Posts Categorized: Sum of Your Business

John Peterson – Ferndale Market

John with his dad, Dick Peterson (and a whole bunch of turkeys) / Photo courtesy Ferndale Market

Introduction by Benji Nichols

A cozy, warm home, filled with the smells of a slow cooked meal can make the magic of a holiday (or any cold day!) come to life.

At the center of many of those meals is often the classic roast turkey. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can seem daunting to take on the loving preparation and time a festive meal may require. But one might argue that there’s never been a better time than right now to revel in the kitchen – it can really bring you back to the present. Turkeys are not all the same though, so before you run out to grab the cheapest grocery-chain bird you can find, consider not just the investment of time you are making, but the investment in quality local food as well.

That is exactly what is at the heart of the third generation, family-run Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. They call it “turkey without shortcuts,” which is an accurate description of how this iconic Minnesota producer raises their table-treasured turkeys.

It all started with Dale, and his wife Fern (get it? Fern-Dale!), Peterson in the late 1930s. The sight of a flock of turkeys, with the run of the range, can be a funny scene to those unfamiliar – with a curious flock staring you down from under a giant oak tree – but Ferndale has always believed in allowing their birds outdoor access through the temperate growing months, and they believe you can taste the difference. And while market preferences and trends have certainly changed, Ferndale continues growing their free-range, raised without antibiotics, delicious turkeys the same way.

2020 and the pandemic have thrown wrenches into every agriculture and food-related business, prompting new ways of selling and delivering product. We have seen losses of larger restaurant and retail partners, while some local and regional food markets have boomed. As winter settles in and the holidays come and go, consider supporting as many local and regional growers and food producers as you can, and enjoying their products as you make your home cozy and delicious-smelling.

Ferndale turkeys, and other tasty products like smoked turkey breast and snack sticks, can be found in our region at the Oneota Food Co-op in Decorah, People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse and Rochester, Bluff Country Co-op in Winona, the Viroqua Food Co-op, Free Range Exchange in Hokah, Parkway Market in Lanesboro, New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, and on the farm in Cannon Falls at Ferndale Market (along with an amazing variety of regional products!). Find more locations across the Midwest and beyond at ferndalemarket.com.

Q&A with John Peterson of Ferndale Market

Name: John Peterson
Age: 40
Business: Ferndale Market – Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Years in Business: Our farm was started in 1939, and we opened Ferndale Market in 2008.

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

Our story might be a little less “leap” and a little more “journey.” I grew up on my family’s turkey farm, and I always enjoyed working outside and with our turkeys.  As a kid collecting turkey eggs and moving ranges, I just didn’t have any idea I would turn it into my career! I studied Business and Communication in college, and in the years after graduating, I worked in admission for my alma mater, Augustana University. It was in these early adult years that my wife, Erica, and I became more engaged with our food system, and realized we had a unique opportunity to return to my family’s farm and begin direct-marketing our turkeys. Prior to that point, my family had sold our turkeys more conventionally to a processor, despite the fact that we continued to grow our turkeys outdoors.

We returned to my family’s farm in 2008, and launched Ferndale Market, named for my grandparents – Fern & Dale – who founded our farm in 1939.  We remodeled our former hatchery into an on-farm local foods market, began developing new turkey products, and connected with restaurants and retailers to carry our turkey.  Thankfully, consumers, chefs, and butchers have seen the difference in our Ferndale Market turkey, so we’re still here today!

When John and his wife, Erica, returned to the family farm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, in 2008, they remodeled their former hatchery into Ferndale Market, an on-farm local foods market / Photo courtesy Ferndale Market

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Without a doubt, I most value the diversity in my work.  I can start my day in a flock of turkeys, spend time at our warehouse packing our truck for delivery, talk about a new local product for our on-farm market, and visit with a restaurant chef by day’s end. I love the diversity and connections to both people and our turkeys it allows.

As we’ve grown, we’ve also been able to add partner farms, who follow our same practices and protocols to grow turkeys with us. Connecting with these fellow farmers regularly adds to the diversity of my work too. We have a couple who happen to be in the Driftless region, so I really enjoy getting out to those farms too!

3. How about the worst?

In our type of farming, the most challenging days are typically related to weather or the health of our flocks. With turkeys outdoors, weather impacts everything we do, particularly during the heat of summer or when weather is changing quickly. As a part of our Raised Without Antibiotics program, we work proactively to keep our flocks happy and healthy, so when weather or a health challenge disrupts our best laid plans, it’s always a tough day.

