You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘success’ tag.

This week ends National Farmers Market Week. Even with access to one of the consistently rated-top farmers markets in the country—Portland Farmers Market— I’m still surprised there is such a week. In spite of the gloomy picture of the health of the average American and the crushing power of the industrial food complex, we have something to celebrate. There are now about 6100 markets across the country, a 16 percent increase over last year. Go here to find a farmers market near you.

Following is a tribute to the impact of farmer’s markets, with a focus on the Portland Farmer’s Market and highlighting one of their sustainability efforts. Their clearly defined mission and success at executing goals is an inspiration for any business or nonprofit.


Beyond Food: A Success Story

One look and it’s easy to imagine how farmers’ markets nurture communities—piles of lush, colorful bounty and smiling people milling about. But behind the sights, sounds and scents are well-crafted success stories. Like many markets, Portland Farmers Market (PFM) has a mission to sustain local growers and food producers, strengthen the local food economy and create community gathering places. There are also peripheral, sometimes overlooked, side benefits that inspire, delight and sustain us all.

Sustaining Local Economies

Every dollar spent at a farmer’s market guarantees the continued existence of farms. The loss of these farms would mean a risk of overdevelopment; the reduction of healthy food options, jobs and local dollars; and an increase in reliance on fossil fuels used to ship food long distances. It is suggested that ninety cents of every dollar spent on locally grown food remains in the local economy as opposed to twenty-five cents if spent on food that is shipped in. In an inspiring reversal of a century-old trend, there has been a rise in new farms—many small and many women-owned—as consciousness rises about the need for more meaningful connection to the sources of our food.

Planning for Change

Farmers’ markets can be agents of change beyond creating thriving local food systems. PFM’s strategic plan includes a number of sustainability efforts—one being a 3-year waste-reduction program named Evergreen. PFM exceeded their first-year goal of a 50-percent diversion rate (from landfill to recycling/composting). With this robust program, PFM calculated waste, set attainable targets, created stations and signage, as well as education resources for vendors and shoppers.

All organizations face challenges when they embark on sustainability efforts. Recycling and composting standards change and vary from place to place, which means that the Evergreen program needed to be flexible to accommodate this uncertainty. An example is what is considered compostable in one jurisdiction might not be in another. Food packaging that claims to be compostable may not meet existing standards. Greenwashing is an ongoing problem, which makes it hard to validate products and services. And like most nonprofits, budgets and staff are often limited, making it hard to do all that you want with a program like this. But as Anna Curtain, brainchild of Evergreen, says, “We try not to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”


Without doubt, these efforts require pooling knowledge and resources. PFM collaborated with many entities—too numerous to list. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a great staff to use the village to create a vigorous commons. They took advantage of a Mayor’s grant to fund the planning and execution of the Evergreen program and sought the expertise of an event greening company to help them measure and predict waste. Adapting an existing model of a farmer’s market recycling station from another organization allowed them to put their energy into tailoring features specific to their needs and our local community.

Fostering Goodness

It is said that shopping at a farmer’s market creates ten times the interactions than at a typical grocery store. These connections that develop among and between shoppers and vendors satisfy a craving that people have to connect in more authentic ways than today’s world often allows. Musicians entertain, chefs inspire, farmers teach. Portland Farmers Market has created programs that range from greater access for low-income individuals to buy market produce, a market-friendly bike station, recipe station, and kids cooking events, to name a few. And many food purveyors like picklers, chocolatiers, popsicliers and bakers have had their start at the market. Over the years, 50 such vendors then blossomed into bricks-and-mortar businesses. There is a ongoing effort to nourish these budding foodpreneurs.

Pictured above (L to R): Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans from The Farmers Feast cooking up mushrooms, Patreece DeNoble with her artichokes, and a market shopper sampling from 30-plus tomatoes at the Tomato Fiesta event. Evergreen booth: photo by Allison Jones.


Do you have a farmer’s market near you? What do you get out of visiting your market, aside from the food you take home? Has it changed the way you eat?


…is as futile as waiting for Godot. I’d give a synopsis of the play except that a cursory view of the play as explained on Wikipedia makes it clear there is little consensus on what it meant. Having seen the play (as I have) does not help, at least in my case. My analogy about permission, then, is apt for this reason: nothing really happens in the play and the wait for Godot, is, well, pretty agonizing for its nothingness.

