Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Equivalent to a Management MBA

I have a good friend who is weeks away from successfully matriculating a two-year residential substance abuse treatment program in Durham, North Carolina.  The program is called TROSA, which stands for Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers.

As an aside, he will have also learned the equivalent of an MBA when it comes to managing people, every type imaginable in the workforce.

In addition to hours of therapy, TROSA teaches residents, who are willing, everything one needs to know to succeed in the workplace including how to work, how to adapt to organizational culture, how to resolve conflict, and how to be accountable.

But the organization also has an eye for identifying and nurturing people who have a talent for managing other people.

It isn’t based on tenure or non-managerial success in one of the many enterprises it uses to help fund the program and instill values.  They have learned what Gallup researchers have proven.

Those elements, while important overall, only count for so much when developing managers.State of the American Manager

Much more predictive of management success, according to Gallup’s research is talent.

It is the natural capacity one-in-ten people have for management, which they have found enables people to “learn a role faster” and “adapt to variance in a role more quickly” than those without it.

Another two-in-ten have what they call “functioning managerial talent.”

Tenure and success as an individual contributor, which is how most are promoted to management, don’t lend themselves to being in a management role.

As TROSA has learned as well, talent to become a manager has five dimensions as outlined in Gallup’s State of the American Manager Report:

Motivator – they perpetually challenge themselves and their teams to improve and perform.

Assertiveness – they overcome challenges, adversities and resistance.

Accountability – they ultimately assume responsibility for their teams’ success and create the structure and processes to help deliver on expectations.

Relationships – they build a positive, engaging work environment and shield it from infiltrators who aren’t engaged.

Decision-Making - They solve complex issues and problems inherent to the role of thinking ahead, planning for contingencies, balancing competing interests and taking an analytical approach.

Gallup quantifies the percentage of the American workforce that is engaged or just putting in time or actually working to undermine others or the organization.

But it also surveys to determine the proportion of managers who fall in those categories.

Managers overall are only slightly more prone to be engaged, which contributes, along with personal traits, to employees who are not engaged.

But the report finds that high-talent managers are twice as likely to be engaged as those with limited talent and engagement in a workforce, not just putting in time, is closely linked to a slew of positive business outcomes.

Engaged employees thrive under high-talent managers who are open and approachable, who manage performance continually rather than just with performance reviews, who help them  set priorities and goals and who focus on strengths.

One of the most corrosive things an organization can do is to promote managers with limited talent for it and then tolerate those who are not engaged or even actively disengaged themselves.

Gallup has found that managers who work for highly engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be engaged themselves.  Employees who work for engaged managers are 59% more likely to also be engaged.

One of the cruel hoaxes perpetrated on people in most careers or organizations is to make being a manager a stepping stone from tenure or being a good individual contributor.

The former should never be a consideration and the latter is where many people can continue to thrive and showcase their talents in other areas.

Subjecting them to managers who lack talent in the five dimensions Gallup research has identified is negligent.  Leaving them trapped once a mistaken promotion has been discovered is near criminal.

I was rated highly as a leader, but guilty of both.

Monday, June 29, 2015

“Get Over It and Move On”

I’ve tried to shake it but I can’t -- for long anyway -- get a comment I heard three days ago in a news report from a small town in South Carolina, less than three miles along US Route 176 from the North Carolina line.

It is along this route, nearly 475 years ago to the day that I heard this quote, that Hernando de Soto marched up into the Blue Ridge Mountains, becoming the first European to explore inland across the Southeast.

It would be another 220 years before European settlers reached this area, a few bringing or obtaining enslaved African Americans, some as status symbols.

It wouldn’t be until 15 years after the Civil War that the little town was established, the year that a white supremacist organization called the Ku Klux Klan began to terrorize African Americans and white sympathizers along both sides of the border here.

Until now, I’ve only known the area from its reputation as a spectacular motorcycle route.  But the statement by a resident there last week ruined that impression.

