It is conference season now….a very good thing for the winter as I spend the growing season in the kitchen and shuttling raw produce from and finished products back to the farms involved with my business, Can-Do Real Food.
Two weeks ago I attended the Northwest Food Processors’ convention in Portland with my husband Graham and my friend Jana. They have both been an integral part of providing their own expertise to this process and there are business cards being printed as I write this that names them as Vice Presidents of the business. That and $3.50 will get you a latte. LOL
Early this week I joined my daughter Lisa in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show. Lisa is a promotional marketer and has been hired the past three years to work for a vendor. She suggested I attend last year but it was scheduled the same as the Portland event. So this year I got to go and saying OMG! is a dramatic understatement. Not only is it a visual and gastronomic orgy of delectable foods of all types, but the amount of expertise in those humongous rooms was vast. For the most part, if they were not chatting with someone who might mean business to them, just about everyone was very willing to spend 5, 10 or even 30 minutes talking with me, answering questions.
These are the goodies I brought home
For example, we have been working to produce a culinary syrup made from raspberries and lemongrass. The raspberries had been frozen…..no issue there. The lemongrass had been dried and while we got an amazing flavor, the clarity was not pretty. I chatted with about 5 vendors who produce lemongrass products and got a variety of suggestions…..and one worked superbly. Three cases of syrup processed this morning!
I met one vendor that I revisited twice more to make sure I let him know how much our interaction meant to me and to say goodbye. He did not have any food….basically he helps develop packaging and he said he will send me info but that was not our discussion, really. It started like this:
Me: Good morning.
Him: How are you?
Me: Fantastic…this is an amazing show!
Him: I am so happy!!!
We both cracked up. We sounded high and I guess we were. On the positivity that was around us. In the synergy that was flowing. The fact that we were in the middle of amazing food products and I, more than him, was slowly by surely, teaspoonful by teaspoonful, tasting my way figuratively around the world.
But what made this guy stand out is that is all the conversation was about. Choosing to live by finding and feeling the joy in life. When I asked what he does, he waved his hand a bit derisively saying, “pretty packages” .
Going through my email this morning, one subscription, which usually provides info like “the 10 best burgers in the country” or “Asian restaurants you MUST try in Portland” offered a different kind of temptation today.
The 27 Best Bad Decision Bars in America: You know that bar down the street that has board games and does British comedy trivia every Wednesday night? The one your Mom called “quaint?” These bars wipe the floor with that bar. Here are the 27 best bad decision bars in America — all places you’re guaranteed to do something stupid in.
Really? Like we need that kind of marketing?
No thanks, I’ll get into trouble all on my own….and no, I will not provide the link.
Imagine you have been travelling overseas for a while and you wander into a local supermarket in Europe. As you shop for your dinner you encounter the foreign food aisle in addition to Asian or Latino foods, there is a section for American foods! This is what you see.
How sad. This is our gift to other cultures. That and
There may be some Americans who thing this is great…they can eat the food they are used to when they travel to Paris or Beijing. Personally, I enjoy eating authentic French or Chinese food and when I travel I want to eat food prepared well and native to that culture. I sure wish the people in those countries would not be thinking that processed food and fast food is what we eat……but maybe it is for most people. What a shameful thing we are teaching others about us.
Graham and I have been in Oregon for almost a year. We arrived September 1, moved into our rental house about a week later when the truck arrived and I made my first new friend here when I posted our boxes to be picked up on Freecycle. Jana needed a few boxes to store books and we sat on the porch rockers for about an hour sharing stories. Hearing I wanted to learn to can, she invited me to her farm and under her tutelage, I learned to make and love tomatillo salsa.
Shortly after that Graham’s high school buddy Charles (they reconnected on Facebook a few years ago) who lives in Salem hooked us up with another friend and Tina taught us all how to pressure can tuna. I was very much enjoying the bounty that this area offers!
Shortly after that I attended a meeting of farmers in a nearby town and started making connections with this region’s complement of wonderful farmers. And so it went. Over these past 11 months we have made some wonderful new friends and our circle continues to grow. But it never would have happened if we didn’t take a first step out.
