Monday, January 30, 2012

Thank you Beta Testers and First Taste Takers!

Last week, I fairly quietly released a Rockethub campaign for my Urban Farm Manifesto, due out on February 25th. A handful of folks stepped right up to the plate, and I'd like to recognize them right now.

Chris Cowen took the first plunge, pledging $30 before the campaign "officially" started, having heard about it from the Visible Voice website.

In slight anger because Chris beat her to the punch, Sarah was next. However at that point, the campaign had "officially" started. If my readership doesn't know by now, Sarah is my wife. Numbered copies 101-200 are dubbed the "Sarah" edition after her and are numbered with a turquoise Sharpie.

Then a whole 'nother Sarah, Sarah Perkins hit the ball out of the park with a Produce Prepaid purchase. For the record, Ms. Perkins has been my best customer for two years now.

From there, it was a one-two-three punch from major players in the Cleveland cultural scene. First, it was bicycling/neighborhood sage, John McGovern, who as a result has helped start Old Husher's Heirloom Seeds. Two, LEAF's head-honcho, Rob Burgoyne, put in an order for summer plants. And three, Lakewood's Root Cafe has given me my first paying gig on the coveted lecture circuit.

The dude behind the best micro-roasted coffee in Cleveland (Aaron Pearl's Origins Beanery) followed Perkins into the land of Produce Prepaids.

Then something different happened. A stranger named Camille George bought a Manifesto copy. It appears we have mutual FB friends, but not even that extensively. Thank you Ms. George for taking a leap of faith. And if we have met, and I just don't remember, I'm sorry.

My cuz, Jamie Bowers, showed her foodie-ness with the first purchase of the very limited edition Mustard and Manifesto combo.

One of my oldest school friends, whose former bass guitar I steel shred to this day, Scot Pansing, took the Manifesto coastal. He even thanked me for posting the video on Youtube.

Representing Toledo, Brian Clarke double-bonus-ed with the Heirloom Plant Pack and the somewhat risque 70's-styled poster from the Manifesto. Brian, I'll be glad to personally work with you (if need be) on a pickup date since you'll be coming in from out of town for pickup.

Today, both, Laura Mintz and Chris Lancaster joined the Manifesto campaign.

Last, but not least is the truest of all beta testers. This person is Sonia DiFiore, who is so beta test that she couldn't even log into Rockethub and opted to send a check instead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review #5: The Small-Mart Revolution by Michael H Shuman

In this fifth installment of my book review series is a little of what I was referring to in my last blog about expanding the horizons of this blog overall. Back in the fall, I had a chance to hear author, Michael H Shuman, speak at the Sustainable Cleveland Conference. With its witty name, I had heard of his "Small-Mart Revolution" for a few years, but had no conceptual idea of its breadth and scope (or even that Shuman was the author) until his speech where he interwove "far-out" ideas like local stock exchanges with a sense of reason and we-can-do-it enthusiasm.

The Small-Mart Revolution covers a lot of territory. There's a tale of irony that helps to make the book a pleasant read. However, at its soul is a somewhat fierce "Local First" mandate that manifests itself through the book in an epic battle called TINA vs. LOIS (though Shuman specifically states that the Small-Mart Revolution is not about us vs. them mentalities).

Throughout the book there are examples of how to integrate "Local First" into every day life and how to hopefully integrate it more into our future lives. There's some numbers in there, but nothing too daunting. A major take-home are multiplier effects to be discussed later. At about 75% in, Shuman uses an economic tool called "leakages" to determine to where money "leaks" out of a community. And then makes suggestions from the data to slow/stop such "leakages." Ultimately to me, this book is about the decentralization of power through the use and not-use of money.

Battle of TINA vs. LOIS

Right from the start, Shuman sets the stage for an ongoing battle between TINA and LOIS. These ladies are in reference to business, that for me can best be described as mindsets. TINA stands for "there is no alternative." TINA is desperation; whereas, LOIS means "locally owned, import substitution," and represents vision and hope. TINA is characterized as multi-national corporations who use false promises for abatements. TINA's new jobs are often highly visible to the public and often there's alot of them (like 400 new factory workers with benefits), which means politicians love TINA with all her ribbon-cutting ceremonies and such.