“We’re proud to be the dinosaurs, holding onto the practices we’ve used for 80 years. For us, the equation is simple: having turkeys outdoors makes for a good life for our birds, it’s good for our land, and it makes a good tasting turkey.  It’s a win-win-win, and that makes me proud to carry these practices forward.” – John Peterson / Photo courtesy Ferndale Market

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

You know, we’ve had plenty of challenges, but I’ve never considered giving up. We believe really strongly in the ways we’re doing things differently on our farm and at Ferndale Market, as well as the different path we are trying to carve in the food and ag space. In a world where the typical distance between farm and plate is long and complicated, we’re passionate about having a closer tie to our food system.

I’m also buoyed by the interactions with our customers, both in our on-farm market and the chefs and butchers we sell to. Most farmers don’t get to know their consumers or have this routine validation for their work, so that’s a big wind in our sails.

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

 I feel fortunate that others helped to blaze a trail for local foods by the time we launched in 2008, and I consider many of those folks to be mentors and friends.  They created the models for farms like ours to learn from.

In terms of turkey-specific inspiration, I continue to learn a lot of “turkey smarts” from my dad, and view both my dad and grandpa as role models. They maintained our independence and continued growing free-range turkeys long after much of the industry had shifted directions. We’re here today because they had the vision to keep us on this path.

(Left to right) Jane and Dick Peterson, and Erica and John Peterson with their son, Finn / Photo courtesy Ferndale Market

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

I don’t think I can limit it to just one thing! Ignorance is bliss when starting a business, and I’m thankful I was a bit naive to all the things I’d need to know someday. I never took an ag or poultry science class in college, never studied product development, operations, or meat science. I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot along the way, and I know my education is far from complete!

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

Well, it remains a work in progress. There’s a blessing and a curse to living and working on the same farm, so I try to savor the benefits it provides, since it’s easy for work and home to meld together. I am, however, incredibly fortunate that we have a great and loyal team on our farm and in the market, and that’s a tremendous support to a healthy work life balance. 

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

This may sound a little corny, but I’m sincerely motivated by the notion that local and sustainable foods can positively shape the world in a meaningful way. This is true both on our farm, and the many other local farmers and food makers we partner with in our on-farm market. When so much of our food and ag economy has been consolidated by global companies, I believe we are doing something inherently different in the way we grow our turkeys, support our rural communities, care for our land and employees, and provide good clean food.  It’s obviously not a new model, but it’s not the standard in agriculture today. The idea that we can make a difference while preserving our way of farming, is incredibly motivating to me. I must still be full of idealism, but that belief keeps me inspired to keep going each day.


Holidays at Home

One of the bonuses about winter is that there are a bunch of fun holidays to celebrate. From Thanksgiving to Christmas to Hanukkah to Lunar New Year to Valentine’s – or Galentine’s – Day and more.

Often, this season means getting together with friends and family or hosting big parties at your house. This year might look a little different, though. But that’s okay! In fact, we encourage celebrating as many holidays as possible through this winter season – think of it like lots of mini-holidays. We all need more reasons to find and create joy.

So how can you make it special without all the extra crew?

Throw a string of twinkly lights across your dining room or kitchen, get out candles, and folk napkins. Plan an “official menu” and write it in fancy writing on a chalkboard or big piece of paper. Set up a cheese board or appetizers and play board games while the main course is in the oven, or have your family make a holiday-themed craft together. And go ahead and go big: roast a whole bird – leftovers are great (you can even freeze some for future soup or sandwiches)!

Still want to see your extended family’s faces? Set up a Zoom party! Create an account and send the Zoom party invite to your group – it’s probably best to keep it to less than 10 people for ease of conversation. Get a computer or device set up on your table so everyone can see and join in. You can even email your menu and recipes in advance, and have others make or buy the same thing, so you’re all enjoying the same food!

Happy holidays, friends. We hope you find joy and peace through this season.

Red Piglet

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

 

Introduction by Aryn Henning Nichols
Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2020 Inspire(d) 

Words, at their base, are simple. Just a series of letters placed in a certain order. Yet, in the right order, they can hold immense power. They can lift you up or tear you down; bring you hope or bring you to tears; inspire you to love yourself, and others. Words can motivate you to get up, every day, and keep. showing. up.