This past Thursday we attended a gathering of people primarily because we knew the host. One of the farmers we have gotten to know and love, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm was hosting an event. She said she would be speaking about her farm and Heidi Lindell of Yamhill Valley Grown also would explain how the farmers in this area connect with consumers. I work with Heidi, visiting farms and writing the Yamhill Valley Grown blog.
We gathered first on Ranee’s deck where she presented a few edibles prepared from food her farm produces, and a bit of wine. We then enjoyed the evening by sitting in a circle on the grass, enjoying getting to hear about each other passions and then to share.
The synergy I saw, the connections being made was amazing. Here we had 15 people; some knew each other a bit, some not a all. By the end of the two hours we had several connections being made for new business opportunities, and more importantly, for new friendships.
So many people comment about the fact that we have made so many friends here already. The secret to replicate that is to GET OUT. Leave your house and act on your passions. Find people with similar interests and make time to make the connections. Talk and listen, share in the knowledge and excitement about life.
When I worked at the Vanderbilt Laser Sight Center in the 1990s we were told not to use the word “surgery” but to explain to patients that they would be having a “procedure.” The word choice supposedly diminished the seriousness of the activity and people, eager for clear vision without glasses or contact lenses, lined up. (Me too. I was first in line in fact.)
The concept of word selection to entice people has long been a part of marketing. Getting people to accept a concept starts with overcoming emotional hurdles with words that reduce the concern.
So, now a days surveys have indicated that over 96% of the American public approve of labeling on food packages to inform consumers about GMO content. The fight to label in California lost 49% to 51% and the loss last November in Washington was even narrower. This November the people of Oregon will have a chance to vote on a referendum for labeling.
You can vote in favor for labeling even if you personally do not think GMOs are of concern. There are many people who believe there is no reason to worry. Even so, most agree a label should be able to be provided so others, who are concerned, can have information to make choices for their own eating.
The industry fighting the labeling are those that believe labeling will raise a concern where none should exist. They believe that many people who really don’t know much about food being genetically modified for the past 20 years might think something is wrong. And not buy their food. And they will lose profits.
They use arguments like “it will cost to change the packaging and that cost will result in higher food costs to the consumer” which is bogus, since they change packaging all the time. They want to scare you about something that is meaningless so you don’t get scared by something important. That is keeping your right to know for you.
So we now have leadership joining in. The concept of choosing the words came up June 25 at a BIO international convention in San Diego. “….How do you create a different vocabulary to talk about GMOs……” Hillary Clinton mentioned in her talk and then suggested that explaining the technology would help plants improve drought resistance would convince more people that it was a great improvement over nature.
Yes, it can resist drought better. It also does not get affected when sprayed with heavy doses of weed killer. It also kills insects that bite into the plant. The technology works but sometimes not to the success hoped for. That is not the issue.
One issue is we are tired of people with power trying to dupe us. The issue is that we, many of the people who have eaten genetically engineered foods, are uncomfortable with the potential effects that are unproven. We don’t want to be a science experiment any more. We want to know through labeling. We are intelligent enough to understand the issue and we want to be able to chose.
Is your inbox as full as mine? It seems that everyday there are more and more petitions to sign, new concerns to investigate, horrors to try to fix. It’s too much. There are too many things that are not right with this world. And it seems like everyone wants my attention and help.
Each of us has only so much energy. How do you select which concern gets your attention and effort? I am assuming you are involved in some way to fix something in the world that you know is not fair, is not right. If you are not, if you are completely self absorbed without any thought to your world and the creatures that live on it, you are missing an opportunity to grow. Being a part of the society in which you lives gives you the chance to help make it better, and that makes what affects you better.
Here are things that bother me:
1. FOOD: The food we eat today in the United States is not the same as it was when I was a kid. Farming has become a booming industry during the past 40 years, and as such, efforts are made to produce more food faster to make more profits. That mean chemicals are used to keep bugs and weeds away, to help animals grow faster, to make all the tomatoes look pretty so you will buy them. But what is that doing to our bodies? There has to be some correlation, no matter what the USDA tells us, between all those chemicals and the increasing obesity, diabetes, and other health issues we have. You are what you eat…and you can make a small change that can have a huge impact.
