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This is a Safe Place

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Here’s what we’re doing to keep you safe: 

Our Website is a 3-click purchase.  It Can’t get any easier.  Pay at the door, Pay at the Market, Credit Card/Cash, Pick up at the shop or the Farmer’s Market, Delivery is Free.

When you come here, the signs are on the door to remind you, and others, that Masks are Mandatory.  There is also a sign that says we can serve you outside.  We will do everything to accommodate if you forgot a mask.  Customers from outside ‘the bubble’ (By License plate) will experience extra screening and will be served outside.

Only one customer (or family bubble) at a time. There is alcohol-based sanitizer available at the counter, if that’s your thing.

In between customers, the ‘touch surfaces’ (Outside Door, Door Frame, Glass-Fridge, Debit Pad, Inside Door) are all sanitized (properly), every time.

In the kitchen we have always exceeded any health-code standard.  It’s a part of our operating schedule:  prepare a type of food (e.g. slice cooked meat), sanitize, prepare another food (e.g. salads), sanitize, Prepare another food (prep veg for sautee), sanitize.  It’s one of the reasons there is a glass window between the food prep area and the customer area.  You can see what we’re doing.  Raw meats are prepared in a separate room from anything cooked or served raw.

Our hands are washed between all foods (of course), after being in customer service, after handling dirty dishes, after sanitizing (may sound strange, but it’s true), after talking on the phone…etc (if you’re switching from one thing to another, ya wash your hands!)

We are self-screening and taking every precaution possible in our private lives to prevent exposure (without PPE).   In the very positive:  We’re here to keep you safe, which will keep us safe… on and on.  Thank you for your continued support.

Team D&E

A Call for Guidance: Helping People at Risk

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A wise business leader said: ‘In this time, if you are not in the business of helping people, close your doors and go volunteer for a person whose business is helping people.’  


Segment One:  Seniors At Risk

When the immediate impacts of the economic down-turn started to become apparent in our business, at the same-time as the self-isolation began, we shifted our focus to helping seniors have access to hot, healthy lunches by taking on the meal-service provided by Victorian Order of Nurses (Meals on Wheels), as the hospital-kitchen would no-longer provide the meals.  Apparently the VON subsidizes the cost of the meals and their customers pay the bulk of the cost.  

Upon further thought we expanded the meal-service to include anyone who wanted to have hot-lunches delivered for $7.20/day ($36/week).  This price is essentially our ‘cost’, as we use the same quality of food, fresh-cooked on our site, curated by the VON program.  The purpose of providing these easy, hot, healthy meals is to help people in the high-risk age category stay safe at home, and have restaurant-level food provided to them safely in their home.  It is essentially keeping people protected and food-secure when they should not be venturing out for groceries.

In many cases the initial clients were people who returned from travel outside the country who needed to self-isolate.  The citizens of this town stepped-up and we have thirty, or so, private customers getting the meals delivered every day, one week at a time, by volunteers.  As the program evolved and showed some success, we’ve had many other citizens step-up to volunteer, or step-up to pay for another person’s meals. Again, there is so much kindness and generosity going around…

Segment Two:  Youth At-Risk

As March-break came to an end for students we saw that another segment of the population was in serious need.  Many, many children rely upon in-school meal programs to have something to eat each day.  Their families do not have the resources, or potentially the priority to feed them.  In seeking-out the mechanisms to identify and feed the ‘youth-at-risk’, we contacted Maggie’s place (Family Resource Centre) as they would be able to identify clients who are in need and are proactively working to improve their family-situation.  

When we went back to the community to seek funding to feed thirteen individuals (Identified and Delivered by Maggie’s place), we were overwhelmed by a huge response.  We ended up with funding for the first week ($468) [$7.20 x 5 days x 13 people] from several private individuals and additional funding for several individuals the following week.  Many People stepped forward with funding for a person for a week or even a month.  This is so kind and generous.        

In taking a step-back from the problem we realized this food insecurity (for youth, in particular) was being partially addressed through daycare, school-programs, and after-school programs during the school-year.  The same issue is partially addressed during summer through day-camps, park-programs…etc.  