Mike Nelson with his wife, Jodi. Photo by Red Piglet

In 2013, when Mike Nelson founded Red Piglet, the mission from the start was to wield words for the good of the world. With messages like “Shift Status Quo,” “Radiate Love,” or “Observe Without Judgment,” the Calmar, Iowa-based business – specializing in apparel, cards, prints, stickers, mugs, and more – encourages people to see their own uniqueness and worth. This kind of mission is vital in times like these – and, frankly, all other times too. And for Mike, it all started with the simplest of tools: pencil and paper

“I’m one of those humans that have a note pad and pencil at my bedside for the sole purpose of documenting those ‘bright’ ideas that pop into my head at 2 am,” he says. “A night in 2010, I woke to the name ‘RED PIGLET.’  My mind started racing to the possibility of creating a Red Piglet brand. After 10 minutes, I popped out of bed, fired up the computer, and went straight to GoDaddy.com. RedPiglet.com was available. I couldn’t believe it. I purchased that URL on the spot.”

While Mike spent more than three years dreaming of the possibilities for Red Piglet, fear of failing kept him stuck. It was this very struggle of being “stuck” that inspired him to finally take the leap and launch Red Piglet in 2013. He wanted to help others get unstuck and pursue their passions and purpose.

Photo by Red Piglet

Mike, his wife, and three kids live in Northeast Iowa, where they, like many other people and businesses across the world, have pivoted to make things work during COVID-19. Originally booked for shows and markets each Saturday through summer and fall, the Red Piglet schedule is now much more open. The plus side for folks local to or traveling through Calmar, is that you can now find the Red Piglet Shop open more frequently (see sidebar for Open Shop Weekends).

Name: Mike Nelson
Age: 47
Business: Red Piglet
Years in Business: 7
Business address: 101 S. Charles St., Calmar, IA (across from the Fire Station)
Website: redpiglet.com

Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I remember sitting in my car after a job interview and thinking, “My worth is not linked to others’ opinions, a career advancement or paycheck.” The chase was coming to an end.

I decided to shift my perspective and pursue a more purposeful life – to help people get unstuck by taking action with their lives. I proceeded to lead by example and got myself unstuck – I launched the Red Piglet brand.

Why “Encourage Uniqueness” as the foundation message for the Red Piglet brand?

I have a theory: People get stuck because they judge themselves. Why do they judge themselves?Because they compare their life in some fashion to other people’s lives. What happens when comparison takes place? Fear sets in and prevents us from pursuing our passions and gifts. You know, those things that make us happy. The truth is, we are all unique. No one can do what you do, in precisely the way that you do it. How miraculous is that? Be you, your authentic self. Everyone else is taken.

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

I don’t have to wait for others to validate my decisions. I have 100 percent creative freedom, and I guide Red Piglet based on my life experiences, beliefs, and unique style. Who knows, I might reinvent the Red Piglet brand in a few years. Stay tuned.

How about the worst?

I love the ideation and execution process so much that sometimes I get carried away and find it difficult to cut designs for a launch. In the end, it might not be the best business decision because customers can get overwhelmed from too many options. I’m getting better at reigning myself in and learning from my business mistakes.

What/Who inspires you?

My wife, who is a talented maker and wonderful mother to our children, kind photographers that have a unique eye and aren’t afraid to take creative risks, woodworkers, clay sculptors, A-frame cabins, garden studios, birds, birdhouses, barns, Black Angus cattle, Old School Country music (Waylon, Merle and George), typography, roached-out metal signs

How do you manage your life/work balance?

I’m just really grateful that my wife, Jodi (pictured with Mike on page 19), is patient and she handles the bookkeeping. Red Piglet is definitely a team gig. Most of my designing and order fulfillment starts at night after we tuck the kids in.

Any quotes that keep you going?

Many years ago, I read a book called Choose Yourself by James Altucher. He talked about his 1/3 Rule: “1/3 of the people in your life will like you (or like the products you are selling). 1/3 of the people in your life will dislike you (or dislike the products you are selling). And 1/3 of the people in your life will not care about you (or not care about the products you are selling).” That message was an a-ha moment and really stuck in my skull. Those words were a breath of fresh country air. I inhaled, exhaled like I meant it, and topped it off with a relaxed, ear-to-ear smile. IT’S TRUE, you can’t be all things to all people, no matter how hard to try. It taught me that I am not for everyone, and my Red Piglet products are not for everyone. I’m content with that. Just continue to be you. The people who are meant to cross paths with you will and they will definitely dig what you are cookin’. Be patient.