It was a reaction to calls by the legislator representing the area to remove the Confederate battle flag from where it flies above the state capitol in the wake of a murder of nine African Americans 228 miles southeast along US Route 176.

He is also a former city council member and mayor of the little town and a close friend and colleague of one of those slain.

The quote from a constituent objecting to the flag’s removal from state property was:

Is it hurting anyone?  No. If somebody has poor feelings about it, get over it and move on.”

Germany has many monuments honoring soldiers who were killed during WWII, including many in the areas my father’s American Tank battalion overran at the end of the war and then dismounted to search for pockets of resistance while liberating Dachau, first of the concentration camps established by the Nazis.

Remembrances for the victims is why places such as Dachau are now monuments.

I know people who lost their German fathers and husbands in that war before immigrating to America.  It is clear that many were caught up in that war without being part of its cause.

But Germany doesn't fly the Nazi flag anywhere, although it makes appearances in museum exhibitions.  In this country, while some collectors may have one that was brought back as a souvenir of war, it is viewed in disrepute, a symbol of white supremacist extremists.

Although, they too might rationalize it by saying “If somebody has poor feelings about it, get over it and move on.”

A far more thoughtful interview last week was with John A Powell, an African American law professor at UC Berkley and author of Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.

From parents who were sharecroppers in the South, Powell reminds us on the program On Being with Krista Tippett that “race is deeply relational.”  Any discussion is about whiteness as much as about color. 

In her blog, Courtney E. Martin writes that “Black people, people of color in general, don’t have the luxury of forgetting, especially as long as white people, particularly the “good ones,” remain so fragile.  She’s referring to our inability to discuss race.

Professor Powell, in his interview, states that “race is in the DNA of this country…it is like gravity.”   Any history of slavery, such as From Slavery to Freedom by the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, Powell would assert is really a history of America told through that institution.

To illustrate that point, he notes that when he taught white students at the University of Minnesota about the history of Native Americans, it was just a lens into the history of America.

He repeats an observation by the African American author Tony Morrison that any discussion of the effects of slavery should include what it’s done to mark the white identity as well.

Powell noted in the On Being interview last week, “The human condition is one about belonging…how we define the other affects how we define ourselves.”

“And so when we define the other as extreme, it means we have to cut off large parts of our self.”

Powell, when he explains that the notion of being American is and has historically been an ever evolving and expanding “we” would agree with the opinion read a few days later by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The conservative Justice reminds us that the notion of freedom in the Constitution has been forever evolving.  It was first limited to property-owning white men and has been expanded ever since to include all Americans including now the freedom of gay and lesbian Americans to marry.

Kennedy wrote for the majority, “The past alone does not rule the present.  The nature of injustice is that we do not always see it in our own time.  The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all its dimensions…”

He continues, “…and so they entrusted future generations to a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

Honoring war dead such as ancestors who fought to preserve a way of life called slavery is to respect their sacrifice without condoning the injustice requiring it of them.

But flying their flag is an insult, just as flying the Nazi flag is an insult, just as flying the flag of ISIS is an insult to freedom and justice.

The Confederate flag as an artifact of history is important to preserve.  But not when flown, as it has been in South Carolina beginning in the 1960s, to signal refusal to accept the end of desegregation.

But what’s far more important, in my opinion, than all of the energy we spend pushing and pulling over symbols such as a flag, is the need for us to discuss race, white as much as black or brown, beginning with implicit bias.

A wonderful start is to read or listen to the words spoken by John A. Powell.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Taking Up The Slack

In case you missed it, North Carolina where I have lived for going on three decades just missed ranking in the top 10 states for couch potatoes.

We came in #6 for average minutes watching TV, just below the middle of the pack for least amount of exercise, #11 for watching daytime soap operas and, drum roll, #14 for love of Lazy-E-Boys.

As a whole, Tar Heels are #15 when it comes to thinking about frozen pizza and #19 in our love of fast food, but in the middle of the pack again in our love of video games.