The most recent farm census indicates that 91% of all farms are small. That means that not only does most of the food you find at the grocery store only come from a new farms, most farms in the US earn less than $10,000 after all the hard work they do. That means that your local farmer, the one who is passionate about raising healthy food to eat, has to work another job off the farm to provide enough money to the family to live. That means your local farmer is not being supported in what s/he does well. If each of us spent only $15 a week buying directly from a local farmer through a farmers market, CSA, or direct sales, the shift would be profound. And the food will be healthy for you, better than what you find in the supermarket. And YOU will be healthier. There are local farms everywhere, even in major metropolitan areas. Go to Local Harvest to find available healthy food choices near you.
2.ANGER: “I want what I want when I want it and I don’t give a flipping care about you. You get in my way, and I am going to get you out of my way, whatever it takes. You say you believe in something different, you are so wrong, have no sense, I can’t even be bothered to speak to you calmly to discuss our differences. I don’t care. You’re just wrong. And an idiot.” Sound familiar? I sure hope it’s not you with that attitude, but maybe it is. Why are people so angry? Why have we moved, as a society, to more polarization? And how can that attitude mesh with people who believe they are good people, religious people with strong moral convictions? I read something a year ago that anger and lack of self control have increased dramatically in the years that GMO foods have been on the market and consumed. That there is some chemical component (and it may be the absorption of the herbicides more that the GE itself, that is the cause) in our food that is causing this to happen. Back to #1 to change that in your diet.
Regardless of the cause, it has to stop. We have become a society where few assume responsibility for their actions. From the time the jury awarded a million dollars to the woman who put the hot McDonalds coffee cup without its top between her legs while she was driving , people have started to blame others for the choices they make. Each action you take is a decision, even if you spent zero time thinking about it. Each action you take has consequences. Own up. Think about how your actions are going to affect your life path as well as other people. Be considerate. Back when I was in first grae my teacher, Mrs. Hibbard, rewarded us for self control with one of those little sugar hearts with sayings on them you find at Valentines Day. What little treat can you use to reward yourself when you are nice, when you control your temper?
3. GUNS: This whole “Obama is going to take them away from you so you better buy a gun now while the buying is good” seems to me to be a great marketing strategy by gun manufacturers. And lots of people who might never consider havign a gun have fallen for it. Seriously, for all of you who think you will need to protect yourself from a government running over your Constitutional rights, how many of you voted in this past primary? How many of you participate even at a local level in your government? If you don’t at least i.e.,vote or work locally to make your town or city better, you are not doing your part as a good citizen to make the government run the way you would like. Sitting on your butt bitching is not participating. It goes back to that anger issue.
My concern is that it won’t be people versus a horrible government that gets into a gun battle. It will be angry people versus angry people. It doesn’t take much imagination for me to see that if we get into a shortage (i.e.,water, food, electricity) that we are in for some bloodshed here as people with guns will be going to get stuff they want and people with guns will be barricaded protecting what they have.
4. EDUCATION: We have become a society which has definitely dumbed down. We have short attention spans. While we holler we are the best nation in the world, only 30% of our population reads. Oh, we have a higher literacy rate, but not a literacy lifestyle. When companies like Wal-Mart put up signs like this it signifies the problem on two levels—that selfishness I talked about above (see #2) as well as the fact that some people can’t read the word “fifteen”. Really? So we watch tv and listen to the talking heads telling us what to think and get angry. We know what the latest movie is and which movie star or singer has done whatever. But do we know how to take care of ourselves? To better ourselves? Most people can’t develop a plan of action. We know we don’t like our lifestyle and the fact that we don’t have enough money but we can’t come up with a budget or a way to improve it.
New curricula are developed which have major flaws. New tests are designed to show that children are learning but those kids can’t read, can’t multiply, don’t know the story of our nation’s history. Many of us would find it impossible to past the test that naturalized citizens have to take. We say we are proud to be Americans but many of us have no idea what that really means. Yet our education system seems to be falling further and further behind while the costs are rising higher and higher.
These are just a few things that are really bothering me.