The cover on this magazine features a Red Piglet design: Keep Showing Up. What does this message mean to you?

You plug in your phone. Your eyes see the lightning bolt appear. All is right with the world when that connection is made with the electrical outlet. If you choose not to plug in your phone daily, the phone loses its purpose.

Well, think of yourself as a real-life, breathing smart phone. You store a ton of data. You multi-task every day. You are an intelligent, multi-purpose being. Think about how valuable you are to every person that you’re connected to.

Give yourself the same care and attention you give your phone, by recharging your battery every single day and showing up for yourself and the rest of us. We value you.

Photo by Nancy Lukes Photography

Any inspiration happening during the COVID-19 crisis?
All three of my NEW 2020 First Edition shirts were inspired by this pandemic crisis:

Pause and Appreciate: We get up early. We work out. We commute. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We work all day. We rush to pick up the kids. Noise is knocking at your eardrums from all angles. Guilt creeps in and exhaustion sets in… And then, the pandemic and quarantine happens. The world pauses. We are forced to become present and appreciate what surrounds us. We open our eyes, look left, right, up and down. We watch the sun set. We gather for meals. We hear the giggles and see the smiles. The guilt fades away. Our bodies heal. We become our better selves in the midst of uncertain times.

HA, Laughter is the Best Medicine: We need it now more than ever. It decreases stress. It increases infection-fighting antibodies. It improves your resistance to disease. It releases endorphins. It promotes wellbeing and relieves pain. Surround yourself with the joke-tellers, the full-o-pep peeps, the funny-facer makers and the stand-up wannabes. Their wit will nurture your health and you will nurture theirs.

IOWA: Where Impossible is just an opinion: As a wild whipper snapper, my answer to grandpa was often “That’s Impossible!” when he assigned me a task beyond my pay-grade. His reply to my answer was always “Impossible is YOUR opinion, young man!” Grandpa never liked it when someone told him that something couldn’t be done. He didn’t care if you were young, old, or somewhere in-between. You see, that ol’ farmer blazed through the Great Depression, a few wars and several natural disasters, without a plan B in the back pocket of those weathered OshKosh B’goshes. He was a self-made doer that just made it happen without the gums flappin’. Grandpa was Pure Moxie! I know, I know “Moxie” is an old school word. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I’m an old soul with wit and it shows up on many of my designs.

“MOXIE” means: The ability to face difficulty with spirit, courage, and skill. If you have moxie, you won’t let a minor setback stop you from trying again, because you’re a determined person who doesn’t give up easily.

Since Red Piglet was born in 2013, I’ve traveled this fine state of Iowa and have had so many conversations with hard-working people that forge forward with a whole lot of moxie. To all the Iowans that do what others don’t think is possible, this shirt is for you.

Advice to help folks get “unstuck” now?

Life is a challenge right now. Our health, self-esteem, and bank accounts are taking a hit. Don’t judge yourself. This is a great time to reflect and possibly reevaluate your direction. Last year, I designed the T-shirt “Clarity is in the climb”. I think the Red Piglet meaning to this message fits nicely under this question.

Clarity is in the climb: Ahhh, good ol’ clarity. For me, clarity never shows up when I’m taking a stroll down easy street or when I’m coasting downhill. Hell no. Clarity happens when I’m pushing uphill. When I’m pulling myself out of hole. The harder I work towards something or the more I struggle… that’s when things become clear. The climb reminds me what’s important. The climb tells me what things to shed and what things are worth the hard-ass work.

What’s one positive outcome you see coming from this pandemic (for you or for the world)?

I believe all humans will be more grateful for their loved ones and more present in their daily connections. We have the freedom to inspire others with action. Let’s get moving and make the world a better place. Peace and love from Red Piglet.

Photo by Red Piglet

 

Check out the positive messages in person at Red Piglet open shop weekends in Calmar, Iowa. The remaining 2020 dates are below, and hours are Saturdays (9 am – 3 pm) and Sunday (10 am – Noon). Please follow Red Piglet on social media to double-check that open shop dates are still happening due to COVID-19. And remember, you can always shop online at redpiglet.com

September 26-27
October 10-11
October 24-25
November 7-8
November 28-29
December 12-13
December 19-20

Sum of Your Business: Al Peake – Peake Orchards

apples at Peake Orchards

There are few things that feel more “fall” than heading to an apple orchard to get a bite of a fresh, ripe apple, right where its grown.