That is just a sampling of the metrics used to develop the Couch Potato index.

Regionally, according to Roberto Ferman, a reporter for Wonkblog, the South dominates the nation when it comes to Couch Potatoes.

It’s probably the humidity but that doesn’t explain why we don’t make up for it during mild winters.

North Carolina comes in #15 overall in the analysis compiled from various sources by bloggers for Estately, an online real estate research site.

Most fascinating to me was the variation across the country in the number of fast food restaurants per capita and the linkages to measures for Lazy-E-Boys, obesity and lack of exercise.

For many years I ate, on average, more than a hamburger per day, especially after moving to North Carolina, so it was no wonder then when my doctor told me I needed to lose 20-30 pounds as part of a regimen to lower my triglycerides.

I’ve eaten three hamburgers in the past year, two when traveling.  In the mean time, the number ordered per American has reached 28 compared to the nearly 550 a year I used to contribute alone.

The Burgers “ordered-in-restaurants” market is double the size of the market for pizzas, which is why it was smart of the index to include frozen pizzas.

A few years before I retired in 2009, Durham, where I live, jumped into the “better-burger movement,” led by a great restaurant that existed here at the time called Starlu.

It, in turn, helped spawn an early food truck called Only Burger, now also a sit-down or order-to-go restaurant with two locations.

At the time, better burgers were less than 2% of the overall restaurant burger market.  Now, they are double that share even though the overall market for burgers in restaurants has grown by another $13.4 billion.

Obviously someone is take up my slack.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Best Advice

By the time I arrived in Durham, North Carolina to lead my fifth startup, the first that would be totally from scratch, I relied on some advice I was given when I first became a chief executive.

Don’t meet with the first 100 people who seek you out.”

This, it was explained, is because for the most part they will have an agenda.  The advice was also to wait to have introductions with the usual suspects until after I had time to seek out individuals whose roots or connections here preceded the community’s.

In Durham, that fortuitously turned out to be George Watts Hill, a banker whose grandfather and great grandfather were close associates with the city’s founders.

Another was Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, a philanthropist and civil rights activist who was the great granddaughter of Washington Duke whose roots in what came to be called Durham stretched back to before the Revolutionary War.

The third was John Hope Franklin with whom I learned I had become familiar during a college course at BYU entitled The History of the South.  Its syllabus included Franklin’s book entitled, From Slavery to Freedom.

I didn’t make the connection until I saw a copy in a small stack of books on the corner of his desk as I entered Dr. Franklin's office at Duke.

He chuckled as I silently mouthed, “You’re that John Hope Franklin.”

“That had to be the third edition that you studied,” he explained, after asking about my background.  He noted that the one on the corner of his desk was a sixth edition.

But he was more interested in making sure I knew how important from the outset it was to correct the way airlines and other tenants truncated the name of the airport Durham jointly owned.

All three are gone now.  Mr. Hill died a little more than 36 months after we met.  Mary, now also gone, became a friend whom I would run into in restaurants we both favored long after I retired.

But it is John Hope who stayed in contact the most, calling or stopping me at events to fill in details that were relevant to my job of marketing Durham right up to his passing a few months before I retired.

I miss him and I still regularly reread or consult From Slavery to Freedom, which reads as fresh, objective and insightful today as when it was written nearly seven decades ago.

Of course, it has been updated with each new edition, now in its eighth.

I recommend it far more than any book written since then, including those that scholars have recommended in the wake of nine African Americans including a pastor and state legislature gunned down last week by a white supremacist in South Carolina.

Although he had been the target of discrimination, a form of racism, and the Supreme Court had relied, in part, on his research to strike down segregation, Dr. Franklin always made it extremely easy to ask questions and talk about race.

The importance of seeking out individuals such as these this when starting or assuming direction of a community’s destination marketing organization is that they can give you insight into a community’s most temporal values and traits including insights into its sense of place.

They also guided me to useful studies and reports conducted over time in addition to pointing out the flaws or oversights common in politicized histories of various developments.