Recognizing we are likely to be dealing with this situation for some time, we appealed to the business community to support ‘a week at a time’ because $36/week for a person has a big impact on an individual’s finances, where $468 (13 People for a week) every 6 months will not touch the bottom-line of a manufacturing facility.  And THEY stepped forward.  We have had a couple businesses confirm, informally, and there are rumours of groups (such as teachers) pooling funds to pay for a week of this program.  We’re calling it ‘Maggie’s Meals’, and we would like to request funds (even matched funds) from businesses, rather than individuals.

Example businesses:  Large Manufacturers, Car Dealerships, Current ‘Charities’ (e.g. Rotary Club), Large Retail Outlets (Canadian Tire)…etc But, we want to do this ‘right’ and in an organized way. Apparently United way is curating funds from a 9-million dollar federal program aimed at helping seniors during Covid-19?

Guidance Request:

As a new small-business owner, I am already trying to navigate a new landscape in running a small business.  On top of that, the landscape has changed dramatically over the past few weeks.  We are in need some guidance toward the best ways to address food insecurity for these two vulnerable populations during Covid-19 isolation-measures.  Both of our target populations are particularly marginalized and we are seeking guidance to help us proceed using larger mechanisms that may exist without us knowing.  

For example, are there funding sources that may be able to help one, or both of these population segments?  Should we somehow request funds (from ’somewhere’ – I don’t know where) in order to offset the cost (To Maggie’s Place) to deliver food, coordinate funding of the program, create and process applications for assistance?  Is there a way we can access purchasing power (volume) and storage for packaging and food-items?  We are currently not in a position to purchase in advance due to cash-flow availability, so we are paying full-retail price for all of our supplies.  Should we be working directly through the ‘Food Bank’?  

We’re not sure how to proceed and it seems we’re way out of our league.
Thank you very much for taking the time to review this request.  Please don’t hesitate to call (after 1:30 P.M.) for a follow-up (902 397 4868).  We are all in this together.  Our community is rallying around these two vulnerable populations and we want to be as effective as possible at addressing their needs to stay at home, and be healthy… Any advice?

Canadian-Made?

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Canadian-Made –

         In the previous article I wrote about food security.  In a parallel process, we need to look into using Solar Power.  We will be building a greenhouse and installing a small panel to power: a pump to circulate a closed-system hydroponic garden, an aerator for the water and fans to help control the temperature.  This is a small ‘requirement’ if we want to go to a closed hydroponic system’.  Imagine if we wanted to include LED ‘grow-lights’ on timers to optimize growth.  Expensive on electricity, right?

I saw a facebook headline yesterday about ‘Northern Pulp’ investing in updating the pulp-mill to modern-day standards.  Proponents of staying in that industry (Forestry) with a ‘Lumber/Pulp-mill’ Mindset will applaud at how responsible that is, and state that the government should support the modernization.  My private response to my friend who put up the article was ‘It’s a dead horse! Go into Solar’.  Their response back to me was ‘Oh yes, that makes sense. Buy a bunch of solar panels from overseas and make power for 70% of the year.  Great idea. That’s what the economy needs.’ – He has a point, and I replied:  ‘Great point, but I meant making solar panels, here, and then using them, here, to get business expenses down, such as a hydroponic greenhouse.’ Response: ‘Oh.’

My point is that a lot of businesses have failed (not because of their own decisions, but) because the game changed.  Northern Pulp is a great example.  They have a significant upgrade to complete because the world changed and we know more about environmental impacts.  To come up to current specifications will cost a lot of money.  Pulp can (and is) produced cheaper in other jurisdictions who have faster growth rates and lower environmental standards.  Pulp companies have invested significantly in producing a high-grade product from low-grade pulp (such as Eucalypus or southern pine) that grows 15-25 times faster than our trees grow here.  We can’t compete.  Stop trying to compete in that market.  It’s the race to the bottom.