This means that TINA essentially steals abatement and investment dollars from LOIS, which doubly sucks because LOIS accounts for more jobs in the USA than TINA; and TINA could really care less about your clean lake or school system in a bottom line society.

Plus imagine all of the hassle going to a EZ Clean Green Drycleaning ribbon cutting, then to a new vertically-integrated, beet sugar rum, micro-distillery opening, then to the artesanal goat cheese place, then the small theater that does nothing but black and white films, and then to the vinyl record store that actually has local bands on new Cleveland-pressed vinyl. A politician's hand would hurt after all that ribbon cutting.

Buying Local First

This is the simplest of The Small-Mart Revolution's tenets. Lucky for farmer-me that buying and eating local foods is one of the easiest money changing aspects that people can embrace. Then there are other simple things like banking with a small bank or credit union or installing solar/wind power (in this regards you're in essence buying power from yourself, and thus decentralizing power). Walking or biking also count because the transportation industry is the most non-localized industry in the USA.

Then there's some medium-difficult paradigm-shifter suggestions like local rewards cards (see Supportland card above) or business-to-business lending. And then there's some truly wild style, future-forward, yet to be embraced, but it seems awesome ideas like local currencies and stock exchanges.

Multipliers and Leakages

So when you buy locally, there's this thing that's called the multiplier effect that happens afterwards. Basically, your money circulates around your community again and again in both dollar amounts and affected parties when you buy locally (stats in book). So it's totally worth waiting at Melt that extra 20 minutes with an extra beer in hand, than go to that lecherous Panera/Jimmy John's across the street; or go to Root Cafe, instead of Caribou.

From there, Shuman uses his economic tool of leakages in order to identify how and where-to money leaves a community. This is to identify and create future localized industries in areas that would ultimately have the most impact on the community/region. This is like a one, two punch for localness. One, you create new regional economic outputs. Then, two (and this is the proverbial pinball jackpot), you get those multiplier effects double-bonusing because of the subsequent dollar inputs. Thus creating a new, more self-sufficient community/region.


Throughout the book, there a ton of ideas, stats, and stories. In all honesty, I've been wanting to read this book for all of my adult life (though it hasn't existed for most of that time frame). I want to buy multiple copies and start a book club, go to Slow Money Cleveland meetings, and celebrate Cleveland's Slow Money already been accomplished-ments.

Therefore, I recommend it for any body who considers themselves a forward thinker, is looking for entrepreneurial business ideas, cares about their community, is in economic development/urban planning, likes economics, or is seeking an ideology in a hectic world.

Friday, January 6, 2012

INTO THE 2012 (pronounced twenty, twelve)

As I write my first blog post of 2012, I sit in shorts; I'm wearing my chacos. It's 52 degrees in Cleveland in JANUARY! And I feel giddy. I just ordered 1,000 crowns of asparagus and just received my Baker Creek Heirloom seed order (see jpeg). Furthermore, I just got done sulfuring Old Husher's Perennial Expansion Farm, which I didn't expect to get to til about March/April. So as I move into my third year of Cleveland farming, I oddly feel a little relaxed for the first time since starting this endeavor despite my fire hydrant having disappeared over two months ago.

That being said, in 2012, I will be expanding my horizons of both my business and blog. Subsequently, I am no longer an urban farmer. Rather now, I am an urban farm entrepreneur. What this symbolizes is a specific departure from thinking that the growing and selling of vegetables would be my only/main product; instead, that notion has been replaced with one that states the growing and selling of vegetables will be a major product line with future product lines to be added.

This new found business clarity can be directly attributed to the insane success of my small batch, 2011 Gray Market Edition of my Pennsylvania River Woman Mustard. This has caused me to jump on the commercial-canning-is-needed-in-Cleveland-pronto bandwagon despite my stronger and preferred belief system in food sovereignty laws. I envision a vertically integrated boutique mustard in about two years.

In terms of blog expansion, this will focus on two new areas of blog subject material, roughly described as my influences and schtuff that I think is cool locally/regionally/Ohioally as it pertains to small and regional business. I may even do profiles on other Cleveland farmers (but probably not).

In conclusion of my first blog post of 2012, I would like to give a shout out to Cool Cleveland Dot Com for using Sarah and I as models under the "Shop Local Cleveland Clothing" section of their fine website. See here:

Now if anybody has seen me lately and was wondering. Yes, I am growing out my beard as if I were writing a manifesto.