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. or

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