…’We can make it cheaper’, ‘no we can’ (lower wages, lower environmental standards),

Stop looking for cheaper.  Start expecting BETTER!  What I’m talking about is providing, on a large scale, an environment where our goal is to make a ‘better’ widget.

Better, in this case, means trying to source our supplies for the greenhouse locally if possible, made in Canada, at least, because that’s what will help us rebuild an economy.  Our neighbours don’t work Overseas, for the most part.  Let’s buy from their businesses.  Do we understand why it costs more?

         Buying local may cost more for a number of reasons.  One of the most important reasons (to me) is because we have labour standards.  I don’t like the idea of looking my neighbour in the face and saying ‘your job is only worth $X to me’.  I want my neighbours to make an honest wage.

The point is:  If the government is having to deal with dead industries (because we were in the race to the bottom), maybe it’s okay to help transition the work force to a green technology economy, or an economy of helping your neighbour, or use local-sourcing incentives to keep local-money, local. 

We’re trying to buy Canadian-made solar panels.  They are not readily available (on a primary google search) but we will insist on buying Canadian, at least.  Maybe this is a cursory way of identifying gaps in the market (i.e. new business ventures that could use government incentives).

Food Security – Shoulder Check

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Food Security –

         We’ve recently written about the quality of the produce we can buy locally in February/March.  Truth be told, we all know that it’s ‘impossible’ to grow our vegetables in Nova Scotia year-round.  But is it?  There are some suppliers of locally-grown year-round produce in the Maritimes, and it’s a ‘growing business’.

         ‘Local by ATTA’ is a Hydroponic produce farmer in Dieppe, N.B. (http://www.atta.ca/), and they’re supplying several local restaurants with Hydroponic Lettuce year-round.  Phil Hatcher, (https://verylocalgreens.ca/) of Dartmouth is doing something similar, in two shipping containers.  It’s pretty cool:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hocG2gPO-PE.  Locally grown lettuce and edible flowers in downtown Dartmouth.

         Both of these companies are highly-sophisticated producers of hydroponic food.  As described by both farmers, Hydroponic vegetables are delicious and locally available in their respective urban centres.  The production of local, year-round greens eliminates a couple problems we’ve run into recently:  Quality and Predictability of an adequate supply, at a reasonable price are major issues for us.

         Remember when the rail lines were blockaded? This caused a supply issue.  Remember when Romaine Lettuce was recalled over and over again because of e-coli contamination?  That’s another supply-issue.  Waste, Carbon Footprint, and Ethical Production are also important factors that should not be overlooked.

Waste:  I have never written about it but the waste we pay-for in our vegetables (lettuce, for example), say 20%, means that in order to have four usable clam-shells of lettuce, we need to buy five!  The price that we pay for products isn’t the ‘price-tag value’.  It’s that we pay ‘the price-tag value’ for the item, knowing that we will likely throw away 20%!  So, the ‘price’ for usable produce can be upwards of 20% higher than price-tag because we have to buy more (20% more) in order to satisfy our quality requirements.  Lettuce, Beans, Carrots, Peas, Peppers, Onions, Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Cilantro, Tomato and Garlic are the main ‘losses’ that ‘need to be’ calculated into our budget.  

Carbon Footprint:  Let’s say there are no blockades or limitations on shipping, we still have to buy our produce items from places that are warm enough to grow them year-round.  In some cases there are indoor, heated greenhouses, but we know much of our food comes from climates where crops can rotate almost year-round.  Let’s pretend the items come from the southern USA, at best, in a factory-greenhouse.  They still need to be grown under controlled lighting conditions (like UV LED’s), with heat, air exchange, etc, and then cleaned and packaged, boxed-up, shipped to distribution centres and then ultimately to us.  By the time we get lettuce in March it has likely travelled north from Mexico, while we rush to get down to Mexico.  It’s not cheap to ship things like lettuce.  It can’t (shouldn’t be) crushed, and there’s only so much that can fit on a truck.  That’s why it costs $7.99 -$10.99 for greens in March.