The same holds true in life as far as Waiting for Permission goes. Because while you wait, life goes by and nothing much happens. I’m not talking about those lucky few who grab what’s theirs (and then some)—the ones first in line when Entitlement was passed out. I’m talking about the rest of us waiting for Permission to show up at the door in a cute brown outfit.

Here’s an irony: We think we’re not clever enough to (fill in the blank), but we’re infinitely clever when it comes to constructing a wall of reasons blocking our way. Why is that? Sure, you might want a medical degree before slicing someone open. But you don’t need a degree to slice bread for that sandwich business you always wanted to start.

Here’s another irony: From my unscientific observation, the more clever, talented, kind, resourceful and generous a person is, the more they question their “right” to create or succeed. This is not to say that those who do create and succeed lack those qualities. But none of these people have to worry about egos, just yet anyway.

For years, I’ve wanted to write a self help book. Funny, you seem to have a lot of issues, someone might say. But as the saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” What has stopped me is that I kept picturing the bio in the back of the book below the photo of me with my hand on my chin. It seemed ridiculous to say “Jane is a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon living with a cat that doesn’t belong to her.” Who would buy that book? I did start writing that book but only because I finally stopped attaching the need for special qualifications to the process of writing. I also stopped attaching publication and sales to the process of writing. All along, I forgot to realize that no one has to buy that book if they don’t want to.

A friend embarked on a food business after years of thinking she was unqualified. Every so often she sheepishly corrects people who dare to call her a chef, humble as she is about her lack of “official” training. I suspect she and I are a lot alike in our respect for the focus, dedication and sacrifice that official training can require. So we err on the side of caution. Too much caution.

Are you Waiting for Permission?

Question your inner naysayer. If it’s not unsafe, illegal or immoral, then pick up the guitar, the knife (good knife skills please), the paintbrush, the microphone, the pen, the soldering iron (again, safe operation please) and stop using excuses like talent, education or expertise. Your inner naysayer is really good at asking what the point is of this activity if the painting will never see the light of a gallery, the song an audience, the soup a customer. Your inner naysayer is a clever S.o.B., but so are you, so come up with some good comebacks.

Have appropriate humility. Too much humility stops us from exploring our interests. Too little and you forget there are masters out there whose talent, education and expertise is what makes them great. If wanting to be great is stopping you, then stop needing to be great before you even begin. That being said, know enough to know what is at stake so you can behave responsibly. If you’re selling services or products where quality is an issue, be careful what promises you make, spoken or implied. Many people ask if a degree is necessary before becoming a designer. The bigger issue is whether you’re confident that what you’re selling is understood by the buyer. Confidence is great. False claims are not.

Go where the road takes you. We are too often looking for signposts that say “go this way.” Unfortunately, life is not terribly linear, except when it comes to those pesky birthdays. Sometimes you have to take a convoluted trip to end up in a pretty cool spot you never envisioned. “Well, how in the world can I plan for that? And what if I spent time going to the wrong place.” If it’s any consolation, you probably already waste lots of time doing things that are of no benefit, like hanging out with boring people or watching TV. So don’t get hung up on wondering where the signless road will take you. You might have to take up belly dancing only to realize you really wanted to write poetry. If you have an inkling of desire to (fill in the blank), you will not be wasting time pursuing it. Why? Because you always learn something by engaging in any endeavor. Always. (See next bullet point.) You only have to pay attention. If your problem is Waiting for Permission, chances are you are not about to sink thousands of dollars and years of time into a Masters Degree. Do the small stuff first.

Be on the lookout for hidden benefits. The surest way to kill any endeavor you do embark on is to focus on the big prize, whatever that prize might be. They say people tend to drop therapy the moment they start to figure stuff out, quit golf lessons the moment they really start learning, and so on. This is because we start with confidence or a childlike attitude. We start to learn a little, then we realize how much we don’t know, we get discouraged, and so we stop. You have to have a goal, but if enjoyment or success is dependent on catching that big fish, then you will miss out on all the side benefits, which might be even better. Those unintended side benefits might hold the secret to our success. They might be the signposts on the road.

You’re welcome to sit by the tree waiting. But it might be a long wait.