Sum of Your Business logo

It was a visit to an apple orchard that convinced Al Peake to start an orchard of his own, and it was 40 years ago that he planted his first set of apple trees on his farm in rural Waukon, Iowa. Since then, Peake Orchards has seen banner seasons and bummer seasons, but it’s the love of the orchard, working in the fields, and the connection to family that keeps Al excited and inspired to tend the sweet crop year after year.

These days, Peake Orchards has 13 different apple varieties planted, and – once harvested – folks can find them in Decorah at Oneota Community Food Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market. Or throw on a cozy sweater for a fall outing – you can head out to Peake Orchards to grab some yourself! They open to the public weekends starting September 21, from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 12 to 5 pm on Sundays. Catch a hayride on Sundays, from 2 to 4 pm, and mark your calendars for their annual “Fall Festival Sundays” October 6 and October 13 – there’s lots of family fun on the docket.

Read on to learn more about Al’s four decades of apple picking in this issue’s Sum of Your Business Q&A.


Name: Al Peake, Peake Orchards
Age: 62
Years in Business: Planted first trees 1979
Orchard address: 323 Northline Dr. Waukon, Iowa
Visit Peake Orchards on Facebook

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I visited a pick your own orchard in the late 70s up in Minnesota and really thought having an orchard could be something I could really enjoy! So I started planting trees on our family farm. The first planting was 50 trees and then a couple years later 375 trees. That was the point where we were really committed to getting serious about growing apples. Since then we have expanded to well over 1,000 trees.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is the flexibility to try growing methods and varieties that appeal to us and our mission. I also really enjoy working out in the orchard most of the time.

3. How about the worst?

The worst thing about being my own boss is that apple season is a short intense time of year. When early September comes it is, go like crazy, try to get things harvested, washed and sorted and try to keep up with sales. Before you know it the snow is falling and you wonder where the fall went.

The Peake family crew

The Peake family crew, from left: Molly (front), Jeremy, Jodi & Baby Byron, Jo Ann, Cathy, Lea (in front) and Al / All photos courtesy of Peake Orchards

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

The biggest hurdle for me was losing my original apple partner (my wife Sandy) to a brain tumor in 2010. I still had other family to help but Sandy and I had started planning the orchard from the beginning and it was devastating for me to lose her. But, God is good and since then, I met and married my current wife, Cathy, who has been a wonderful partner in the orchard and a wonderful partner as my wife!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

I would say my biggest mentors have been other apple growers I have met. I have attended many a field day and have learned a ton of things from visiting other growers’ orchards. There have been many great speakers and specialists from universities throughout the country who have presented at these field days and I always leave with some new knowledge and things to try in our orchard. I am also grateful that my parents supported us and helped with the orchard from the very start.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

The only thing I can say is that there is always so much more to learn than you think, when growing apples and marketing of the crop. I planted the first tree 40 years ago (I can’t even believe it’s been that long) and if I said I pretend to know it all, I would not be telling the truth. I think that the day you say you know it all and have done it all, you are setting yourself up for a serious fall. Continuing to learn has kept me young.

Locations where you can find Peake Orchards apples

You can find Peake Orchards apples at the Orchard near Waukon, or in Decorah at Oneota Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

It is very difficult to balance work in the orchard and the rest of my life and many times I have done it very poorly. I always say there is enough work in the orchard to keep me busy 24-7. I am still learning to try to prioritize what’s most important in my life and walk away from the orchard and say that is all I can do for now. With wanting to spend time with family and friends and working at Friest and Assoc. Realtors, as well as the orchard, the balance is difficult.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

I think the thing that keeps an old guy like me inspired is exciting new apple varieties like Honeycrisp (and some other new ones we are growing that nobody has heard about yet), strolling through the orchard and seeing a great crop hanging on the trees, and working together with family and friends (special thanks to Mark and Barbara for all their sorting help) to make the harvest happen. I also look forward to passing on the orchard to my son Jeremy and his wife, Jodi (they could run it on their own at this point, if I wasn’t around). I feel blessed to be able to spend many hours on beautiful fall days, picking a great crop of apples that God has provided!

There are lots of amazing apple orchards in the Driftless – check out some in our neck of the woods here!