Ethical Production:  Under the covers, with little mention of it until recently, the southern US economy is built on the backs of millions of migrant-workers that are paid so poorly, by our standards, that it’s a dirty little secret.  How else can the southern USA grow crops, harvest, and package them, ship them 3000 km, and still sell them at what we consider a reasonable price?  It’s not because they’ve embraced high-end technology.  Manual labour is still required to operate machinery, hand prune, and sometimes harvest vegetables and fruit.  If you’ve imagined there is some great technology at play to make everything more cost effective, you’re kidding yourself.  There is some of that, sure, but not as much as you may imagine.  Television is sure to show some farm operations where it’s high-productivity technology that is the advantage, but it’s propaganda.  We only have to look as far as our local fruit and vegetable operations to see our dependence on migrant workers.  I am not sure of the labour laws, but I’m sure we are following them.  Hopefully between the provision of travel, housing, and a minimum wage we are treating people better than in the southern USA.  I saw, first hand, the ‘informal employment programs’ for migrant workers when I worked in California’s wine country many years ago:  People being picked up on a street corner and working as ditch-diggers for $10 a DAY plus lunch.

Right now there is a police blockade between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick due to coronavirus.  We are essentially detached from the mainland.  Transport trucks are still allowed through, and the Port of Halifax is still operating, albeit under significant restrictions.  Greenhouses are about to get ‘geared-up’ to provide us with great locally-grown produce.  Does that seem like enough? 

For us it does not.  We’d like to have a little more control over our supply-chain.  Food security is a major concern.  It’s not just a matter of quality but for the above reasons, we hope the government can provide incentives to help people start small farms, preferably year-round.  In order for that to be effective, though, we need to make it a priority to purchase food at a reasonable price (cost of production + company growth + profit) from people who are willing to do the work to make it, locally. 

In the first two examples (Local by ATTA and Very Local Greens), the entrepreneurs took massive risks and hit a steep learning curve to start their business.  The opportunity in our current climate, is to provide incentives, training, and backup supports to get more small hydroponic vegetable farms growing, in order to increase our collective self-sufficiency.  To that end, we are starting a small pilot project to grow hydroponic lettuce on our property in order to fully understand the hurdles to making this work.

No-Brainer Number Two, Covid-19 (Helping Maggies Place) April 7, 2020

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No-Brainer Number Two, Covid-19 April 7, 2020

A Customer of ours came in and as we talked they said they were ‘worried about some of the kids that they normally take care of at school.’  These are the kids that may be in families that struggle financially, and rely on school breakfast and lunch programs to get ‘something’ to eat.  Ugh!  The people that slip through the cracks!  ‘…and their kids’.  Or ‘and they are kids’.  You can pick the end of that sentence.

Some of our regular customers and people who were new to us (but receiving the Support meals to stay home) offered to pay for another person if that was a barrier for them.  Wow! Huge kindness.

We put the question out there (on a Facebook page) ‘how to target those in need’, and had the suggestion that Maggie’s Place could identify people who need some assistance.  We talked with the director of Maggie’s place, and she said she had 13 people who could really use some help.  No Brainer!  The complex part is how to ask regular citizens to help support someone else.  So, with a blunt approach of ‘no secrets’, we put the proposition to our Facebook followers and Subscribers.

Could you pay for another to eat healthy food for a week? WOW! In less than 24 Hours you responded, quickly and efficiently to help families in need that were identified through Maggie’s Place Cumberland.  13 people had hot, healthy lunch today FROM YOU, and they appreciate it greatly.

I temporarily forgot how many kids rely on school breakfast and lunch programs to get something to Eat.

The other part of that is their families can’t afford food, (like, at all) so think of the stress the parent is under…

IT IS SO Overwhelming and positive to see such kindness and generosity in our community.  We are so proud of you, and so proud to be a part of this.  It truly is a privilege to serve this community, and we thank you for pulling together.