The world’s largest democracy is in the middle of a huge election that is expected to make major changes in the nation. India, which became a republic in 1947, has over 500 million voters. As the country is large and polling places are located within 2 kilometers of every registered voter even in rural areas, it takes a while for the process to be completed. This map shows when the various states have held their election and since much of the voting is processed with paper ballots, it is expected we will hear the results in July.
source: Maps of India
With a population where only 25% of people can read, campaigning is beginning to increase with the use of television ads. The expected winner of the prime minister election, Nerendra Modi, started a couple of years ago so his name would be recognizable. He has traveled the country more than any other candidate as well, with over 430 public meetings, 1400 telecasted rallies and 4000 ‘chai pe charcha’ (chat over tea) at small local tea stalls, making sure the voters got his message for change.
Modi’s campaign message has appealed to many people as he has argued that the current and prior governments have been corrupt and funds for improvements that would make life better for most have been squandered. His mass appeal to the working and middle classes has resulted in about a 60% voter turnout.
source: The Guardian
Because of the low literacy rate, all candidates are clearly identified with a symbol throughout the campaign process.
Voters receive an indelible dye mark on the base of one fingernail. It takes several weeks to fade and thereby eliminates voting fraud.
We visited Delhi and Agra during voting days and noticed political rallies and parades. We passed one large rally location and also noticed the presence of a couple of television news trucks at one place we visited; Arvind opined that they were setting up early for a photogenic shot of a candidate.
Once more, the people and process in India, while somewhat different in specifics, have dramatic similarities to our own desires and frustrations here in the States. No matter who the ruling party is, the mass of people generally feel left out of the process and the hope for improvement is a continuing desire.
My past work experience causes Human Resource department personnel to cross their eyes: I am not a square peg to fit into a square hole. And so, most large companies toss my resume into the circular file and I never hear from them.
And yet, any job where the person deciding on hiring recognized I brought a diversity of exposure to a wide variety of industries, regions of the country, and responsibilities understood they were not getting just the “XYZ” they are looking to hire but a personality with experience and a brain.
I have best enjoyed the jobs I had where some attention was given to training and then the freedom to fly was granted. I have also liked being the boss.
I have owned my own businesses over much of my working life. For twelve years I was co-owner of a residential real estate appraisal service. My partner and I had to make a decision to expand or to stay small. We grew to a staff of twelve, and then decided quality and service were more important than the potential profitability of a huge endeavor.
Moving to McMinnville also moved me back up into the world of “looking for work.” Graham and I thought if I could find a job with benefits the whole health insurance issue probably would be a lesser concern. But two factors helped us rule out that lifestyle: 1. The State of Oregon is one that has gotten its act together with the offers under the Afforable Healthcare Act and 2. We like me to have a flexible schedule.
I really like working from home. When we looked for housing we knew we would dedicate one of the bedrooms to be my office where I could do my writing, my books and my sewing. It is my space and only occasionally do I have to nudge the cat out of my chair.
When I was researching where to live I was intrigued by what I read about McMinnville. Its downtown merchants had formed an association in the 1980s to help turn around the downtown shopping district. When we walked the street in July we noticed only three vacancies and two were undergoing renovation. It looked pretty healthy.
We learned that another section near downtown, the Granary District, is undergoing revitalization from an “ag-industrial” center to one with small shops, many with specialty foods.
And one other thing I noticed was that most of the marketing I could find was wine related. Lots and lots of wineries here. Some of the best wine in the world. And many tasting rooms, which bring people to McMinnville and other nearby towns. But little coordinated marketing for the shop and restaurants and lodging here to get those wine tasters to stay a bit longer, shop, eat some wonderful local food here, and spend the night.
I want to help. But I know that no one likes the new kid on the block saying “This needs to be done.” So, I really really really tried not to say too much too soon.
If you know me personally, you are not surprised that I only lasted a few weeks. But I went back and visited with the Director of the McMinnville Downtown Association and she appreciated my concept. She also had no money to pay me. She did offer support in letting me introduce myself to the membership and offer assistance.
Today I posted my first blog about the Chaplain’s Pantry Caterering both in my CreationsByBG blog as well as the MDA blog. I have appointments with two other MDA members as well as an organization which is farm related and I am very excited about the potential for helping them grow there.
Good things….slowly slowly slowly…..send me words of patience please!!!
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.
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.
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.
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..
And 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.
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.
Spending 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.