleep beside you?” … “NO!” … (Whack!)… “Can I sleep beside you?”… “GET AWAY!” We were all so exhausted I had to make this madness end, so I said, “Ok… Come HERE, Matthew. Lay beside me!” In the blink of an eye he was next to me in his sleeping bag and silent.

For the first time in days, everything was at peace. It was just after midnight when Matthew, the meanest kid I had ever known, taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Everything and everyone was quite and I was just falling asleep when I heard Matthew unzip his sleeping bag and slowly extend his hand in my direction. At that moment, I truly thought he must have smuggled a knife out of the cafeteria and was now about to stab me in the heart. However, all he did was bring out his little hand and gently placed it on my chest. I laid there wide awake, my heart racing, waiting to defend a death blow. He kept his arm there for only a few seconds and then returned it to his sleeping bag.

I laid there for several minutes trying to process what had happened. Then again, he stretched out his arm and placed it on my chest. This time he moved his hand up to my face and touched each side. As quickly as it happened, he withdrew his hand. I lay there stunned and confused. Why was he doing this?

He performed the same little ritual several times over the course of an hour, until finally I had to know. In a voice more annoyed than concerned, I asked, “Matthew, what are you doing?! Why do you keep touching me?” The stab in the heart was a premonition. In just above a whisper, this mean little kid that I wanted to send back home, simply said, “I wanted to make sure you were still there. Every time I fell asleep, I had a nightmare that I was home. So I woke up and touched you, to make sure you were real.” I laid there as tears poured down my face. How bad is life when “home” is a nightmare?

The next morning, we broke camp and headed back to our cabin. While our cabin learned about archery and nature, I absorbed Matthew’s case history. I had never read of such abuse and neglect. Matthew had been physically and sexually abused. He had been taken out of his home to foster care, then a delinquency center and then sent back to the home where the abuse all started. For 10 years people had intentionally hurt Matthew. In turn, the only love language he knew was a punch in the face and intentional neglect. Matthew was simply replaying the messages that were recorded into him.

From that point forward I too would be intentional with Matthew, only I would intentionally love, praise, listen, encourage, teach and spend time with him. The “Be Intentional” principle rolled over to life outside of camp. I learned to be intentional with my friends and family, co-workers and customers. I would not wait for other people to fix the problems. I found a need and filled it. I learned to lead by example. If you want to be the greatest in the world, serve others! If you want to be first, put yourself last! If you want to get even with those that harm you, forgive them. I decided to live intentionally. Rather than have life just happen… I decided to be the cause .

I cannot lie and say everything was a bed of roses that week of camp, but things were considerably better. Matthew’s hard shell began to fall away and an amazing young man began to emerge. My time with Matthew ended years ago but I still find those same needs in others today. I see issues that need to be addressed and problems that need to be resolved. I have decided to be intentional, and that has made all the difference. I know this principle works, because by the end of the week, the one kid that originally fought to leave… cried to stay.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Business Plan Competition

If you have a business plan that is just waiting for the right opportunity, if you have a fire in your belly to create something important that can lead to job creation, below if just the opportunity you have been waiting for. Please feel free to get in touch, if you need assistance.

TO: Friends of the incubator, area entrepreneurs, students, and colleagues

FROM: Stan Mandel, Professor of Practice, Director of Angell Center of ENT

DATE: July 29, 2011

SUBJECT: PTP NEXT Seed Funding Competition Opens August 15th

Trust your summer is progressing nicely and you are finding new opportunities to capitalize on. Following is one you may wish to participate in as it offers exciting opportunities if you are launching a new venture or wish to be part of an ecosystem to assist in such launches.

Please check out the PTP NEXT Business competition http://ptpnext.com, a brand new grant and support competition for innovative Triad NC region entrepreneurs, and share it with your colleagues, clients, students, constituents and friends.

PTP NEXT is spearheaded by a truly collaborative, talented and region-wide group of young leaders who are deeply committed to the Piedmont Triad's future economic vitality. They've forged partnerships with NC IDEA (who has granted more than $2 million to 57 young NC companies) and the Piedmont Triad Partnership. PTP NEXT is working closely with the Angell Center for Entrepreneurship and our incubator-among many others - so that young Triad companies can successfully compete for grants of up to $50K. (If you or your organization wants to be more actively involved, you can connect via their website.)

The online application launches on August 15th and is open only until September 9th, so our immediate task is to spread the word. Detailed info about eligibility and the review process is on the PTP NEXT websitehttp://ptpnext.com and I've also attached their recent press release.

We all know that lack of early funding is one of our biggest obstacles, so I encourage you to get behind this effort and spread the word.

Best regards, Stan

Stanley W. Mandel, Ph.D., CPA, PE
Professor of Practice and Director, Angell Center for Entrepreneurship
Schools of Business
Wake Forest University
P.O. Box 7659
Winston-Salem, NC 27109


p 336.758.3689

c 335.671.9884
f 336.758.4514