The Messages

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            Here’s a secret for you:  I meditate every day.  I pause, lay-down and thank the world for the opportunities I have.  I recognize that I have been gifted many things (today, for example) and that I’m very fortunate.  I often think about ‘the current hurdle’ and ask for clarity and guidance ‘that the answer becomes clear to me’, and that I have the courage to move forward with ‘the right thing to do’.  And then, often, I get so comfortable and relaxed, I fall asleep.

One day when our sales were plummeting (due to complications from COVID-19) I went and laid down, like I normally do.  I thought, ‘we’re so fortunate to have the kitchen, an established customer base, our health, our youth – what can we do to get through this?’  ‘I hope there is some way we can help our customers through this and that we all grow together, with minimal loss (of people).  And if we do experience loss, that we can be there for each other.’  I fell asleep and woke up with the idea of providing the meals at cost.  It’s seems like a ‘risky’ move, but what really, are we risking?  Our ‘profits’ are pretty low to start with and we owe people money, so it’s not really ‘profit’.  I wasn’t sure what to do, but that’s what I mean by a ‘message’ (message 1).  Something that I’m supposed to use for guidance.

I came into the kitchen reviewing this idea in my head as I went about our regularly scheduled business.  I was thinking ‘why am I going about our regularly scheduled business when business is not regular?.  This (our regularly scheduled program) is NOT what the customer wants or needs right now.’  That seemed pretty clear by our sales.

I turned on the podcast I follow the most (right now, AKIMBO) and what my brain-filter caught was: ‘These are not normal times.  This is where you find out what your customer needs and GIVE it to them.’  This man speaks with GREAT emphasis on some words.  Sometimes he uses cadence and volume to put great emphasis on some phrases.  It’s beautiful.  Continuing: ‘you’ve built a customer base and you’ve built trust.  They trust you.  These people have given you the privilege to serve them and THIS allows you to do your craft.  If you have the integrity you think you do, ‘Give it away’’.  I think (but I refuse to check) he said: ‘If you’re in the business of helping people, figure out what they need, for help, and make that your priority.  If you’re not in the business of helping people, close your doors and go volunteer for someone who is in the business of helping people.’  That was message number two from the world, or at least that’s how I processed it. 

I came out of the kitchen to the computer and started looking at the ‘free-restaurant’ models out there in the world.  There are ‘pay what you can’ restaurants, there are people donating their wages to stay open, there are people donating their wages to feed the less fortunate.  This is a time of mass giving.  There is GREAT generosity in the world and it’s not just monetary.  There has been great generosity going around for a long time, but it just became obvious to me: people are giving away time, entertainment, knowledge, comfort, and sometimes very rich people throw crumbs at the poor.  Money cannot fix a lot of things.  That was message number three, and the last part of the puzzle.

Here’s what the whole picture looked like to me at that moment: People have given us the privilege to serve them.  In doing so we’ve (quite unintentionally) become good at making packaged healthy foods.  We’re set up for it.  They now need us to provide healthy packaged foods for them and the people they care about.  It’s the least we can do.

Later that day the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Coordinator showed up and said ‘the hospital is no longer making meals for our ‘Meals on Wheels’ program. What could you do? Do you have any interest?’ (Message number 4) – No Brainer!  Let’s do this!

Support-Meals

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Support-Meals:

When the hospital-kitchen decided they would no-longer cook for ‘Meals on Wheels’ during this difficult time, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) approached us to make inexpensive healthy meals for their clients in need.  We have catered a few meetings at their office and many of their nursing staff are customers of ours.  They know our food but were not sure of our capacity to cook, and hold, 25 meals at a time. 

            Our immediate response was: ‘Of Course’.  It aligned with our ‘year-3’ business plan, which was to expand into feeding seniors, professionally.  We’re not ‘exactly’ set up as we would like to be for this service at this time, but it was always a part of our plan.  When we looked at the age of the population in and around Amherst, we saw that there is a high population of elderly people in Cumberland County.  The elderly population is very high, and those are people who may need ‘a little help’ to eat well.  This is a population that has lived through hard times, worked hard, retired, and just wants to be happily retired.  We saw an upcoming need. 

