ECOpreneuring: A Review and a Contest

First, a review:

When I was at the Mother Earth News Fair at the beginning of the month, I met John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist and chatted with them about their book, ECOpreneuring – Putting Purpose and the Planet before Profit. I read it a few months earlier and was interested in talking with them about it. For an average-sized book, it packs a lot of information. It talks about how, through small, sustainable, entrepreneurial businesses, (such as farming) you can make a living by solving the problems facing society. That’s ambitious, I know, but the steps and ideas described here are practical and pragmatic. You can have both purpose and profit.

It’s one of the first “how-to” manuals I’ve seen that addresses not only the steps to start, manage and grow a sustainable business, but also addresses the financial side of it, complete with real numbers. By tapping into the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) marketplace, estimated to be $227 billion in the United States alone, an enterprising entrepreneur can make a living and help create a better life for the customer at the same time. The new wave of small farmers, those growing healthy, wholesome food for all of us, fit well into this business model.

There are several other topics in the book I found intriguing:

  • Understanding and using the Global Commons: We have unprecedented access to information through the internet and new tools that can help us manage our business and market our products for very little cost.
  • Tapping burgeoning local economies: By focusing on growing the local business infrastructure and blurring the lines between career and personal life, we can strengthen our communities and build strong local customer bases.
  • Proclaiming your passion: Creating a business that incorporates what you most love will give you more than a living – it will give you a much better life.

These ideas, among many others in the book, present a different way of approaching the business of business. The authors know this from personal experience. They own Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast and Farm in Wisconsin and discuss their successes and challenges in creating this business, including the basics of funding, taxation, and legal logistics. If you want to be both inspired and informed about starting and maintaining a small, sustainable business, this is the book for you.

That’s the review; here’s the contest: I have a spare copy of this book that is just crying out for a new home. To throw your hat into the ring, and possibly claim this book for your very own, leave a comment on this blog posting describing a sustainable business you’d like to create or a new way to make an operation currently in business much more sustainable. I’ll choose the best one (completely subjectively, of course) and get the book, ECOpreneuring, into your hands. Let the games begin!

So Much Rural Tech Geekiness…

…and so little time to soak it all in. Yeah, it’s been a busy few weeks.

First, I was able to teach a class about Online Marketing to a group of 10 farmers. I hope they gleaned some useful tools from it. Since they all work in different types of business models, I tried to include several different tactics for using social media and websites to reach customers. Sometimes they apply and sometimes they don’t. Here are a couple I’ve seen:

  • Food truck tweeting: I wrote about how food trucks are communicating with their audiences in an earlier posting. Farmers can use this model to remind their customers that they should stop by the farm.
  • Web Sites for Everyone: By using templates, many companies are offering inexpensive, quickly set-up, convenient web sites for small businesses. They include GoDaddy, Intuit, and my lastest fun find, Vistaprint, which offers a whole range of services.

So, then I was off to the Mother Earth News Fair, to discover the latest in sustainable living. I saw Dan from Earthineer again and got to see some of the new things he’s doing with the community. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy had information on some interesting draft horse breeds. There were quite a few farmers showing their heritage breeds, including goats, sheep, and cows. (Chickens were simply everywhere!) A fun new visitor was the group from the town of Hope in British Columbia, introducing us to their lovely place in Canada.

I met John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist and chatted with them about their book, “ECOpreneuring“, which I really enjoyed reading. It’s one of the first “how-to” manuals I’ve seen that addresses the financial side of a sustainable business. I’ll write more about it later.

When you meet an accomplished actor, director, and producer like Ed Begley, Jr., what do you talk about? Why, sanitation, of course. (Sometimes, I am a bit dorky.)  We chatted briefly about Envirolet composting toilets and how they can be used in guest cottages, outbuildings, and other places where plumbing doesn’t necessarily reach.

I came home with seeds, plants, goodies for the puppy, some new contacts, and tons of new ideas. I think I need to go plant something now.

The Wisdom of the Small Farmers Journal

I can’t express enough how valuable the Small Farmers Journal is for anyone who wants to live more self-sufficiently and sustainably. It contains so much wisdom and more information than I can read in an afternoon. Pulling it out of my mailbox is like finding a brand new book that I know will change my life in very profound ways. If you value good food, right living, and a connection to the natural world, subscribe.

Here is Andrew Plotsky’s take on his experience with the Journal.

Earthineer Redux

Since I last wrote about, Dan has been adding lots of new features and more are on their way. There are currently Communities, Newsletters, Messages, Friend Feeds, and Photos. The new features will include Pins and Trading. Personally, I’m really interested in the ability to trade with others in my area, either equipment, crops, or whatever.

Check it out! Earthineer is free and full of great information.


In my post on the Mother Earth News Fair, I quickly mentioned, which is a social network dedicated to sustainability. I want to mention it again, because I think that, as it grows, it’s going to become a valuable resource for those of us considering whole, healthy foods, local interdependence, community building, working with heirloom plants and animals, and saving our environment from further degradation.

There is a long video describing Earthineer in detail. For an overview of the latest features, see a shorter video. Both will give you a much better idea of how it works. There are also some tutorials on YouTube which can be found by searching for Earthineer.

In my opinion, this can be a good resource for everything from advice on raising chickens to forming crop mobs to trading goods and services locally. Check it out and see what you think.

Grain Maker

You’re a manufacturer of high-quality products, specifically made for families and small enterprises. You don’t have a huge advertising budget. How do you get the word out to a specialized market that you have something they’ll want? You do what Grain Maker has done.

First, Grain Maker designs and manufactures an all-steel grain mill that can be run by a hand crank, direct-drive motor, or by bicycle power. I was able to play with it while visiting their Montana shop and was really impressed with how it worked. It’s a very solid, well-crafted machine that turns out beautiful bread-making flour quite quickly, even with my slow cranking. (It actually grinds all kinds of things, including legumes, dried onions, and even peanut butter, but I just played with the whole wheat.) It comes in two sizes: one with a 6-cup hopper and one with a 10-cup hopper.

Second, advertise in the print media most associated with your target audience. In this case, they use periodicals that cater to small farms, bakers specializing in whole grains, and families interested in healthy foods, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

Third, create an online presence that includes a website, complete with an online store, and information on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Last, but not least, have someone in-house handling all of the online information, coordinating website updates and responding quickly to social media input. That’s how you get the word out. It seems to be working since sales are good.

Oh, and the Grain Maker mill comes in my favorite color, red. You can have any color you like, so long as it’s red. Red’s a good color.