December 20, 2011
However you celebrate the many holidays of this winter season, I hope you take time to enjoy it with family and friends who are most important to you. It is my wish that your season be stress-free and you can spend all the time you wish with loved ones.
This will be my last post in 2011. My eldest is home from college and enjoying time with his younger brother. I want to spend time with them as well. Both are teens but the Legos are back out in the basement for the many games that have occupied their creative minds for years. We’ve already had some wonderful conversations about nearly any topic imaginable and I know there is more to come.
We’ve just finished decorating our tree which means it’s time for a spirited game of “I Spy” with the ornaments. The clues are getting more and more inventive each year as we hide our favorites when decorating only to reveal their location during the game.
This week, we’ll also be baking cookies together, just as I did when I was a child, using the recipes my grandmother passed down. It’s time for gingerbread, “children’s cookies” (sugar) and cherry cookies.
Then there is the annual tour of Anchorage to see the holiday light displays. When the boys were little, they dressed in PJs and were asleep by the time we returned home.
Thank you for all you have done this year to help me build this community. I will be back just after the first of the year. In the meantime, please spend time with those you care about.
If you want to share your plans and memories here I would love to know what’s important to you this season.
Once again, I wish you the most wonderful holiday season ever with those you love.
2001 Family Christmas Picture
September 27, 2011
To market to market…
The old nursery rhyme always comes to mind when I head to South Anchorage’s farmer’s market…not to buy a fat pig…but I probably could. Just as locally-grown products are popular in the Lower 48, so grows the family farm in Southcentral Alaska. Growing up in Oregon, we regularly visited u-pick farms, and my brother now owns a farm in Western Washington. I appreciate the difference in quality and flavor, and I’m willing to pay for it.
Each Saturday I join the throngs to stock up on fresh vegetables at the South Anchorage Farmer’s Market. Things are a tad more expensive but they more than make up for the expense by being LOTS more flavorful. I am a fan of one particular farmer…who doesn’t really even realize all the things he’s doing correctly from a marketing perspective.
Mark Rempel is the head of Rempel’s Family Farm and has been for years. He was one of the Mat-Su Valley farmers who invited people from Anchorage to tour his farm in 2009 as part of “Meet your Alaska Farmers.” I spoke with him a week or so ago as he walked among the stack plastic bins filled with his clean and fresh vegetables offering samples of snow apples and cooking tips for unfamiliar vegetables. He walks naturally among the bins offering suggestions to customers who every few minutes called out
“How do I…?,” “What do you suggest for…”
Mark looks like a farmer and said he wasn’t nearly as at ease talking with customers as he appeared. He said it’s hard because he builds relationships between the end of May and October, and then many of us go away before the next summer. He seemed surprised when I said I’ve been coming every weekend for three years and so had many others. His success comes from a ton of hard work and a natural gift for marketing.
- His produce is top quality
- I feel like I know him and his other family members
- His produce is clean and well packaged
- His family is friendly and obviously hard-working
So, how do I know it’s a family? They wear cool nametags that tell me where they fit into the family.
“Ben farmer’s son” and “Mark head farmer.”
Their very nature and the nametags seem to invite customers to chat with them.
The younger family members also have their own cut flowers they market somewhat separately from the larger farm. Signs for Ben’s flowers denote his hard work and their location at the market – apart from the produce — signals their importance.
Each week I get a newsletter from the market describing what will be there and Rempel’s list seems the most complete to me…although Alaska strawberries from Glacier Valley were out of this world as well.
Mark’s marketing is natural but it’s also part of his personality.
That’s what makes me go back every Saturday until winter is upon us and it’s just too cold for fresh veggies. Then, we’ll reluctantly return to the grocery store’s less flavorful items, knowing that spring will bring yet another season of freshness. At least Alaska is starting to have more fresh produce like the rest of the country.
Have you had similar experiences with small businesses? Why do you choose one over another? What else could Mark, and farmers like him, do? Are there other professions with natural marketers?
And, in case you forgot your nursery rhymes:
To market, to market to buy a fat pig;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum cake;
Home again, home again, market is late.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun;
Home again, home again, market is done.
To market, to market, a gallop a trot,
To buy some meat to put in the pot;
Three pence a quarter, a groat a side,
If it hadn’t been killed it must have died.
June 1, 2010
The Barber Group became reality. After 22 years working for someone else, I opened my own public relations and communications consultancy. But this post really isn’t about the numerous accomplishments and the clients I’ve helped through crisis. Instead, it’s about the primary reason I went into this venture in the first place. It’s a reminder of what’s important in life.
James (left) and Thomas Barber in the summer of 2000.
I started The Barber Group to give my two boys, Thomas and James, the support they needed to grow into future leaders. To help them through school and extra activities. And, to allow them the change to spend lazy summer days hanging out in the neighborhood with their friends instead of traipsing off to day camps. At the time my husband was in the Alaska Air National Guard and we knew he was facing overseas deployments at an increased rate. All these factors and, quite honestly, the desire to see if I could make a go on my own, played into the decision to open The Barber Group.
I think it worked out pretty well so far. Today, Thomas and James are strapping young men who are good students, athletes and leaders. Thomas is already an Eagle Scout and James likely will be by the end of the summer. More important to me and my husband is that they are caring and thoughtful people. I don’t want you to think there haven’t been challenges and there aren’t many moments of the normal teen issues in our house because there are. But, our ability to put the focus where it makes the most difference for so many years is paying off for us.