To compound that upcoming ‘need’, we recognized that a high proportion of those people’s children (now working age), our age, have moved away seeking new opportunities.  I did, and then moved back.  I saw, then and moreso now, that my family would need ‘a little help’, support, maybe recognition or respect sometime soon.  If I came back while I was still in the tax-paying years of my career, I would be here to help.  In fact, at that time there was a government report circulating that what Nova Scotia needed was people in my age-group to move back here, with a couple of kids, and hey ‘while you’re at it bring a nurse’.  So, That’s what I did.  I wasn’t that manipulative.  I’m joking.

For now, we’ve started cooking for the VON.  We are selling the meals to them at our cost because: being a small company we still pay retail for our supplies (so our cost is quite high) and especially during this time of need, this is no time to profit from increased need for support.  It was a minor adjustment since we use the same packaging for our meal combos, and since our sales had decreased we have the packages here and ready.

The hospital used a heat-seal system and different packaging.  They are truly an INDUSTRIAL kitchen, with lots of space, walk-in coolers, lots of publicly funded machinery, and lots of publicly funded staff.  The machinery is a huge benefit, in some regards, as long as there is lots of staff to operate it, because it will speed up certain processes or do some parts of the work a little better, such as packaging.  Bulk-purchasing is the major advantage to the Hospital’s kitchen, since they can order in sufficient quantity to get a wholesale cost.

We’re working on it. We’re learning and using our packaging to do what we can.

Depression Food

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Depression Food

            Depression Food.  I typed these words into Google one time.  I was suffering from depression.  Someone told me eating well would help, among other things, of course.  I was happy to find this Youtube channel popped up in my search:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRKls2LLMqU-uK2csT6FOKw

Meet Clara:  She’s 98 (in many of the videos) and she has ‘embraced frugality’.  I was fascinated.  How did people cook during The Great Depression?  I made a habit of finding the can of ‘random something’ in the back of the cupboard, and trying to figure out what I could make with it.  Maybe it’s something you’d like to try.  Send us a picture and tell us what you made?  How was it?

Facebook is Throttling out the Positive

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Even though we have over 2,800 ‘Followers’, only 60 people have been ‘reached’ by our morning post saying we were just in touch with VON.  We’re close to finding a way to be helpful to seniors.  Now, you’d think that would be a post that would be distributed to ALL of our followers.  We’re even adding web links to facilitate helping YOUR parents.  Well, that would be too positive.

            You know all that ‘valuable information’ you’re seeing about ‘this devastating virus’.  That’s what they want you to see.  Panic is a terrorism tool.  Facebook is screening your ‘news-feed’ to be sure to raise the panic, instead of showing the positive things happening in your community. 

We’ll never know what the true numbers are, but POSITIVE people are posting positive messages about great things going on in the midst of this virus outbreak.  It is real, and there are precaution to be taken, sure.  BUT there are millions of Artists rallying around us and giving us free entertainment, even using facebook.  There are free classes being offered. 

Very importantly, people are at home and connecting with their kids, and OFTEN not on Facebook!  I saw more people out walking yesterday than the typical July day.  I saw kids with parents out in the yard.  And, Five deer walked down the road in front of my house in the daylight for the first time since I’ve been here.  Even the deer are out for a walk!

The point of this message is to, again, thank you for your interest and for participating in our email subscription.  I wanted to write this, here, because the people who follow-us on facebook don’t get to see what we post, when we post it.  They get to see our stuff IF Facebook deems it important to them, AFTER they’ve been bombarded with pictures of ‘no toilet paper’ and ‘the liquor store’s closing’.  Sixty (60) people reached in five hours, out of 2800+.  Think about that.

‘The Media’

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‘The Media’

(Internet, television, newspaper, podcasts, and email are all forms of media) – what we’re seeing is inflammatory reporting,  Not Journalism or ‘media’ .  It’s a mis-use of the connectivity of the world through internets.

Thank god Artists and leaders are using th’internets to spread some good. We’ll have to see how long it is before Facebook, Instagram, youtube, and Zoom start to Gauge the people who are freely spreading their positive magic.

Thoughts?