goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Leadership Challenge

You ever put together one of those bookcases you buy in box or piece of IKEA furniture? You know how the instructions sometimes do not seem to be in English?  I can only wonder, when I have that experience, if the instruction writer was so used to the assembly process that forgetting a step or two was easy.Billy bookcase instructions

Overall, I am pretty impressed with the State of Oregon. In the almost two years I have lived here I have found most people are friendly and helpful.oregon gov

I even have been impressed by DMV, which any American who drives knows is an agency that seems to be designed to stay just barely within the Geneva Convention guidelines for torture. In West Virginia, for example, it was pretty typical to wait an hour only to be told that I did not have the right information.  Here, we were able to register a car that was 3000 miles away. Not only did they understand the situation, they even had a form and system in place. I definitely felt we were moving to a place where information was shared, and shared in a way that was easy to understand.

However, I hit a spot where the published information for my new business endeavor is not quite “full”. To become a state licensed processor I read I needed to call the Health Department person in charge of my county. I read that the kitchen needs to be inspected and I should call 2 weeks before I expect to start processing. I also read that the state does not prorate the $450 annual license which runs from July 1-June 30, so I figured I would wait until June 15 to call.

I also read that I need to have each recipe I plan to process reviewed by a state licensed lab for Ph, water activity and Brix. Then and only then do I need to send another sample and the written recipe to another lab, run by Oregon State University, for approval. They are the licensing agency, so their approval is tantamount. But no where, in anything I read, did it say that the lab test  must be done before the Health Department is called and the license application begins.Screen-shot-2013-08-18-at-9.33.56-PM

So, the Health Department person responded to my phone call today and I need to do things in a different order than what I read. Okay, not a biggie…just a tad annoying. She will not give me a list of approved labs. Okay. I can find some on Google.

I need to convert my recipes into weight measurements in grams, not in cups or teaspoons.  Okay.

She’ll be happy to meet with me.  Great. impatient

I want to get rolling and this will take another few weeks. Okay. Once I am up and running I will be up and running so in the scheme of things, this is NOT a big deal. Just need to remember to breathe……

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Is this Creative or just Crazy?

So, remember back when I was working as a farm hand for 3 months this past summer?  There was a LOT of time spent weeding which meant my mind was working, dreaming dreams, solving problems, making others.weeding

Did you know that 30% of the food we have here goes to waste? Think about your own kitchen. How much food gets stashed in the frig, only to turn some dark green color, dripping with slime?  I’m guilty. We cook too much, put the leftovers in containers and usually remember to eat as lunch the next day, but if we are out and about, they tend to migrate to the back of the shelf and then, when I realize I am low on storage containers, I look and there they are…..needing to be sterilized!

Well, on the farm there was waste also. Michelle Burger of Bethel Springs Farms has exacting standards for her customers, and rightly so. When we picked green beans only those that were perfectly straight and of course without blemishes made it into their bags. The rest were trashed! Well, not exactly. As we were picking, the curved beans got left on the ground. In the cleaning process, anything imperfect went into the compost. It all eventually gets returned to the soil as green fertilizer, but it got me thinking that much of it was edible. DSC_0009

I started taking the imperfect produce home. Lots of it. I got paid minimum wage but boy oh boy, I was bringing home tons more in food than I was earning in dinero. And so, I started canning. And canning. And canning. Buying more jars. Canning some more. Some recipes, like the blueberry barbecue sauce, were keepers. Others like the zucchini marmalade, not so much.canning July 14 2014

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I was also thinking about the Bethel Springs business model. When Michelle hired me she took a gamble with a 60-year-old arthritic chubbette, but she saw I could (almost all the time) keep up and what she also gained was all the insights I had learned from years of farm visits.  Seeing the many different ways small farmers tried to make their work as income effective as possible.

So, I suggested to her that I could provide her another income stream. I can take those cast off green beans, not ordered zucchinis, tons and tons of excess tomatoes and can can can can can for her. She’s intrigued. So are a couple of other farmers and one other approached me. 2014-08-22 16.56.32

I have to draw the line there for this coming season. I need to stretch my wings and keep it manageable.

