Tuesday, August 25, 2009

B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

(continued from Mushroom Industry 2 and Forest Biology)

David Lee Kwen, owner of Misty Mt. Mushrooms, has been in the mushroom business for 20 years. He owns an office/warehouse in Richmond and employs 10-12 people on staff year-round.

Hi David, what can you tell me about wild B.C. mushrooms?

Wild mushrooms cannot be cultivated - they only grow in symbiosis with trees. The tree provides them with nutrients, they provide it with water - they are like water sacs on the roots. People don't like pesticides in the food chain, and mushrooms are a healthy, wholesome organic food. Wild products in general are considered wholesome.

And how does the 'mushroom business' work?

Misty Mt. Mushrooms is the only company in B.C. (and possibly in Canada) that takes all wild mushrooms, berries, etc. We are a top-level wholesaler, providing mushrooms to other wholesalers and to restaurants throughout North America and five other countries [whose identities are a trade secret].

Buyers buy from pickers (mostly transients) who bring the mushrooms to their facility for regrading and distribution. This is similar to the system used for 'domestic' mushrooms (grown in factory farms), except that those are graded by the farmers as they are harvested from the beds, and don't need to be regraded.

At Misty Mountain, the wild mushrooms are regraded by a team of from one to ten people (most pulled from in-house staff), then repacked and sent out. The quality of the incoming product varies widely - for example, boletes may have been nibbled by worms.

What is the difference between the price paid to pickers and the retail price?

The picker price varies depending on several factors, such as type, grade and season. Pickers know the going rates, and they shop around. The price for the final product also covers a range. If there is a bad (poor quality) crop and recoveries are down, the price will rise.

Growing and harvesting seasons vary from place to place around the world. Wholesalers buy from others globally, during the local off-season, to serve their clients and stay in business all year.

Thank you for your time and for providing insight into this unique local industry!

References and further reading:

Certified Organic Associations of BC
Georgia Straight March 6, 2008 Interview
Vancouver Sun November 2, 2002 Interview (includes photo)
Misty Mountain Specialties
BC Mushroom Industry Overview

Monday, August 17, 2009

Busy Recovery Day

After two days of driving the "Pink Panther" van (and doing Clouseau impressions), today was a much-needed day of recovery. However, I did keep busy:
  • picked up a contest prize
  • visited some talented friends
  • read a good book

Contest Prize: Stephane Grenier's Blog Blazers (review to follow). Thank you to Raul Pacheco-Vega for posting the contest through which I obtained this very useful book.

I picked up Blog Blazers at 422 Richards Street, right above academie duello.

Talented friends:
Adrienne is a writer/rapporteur (sample) and digital storyteller, and also a painter of some talent. She welcomed me into her home, where we visited while awaiting my brother Gavin's return. I was able to enjoy Jim's story, as put together by Adrienne with photos and narration, and she generously took the time to read several Enduroblog entries, even providing some useful information (such as 'Little Man's' name).

Jim is a virtuoso guitarist & singer (and busker extraordinaire), humorist and artist with a book on the way.

A good book:
I always enjoy Quinnett's hard-boiled, thoroughly practical advice for Counselors and Medical Doctors about how to save the lives of people who are not inclined to continue living. A classic reference work, IMHO.

(Lineups, combined with hunger, dissuaded me from trying the new RAV line - a two hour wait to ride - and my brother was out, so I missed him).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekend to End Breast Cancer

Tomorrow and Sunday, August 15 and 16, will be Vancouver's 2009 Weekend to End Breast Cancer. I am excited and delighted to be a member of the Sweep Team, the crew of van drivers that will 'sweep forward' any walkers in distress.

Today my van partner Cynthia and I, and her two daughters, went down to decorate our van near the Rocky Mountaineer station, not far from Science World. We have a great theme - "the Pink Panther loves eggs" - that reflects our fundraising to fight Ovarian Cancer, while emphasizing the Weekend's dominant pink colour scheme.

I will be Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers' version); Cynthia will be my sidekick, Cato ... and, in character, will employ the occasional well-placed karate chop to keep me in line. Cynthia and her daughters are the creative masterminds behind the theme and our van's excellent look.

[include photo]

Tomorrow will be a very early morning - must make it a relatively early night :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Newspaper/Blog Hybrid Business Model

Part II
(a quick update)

My research into this topic was somehow sidetracked into a search of local newspapers.

. BC newspapers list at Stuff.com
. ~ at Google Directory
. Free Community papers at VPL
. CPIQ database listing (per VPL)
. List from ShopinVancouver.com
. ~ from ThePaperBoy.com
. Freebase listing
. Ulrich's (per VPL)
. RelocateCanada
. Eye on Vancouver
. Mondo Times
. Newspapers24
. Onlinenewspapers.com

A good starting point, perhaps, to understand the local newspaper scene.

Newspaper blog monetization, however, is a somewhat different kettle of fish...

Blog search

Tech writer's tweets suggest targeted advertising for Twitter
Alan Mutter’s plan for newspapers is an industry-owned ad venture
See his links? >> Monetize blog without seo
affiliate blog convert
long tail keywords

Newspaper/Blog Hybrid Business Model

Part I

I want to know more about how newspapers incorporate blogging into their business model.

Much has been posted on the need for newspapers (particularly North American newspapers, operated by larger corporations and carrying a heavy debt load (1)), to rejig their business plans. For example, Clay Shirky's classic March 13, 2009 post (1,055 comments, as of this writing).

Clay points out that newspapers foresaw the internet's potential impact well in advance and, in the 1990's, came up with an array of plans, but that they ignored the 'unthinkable' scenario that ensued, instead stiving to maintain a doomed order.
The core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift.
Shirky concludes that:
With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.
He also compares the present day publishing landscape with the 1500's (impacted by the printing press), pointing out that in a revolution it is hard to predict what will succeed. The traditional model's dominance was based on a publication cost barrier, which enabled high, sustainable advertising and subscription revenues. As ads shift from classifieds to craigslist, and bloggers tackle more of Clark Kent's workload, these revenues are redirected.

We don't know what is going to work, just that it is changing. Clay Shirky suggests we focus not on what works for newspapers, but on what best serves society.

Step back and consider the big picture, in which newspapers are small players owned by globe-spanning corporations (who also own radio, TV and ISPs). If we are to believe the Media Democracy Day folks, these represent an ongoing threat to individual freedom, which behooves us to be cautious in the face of change and to stand up for:
* Education - understanding how the media shapes our world and our democracy
* Protest - against a media system based on commercialization and exclusiveness
* Change - calls for media reforms that respond to public interests, promote diversity, and ensure community representation and accountability.

Perhaps many would regard these 'topics to be avoided at the dinner table' (or in polite conversation), the province of passionate fringers: Entertaining, but disturbing, and certainly not profitable in the short term. However, they do present information of possible value to those speculating on media futures.

Which, in a philosophical sense, is everyone. Or, if you heed the twittersphere, seems like almost everyone in a hardcore PR/marketing/hype/blind-leading-the-blind way.


Gans, Joshua. Newspapers in The Voice : Core Economics. The Voice, 13 July 2009.
Put simply, for the vast majority of news, the value comes from being able to talk about and share it ("did you hear about"?) rather than add to your pool of knowledge per se.
Kafka, Peter. What Happens When Your Local Paper Goes Online-Only? It Loses Most of Its Staff. The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, June 24, 2009.
Here’s what the math looks like: I’ve broken up the P&L into three sections, and clicking on each of them will enlarge the image. Or you can view the whole thing as a Google document here.
(1) Try Googling 'newspaper debt load'.

Other searches:
newspaper blog business model
newspaper sample business model