These insights prepared me to better decipher the agendas of those who would be lining up at my door.

John Hope Franklin, shown in his 20s in the image with this essay, had first come here in 1943 when he was 28.

In 1947, he had been granted time to research and write From Slavery to Freedom by Dr. James E. Shepard, the founder in 1910 of what is now North Carolina Central University.

Shepard had migrated to Durham first as a pharmacist and was prominent in establishing Hayti, an African-American commercial area here during a period when segregation had been legalized by the Supreme Court.

To grasp the values that truly began to differentiate Durham is to understand the period from the end of the Civil War through this period in particular.

In From Slavery to Freedom, Franklin traces the earliest roots of slavery.  It wasn’t racists, per se, who imported the practice to America.  The earliest Americans sort of backed into it, first as indentured servitude.

This was a way people of all backgrounds with little means could secure transit to America in return for working out the terms of a contract while earning a stake of their own.

Some slaves were dropped off in Virginia who had been on a ship that had been intercepted and it was greed that first motivated those who seized on this as way to make land productive and profitable.

By the eve of the Civil War in 1860, there were 31.4 million Americans including 8 million white Southerners.

By then, 1% of the population still owned slaves.  Telling is that slave holding states were growing at a fraction of the pace in states and territories where it was banned.

About 200,000 slave owners in 1860 were small farmers with five or less slaves each and 88% of slave owners had fewer than 20.  Economic historians estimate that it took around 40-60 slaves for it to be profitable.

So the practice was in steep decline by 1860 but the South and the U.S. Congress had been held hostage for decades by what was less than 9,700 slave owners whose hubris then propelled the nation into a war that cost the lives of 620,000 Americans.

At the Battle of Gettysburg alone, five times the number of Americans were killed compared to the slave holders perpetuating the war.

When I read or hear someone today claim the issue was States’ Rights, I agree.  But make no mistake: in the words of Southern officials at the time, it was a State’s right to condone slavery.

Was everyone who fought for the South a racist?  No.  Duped?  Probably many or who were at the very least conflicted.  Just as many who fought for the North were probably somewhat conflicted when it came to race.

It had been the source of a moral struggle about what it meant to be American since before Independence.

In fact, according to experts, it was the proponents of slavery who transformed the Constitutional “right to bear arms” from what was intended as a collective right, to an individual one in order to defend against slave revolts.

Even more tragic than the Civil War was the 90 year struggle after the war to perpetuate white supremacy in the South.

Triangulating responses to various Gallup surveys, I estimated yesterday that the number of overt racists now is probably around 7% of the population.

But judging by the actions of several state legislatures, there may be several times that proportion of enablers. 

The percentage of racists and enablers in America was probably around 50% by the time segregation was banned, down from as many as 6-in-10 Americans in the 1930s.

Racism is a learned behavior.  Some of us are obviously still unlearning it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Birthright for Being Hostile and Mean

Some of my most conservative friends undoubtedly rolled their eyes and muttered something dismissive such as “politically correct” when they heard news reports in advance of a warning issued by Pope Francis.

But ironically, isn’t ideology of any kind, itself, a form of political correctness?

All the hub bub has been about climate change, but the Pope’s warning was far more strategic than even that.

Readers of these essays who also actually read the Pope’s document before I did were sure to bring to my attention that it dealt with something about which I often write: community sense of place.

But first, it is important to put it in the context of the Pope’s earlier warnings about ideology.

In the course of delivering a series of morning meditations back in October 2013, Pope Francis warned about the corrosive effects of ideology, the excesses of which Catholics know something about from the church’s own history.

I don’t descend from a Catholic culture, at least going back more than four centuries.

In fact, nearly every line of my ancestors fled to America in the 1600s to escape religious persecution, often at the hands of Catholics, and always at the hands of other Christians.