Along the way, I’ve been a strong advocate for my communities through volunteer service. I’ve been a regular fixture in the classroom and serve the Public Relations Society of America both locally and nationally. Currently I’m also on the Alumni Board for Whitman College and I’ve led various local nonprofit efforts. Of course, I’ve also done a lot of work for clients of which I’m very proud.
But as I begin the next ten years as an independent communications consultant, I think it’s important to reflect on what’s important in life…family.
James (left) and Thomas Barber checking out the scene; summer 2009
January 25, 2010
Several people I spoke with are very concerned about the increasing use of media among what is now somehow dubbed the M2 generation (8-18 year olds). I understand the concerns, but, as the parent of two boys in this generation, I also take some exception of the brushing generalities.
I showed the Kaiser Family Foundation’s study to my 17-year old son and talked with him about his impressions. Thomas and James are pretty typical of this age group but also good students, active athletes with many friends. Some comments from my son:
“First off, I personally spend way more time ‘using media’ than was cited in the study, and I’m sure many of my friends use more. I use a lot less than my friends do.
“The study said that half of all youth do their homework while also using media. I believe it should be much higher. For example, classmates and I recently had a hard project due the next day and my friends’ posts were all along the same line ‘could you help me find this’ or ‘this project sucks.’”
“While I don’t spend quite 90 minutes per day texting, my little brother (nearly 15) definitely does. I don’t text near as much as my friends. My brother basically never stops.”
It’s a fairly accurate picture as you can see from this picture of them playing…and texting…but doesn’t mean the family is falling apart. For example, texting just does not happen during dinner at our house. It’s one of my rules as we have family discussions during dinner and we don’t allow the interruptions. (Yes, we do have dinner together as a family at least 5 times per week.) My husband and I fought the texting phenomenon for several (or it seemed like it) years but have succumbed to texting our kids when they are out. We understand it’s how they communicate with each other. Can they still have a conversation with us? Yes and we make sure they do on a regular basis.
Our “Internet rules” are based on trust with our sons. They know that we can check their history at any time and restrict their use/turn off their phones if there are any concerns or questions. Through family discussions we have taught them limits on where they should and shouldn’t go. We hope we’ve taught them to make good decisions.
We are “friends” with our kids on Facebook and I helped them set up on Twitter – now abandoned by them – and enjoy exploring the Web with them. When it’s time to do a school project, they first turn to the Web for research. Google search and the wealth of information on the Web mean they rarely use books as primary tools. But it doesn’t mean they don’t read. My eldest is a voracious reader but he also gets a lot of information from the Web and/or television.
“I had a teacher who purposefully made us use books as primary sources for a project because as he said, we do our research by going to Wikipedia getting a basis of knowledge and then ‘skimming’ five to ten sites for more in depth information. I thought it was a complete waste of time because it took so much time to read the book. I didn’t really see what was wrong with ‘our way.’”
Is our kids’ use of social media really that different than our talking on the telephone all the time when we were kids? Think back to your parents always telling you to get off the phone, limiting your phone use and such. Is this really that different? I have to wonder if those who are concerned about young people using so much social media are kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. We’re talking about how this is ruining society while using the exact same tools to spread the word about our concerns. We’re fueling the fire…or are we?
January 14, 2010
Believe it or not, I grew up in a time when the “most trusted man in America” was Walter Cronkite. Every evening, my Dad would come home from work, have a Martini or an Old Fashioned and watch Walter tell him what happened that day. If we wanted time with Dad, we either waited or sat on the floor while he watched. It just was how it was in those days. Walter, and the Oregonian, were where my parents got their news. It was a pretty typical household. We watched Walter tell us about the Viet Nam War, JFK being shot, the Moon Landing and many other astonishing events that rocked our world. We just knew he was telling us the truth.
Some time in my teens, the “radio” came into play as well. The “radio” was where my Mom got her information during the day – before Dad came home to watch Walter. The radio was this new breed called Public Radio and they did in-depth stories Walter wasn’t able to do on television news. The stories led to really cool dinner conversations (with the whole family) because there was more information that often included both sides of a story.
Shocking as it may seem to some, we didn’t have computers, cell phones, email or even fax machines. There were three networks, a few radio stations and the daily newspaper. In most families the news was supplemented by fabulous conversation and we were always encouraged to join in. We used to love to get together with another family to “debate” the issues.
Today, with the advent of the Web, email, texting and various social media tools we’ve all become experts. Some aren’t sure there’s a place for mainstream media anymore. There’s talk social media tools are replacing the network news programs, newspapers and radio news. I’m not so sure though. While these are great sources for information, connections, relationships and community…just who is the most trusted man/woman in America.
In the past 12 months, there have been several world events that unfolded on social media, before they were reported on traditional media. In most cases, the story that in the end was accurate was a combination of social media blips and investigative reporting. Today, we’re all so quick to read and “retweet” or forward, so we are first with the news, we aren’t taking the few minutes to make sure what we’re saying is accurate. As communicators, it’s critical we take that extra few minutes to say…I wonder if this could really be true, verify and ask a few questions before passing on information. We must ensure what we’re “reporting” is fair, accurate and truthful or we won’t be trusted.
In thinking about this post, it made me wonder who the most trusted man/woman in America is today? While the days of having someone like Walter are most likely gone, I wonder where we’ll go next. Who’s your most trusted man/woman? Why? Where do you see us going?