Sunday, May 18, 2008

"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me."
(A U.S. Congressman to Dr. David Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Language, about the necessity of a modern commercial nation to be multi-lingual. Really. I am not making this up. It is just too good to make up.)


Wow, this whole "balance" thing hit a nerve...and I could write quite a bit more but for the moment just add a few comments. Honestly, when I started in business almost 30 years ago I didn't think about it much. Being broke and starting out can do that for you because you have nowhere to go but up. Balance? It just wasn't a topic of concern for me or nearly everyone else I knew. Troy Hinds, another of those inagural Bus. 382 Entrepreneur stars, pressed me some more on this topic. Troy is now doing some killer work a SPG Solar, and check out just one example of the international press PLNU garnered in working with Troy and SPG at

So what do I think years later? Now that I have "pushed the boulder up the mountain?" (I actually think that one might be an original line--I will have to check the files.) I think the following (at least on a Sunday morning before I have had any coffee):

*Find a specific day or event or moment of the week just for you. This was always Friday night for me. Dinner with friends, out with Ruth, no studies, no books, no business, just getting Chinese food or a movie or a book or a walk. Even now, years later, Friday nights are still the "sanctuary time."

*Take vacations. This is one of the things we should learn from our European friends (well, maybe bread, nice shoes and a few other things as well). I found I had to physically extract myself from the geography and business for a week or so as it just didn't work trying to sit at home and work in my woodshop. People would find me. I would find them. I had to get away and see something else with the family.

*Invest in your friends. A dear friend (wow, another one who died too early, Dave Bartel) once said "to have friends you have to be a friend." Don't know exactly who he was quoting but it is solid counsel. Are you lonely? Make a friend. Don't wait for them to knock on the door like vagrant J.W.'s or Cutco Knife salespeople.

*Money isn't it. Money does not find balance for you. it probably has the opposite effect for you. It does for me. The antidote is not being in poverty. I think you have to work to give much of it away. Sure, provide for yourself and your family but seek anonymous ways to give it away. (Don't get me started on how we honor donors these days. Live dangerously. Next time you write a check for some cause or ministry insist they keep in anonymous. Try it. You will like it.)

I hope this helps to the several of you who are asking me about this topic. Funny thing is my MBA class at PLNU just brought this same topic up a few weeks ago and we discussed it over dinner at our house (Thanks Ruth for the wisdom to the students as well!)

Hugs and kisses



So it's fruit time in Dinuba as Ruth and I have made a quick trip north this morning to take care of some family and business items, returning to San Diego on Sunday. It is 102 degrees today and the fruit harvest has begun. Do I miss it? Not today. I will elaborate another time.

But for the moment can I say something about the nonsense of organic produce? Now don't get me wrong--you or anyone else is free to buy organic anything, as it is indeed a free country. (at least until this November) Knock yourself out--spend five bucks a portion for Belgian Endive, or for your peaches or potatoes. But organic pet food? Organic beef? Organic health care products? Organic cat litter? Really? Is this what we have become?

We seem to fixated upon issues of risk without conception of balancing other interests. (Can you say "optional childhood immunizations?") I just don't see the value of hauling produce 3,000 miles from South America where it is "certified organic" and bypassing regionally grown produce that is conventional. What is the carbon footprint on such transactions? Do you have any idea what the growing practices really are in other countries? Do you have any idea of organic practices anywhere? Do you know what causes the vast majority of food illnesses?

Oh, so the answer is buying at farmers markets like at Ocean Beach, right? Let me tell you my experience with farmers markets. Ruth and I survived the first three years of our marriage selling peaches and nectarines at the local market in Fresno with an old "green" pioneer by the name of Richard Erganian, who knew and knows more about fresh produce and people and community than most. So I know a bit about the topic from the "old days" to now. And my opinion is at least half of what I have seen at the farmer's markets these days is not organic. It is conventionally grown fruit purchased from commercial producers of various sizes and then the so-called "grower" (usually with long hair, overalls, smile and a generally rural look) hand writes a cardboard sign saying "organic peaches." And so I then watch the consumers, so eager to feel a part of being "green" that they line up and rave how great the organic life is. Just paying triple what the grocery store is selling the same thing for, just without the handwritten sign. (Note to self: talk to my marketing colleagues about dropping the in-store DVD's and sampling and give them crayons and cardboard instead.)

I have seen my own fruit grown packaged in my own box then re-packaged as "organic fruit" by farmers markets. My fruit is good stuff but it is not organic. I went up and asked the "grower" (holding my own Summertime Fresh box from Reedley) where he "grew" his fruit. Without missing a beat, he told me "about an hour north of here" and I just smiled as he filled up another bag of fruit for a few college students in line. Hmmmm....I have grown fruit for over twenty years and I know that nearly every variety requires the cold winters that only the San Joaquin Valley can produce---the Southern California area is simply too tropical to get adequate "chill hours." Ruth told me to "shoosh" and withdraw from the field. My face flushed as I wanted to shout out down Newport Avenue in OB that "Bongo Billy" was a fraud.

Should I have made a scene and called "Mr. Greenjeans" a liar? Stay tuned. I will revisit this topic.
But at the end of the day my understanding of community, and the responsibility to produce food for our world, and the economic abilities of people to pay for wholesome fresh food vs. fast and processed food, makes this entire discussion for the average consumer rather silly. Most food safety problems have absolutely nothing to do with pesticides, herbicides and production practices, but rather with e-coli contamination and poor handling practices at the consumption site. There is a lot more to talk about here but I need to take my blood pressure medicine or walk down to People's Grocery and get a deep-fried Chimichanga. That will show the organic crowd!

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