Meanwhile, as the fields are slumbering, I am doing all the groundwork. I went to a wonderfully timed convention this week sponsored by the Northwest Food Processors Association. Walking through the exhibition hall made me realize very quickly just how “small potatoes” this business concept is. When I talked to one vendor about a dehydrator I learned his best option for me costs $100,000.  Graham suggested a Kickstarter; I’ll wait a bit.  The family just pitched in to buy me a $250 Excalibur. That should last a year…maybe two. Next is the Better Processing School, and a whole bunch of legal things like state and federal licenses and certifications, including business filing. Amd Curt Chiarelli, a friend who is a graphic artist, is designing my logo, bless him!

Now, I COULD do all this from home if I was selling it all myself at a farmers’ market. Perfectly legal within a certain dollar amount. But by offering this service  to farmers who have no time to process their product this way and packaging it for their own label means I need to step up one notch to a commercial endeavor.

So, new venture and lots of excitement! If you want to share a scrumptious recipe you use, please do!!!

 


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Marketing the Markets

When Graham and I researched where we wanted to live when he retired, McMinnville, Oregon stood out. Not only was it in the middle of Pinot Noir wine country, which appealed to Graham, but the growing season and small farm practices in the area would provide us healthy local food options, which appealed to me. Yamhill co farmland

With my background in urban planning, I also looked at how the city had evolved over time and what its economic health appeared to be now, following years of a stressed national recession.  I was pleased to see that a group of residents and business owners had recognized the need to do something in the 1980s, when the downtown business district was, like so many other towns across the country, losing business.

The McMinnville Downtown Association was formed and took a few steps that started to set the tone. First, they worked on getting the area designated a National Historic District.  Then, using available grants and private donations, they planted trees, added attractive lighting, made sure there was plenty of free parking,  provided benches, and installed mid-block cross walks, all helping to present the downtown area as accessible and attractive. McMinnville sculpture

Meanwhile, wineries got the great idea that having tasting rooms in a town center would help attract people who may not drive the back roads of the wine growing areas.  The chance that a tourist would chose the right road was small. Heading into a town like McMinnville increased the chances that tourists would visit the tasting rooms and purchase wines.r stuart

The McMinnville Downtown Association does a tremendous job marketing the town with its website, Facebook page, and a number of brochures.  There are a good number of festivals  and activities, like the monthly Art and Wine Walk that draw people into downtown.

There is more marketing from the Chamber of Commerce with its website, its Facebook page, and many brochures, pamphlets and newspaper inserts that share a lot of what businesses operate in McMinnville.  Additional marketing is handled by Grow Yamhill County, with its website and its Facebook Page sharing information about businesses throughout the county.

These websites have a lot in common:  great info about existing opportunities to enjoy coming to McMinnville and, unfortunately, a very slow or inactive presence in social media..

logog SMALLAnd that’s where CreationsByBG comes in. Having just spent the last two years marketing the markets for fresh local food in the  Huntington, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio tristate region and throughout the State of West Virginia, I have some good experience bringing the business to the public’s attention. Even more importantly, I can bring the public into the business to spend money.

Some shops and other businesses in McMinnville have blogs and Facebook pages, but few are active. Why? Well, time if the most frequent issue–when you are doing everything you need to do to run a business, taking 30 minutes a day to market is hard to do. Secondly, some people just feel they can not write; that it is just too difficult to put words to “paper”.

I can help. I can come visit your business, take lots of photos and listen to your story. I will ask lots of questions and then, I can write about you.better-blogger-557x362

If you have a blog, I can become your writer. If you have a Facebook page, I can add to the content there on a more regular basis.  If you don;t have a blog, we can easily establish one for your business which would provide a marketing tool for residents and visitors. The more they notice, the more business will enter into your shop.  We can set up your Facebook page that all blog entries will load automatically, spreading the news. We can also  add your content on to the MDA  Blog and Facebook page if you are a member, spreading the news to all their readers.

brokeSpending money to make money may be a truism , but it sounds like an oxymoron. How can you spend money when the cash flow on your business is strained?  Keep the costs low by using social media and hiring me to take care of its management.

Call me at 304-654-5634 or email me at CreationsByBG@gmail.com to set up a time when we can meet to explore how low cost marketing like this can boost how many people walk into your shop.