They came to these shores as Remonstrants, Puritans, Quakers, Amish, Palatines, Huguenots and other forms of Christian faiths before helping to found yet another in the early 1800s, a restorationist Christian faith nicknamed Mormons.

I think they would all agree with Pope Francis when he noted repeatedly in 2013 that “In ideologies there is not Jesus: his love, his meekness.”

He noted, “When faith becomes an ideology, it makes Christians hostile and arrogant…it is a serious illness.”

No argument there.  But of course, those on the left claimed he was talking to those on the right while those on the right pointed right back at the left, all the while making the Pope’s point.

As moderates though, we know he was talking to all of us regardless of ideology.

In Chapter 4, part II, paragraph 143 of the encyclical or clarification of doctrine released a week ago is a paragraph that emphasizes “sense of place” (I’ve added some breaks for ease of reading):

“Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat.

This patrimony is a part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city.

It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in.

Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, thus preserving its original identity.”

Unfortunately, far too many of my former colleagues in community destination marketing are devotees of an ideology that enables, if not fosters, the destruction of sense of place to worship instead at the altar of mainstream sameness.

It is an ideology with roots in the late 1930s which, after a hiatus for WWII, mounted an all out assault on sense of place still underway today.

Intriguing is a series of graphs that chart the average ideological positions of members of various U.S. Congresses dating back to 1947, the year after my dad returned from that war and the year before I was born.

They not only show the positions of the two major parties, but also the average for each chamber over the years since.

You can see for instance, that as former GIs took office after the war, the Congress, on average, became more liberal overall, possibly due to first hand exposure to the excesses ideology can inflict.

This is also the period when legislators in South Carolina, angry at desegregation across the nation took the Confederate flag from inside their chambers where it had been hung since 1938 in the House and 1956 in the Senate, raised it in defiance above the Statehouse.

Estranged from voters by special interests, Congress is far more conservative today even as Americans are again becoming less so.  The advantage on social issues is down to 4 points and lower than it was on economic issues at the turn of the century.

Actually, the percentage of Americans who are extremely conservative on either metric is back down to what it was in 1999 while the percentage who are very liberal is three times what it was.

But neither, according to Gallup, is more than a single digit fringe.  Another survey appears to quantify the percentage of Americans who are just generally intolerant, I suspect due to ideological estrangement.

This, I suspect, would also be the same hard core 7% at one end of the spectrum, who, on average, say they would never vote for a Catholic, woman, Black, Hispanic or Jew for President.

Apparently, this is lost on news outlets, who fail to read the actual survey results, give this tiny, hate-filled sliver undue influence and cover.

There is also reason to believe this 7% is a measure of the number of Americans who are truly racist.

A testament to the fact that we do evolve as Americans is that in 1958, just after segregation was declared unconstitutional, more than half of Americans would not vote for a Black to be President.

In 1937, 64% of Americans would not vote for a woman to be President.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Am I Really Transplanted If My Roots Predate North Carolina?

Between 1640 and 1650, my earliest North Carolinian ancestors made their way down the Chowan River (pronounced cho-WONN) from Virginia to an area known as Salmon Creek, across from present day Edenton.

It is near where the Chowan empties into Albemarle Sound and approximately where my 8th great grandmother Mary Jane was given birth, almost exactly two hundred years before me.

She eventually gave her birthplace as Bath, which, further south. became the first town here by the time she was in her 50s.

Of course, these ancestors weren’t the first people here.

Having migrated from the north, Native Americans including paleo-ancestors of the Chowanaoke or Chowanac people for whom the river had been named by explorers in 1584, had already been living here more than 10,000 years by then.

Listed simply as “Bay”, the Sound was not yet named Albemarle, nor was this area called Carolina at the time my ancestors ventured down,  let alone North Carolina.

It was the northern reaches of what was simply referred to by Virginians as the southern province or plantation, which had only become a colony itself less than two decades earlier.

Officially it was known as Carolana at the time.  It included what is now North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia and was stretched all the way to the Pacific Ocean a little more than a decade later.

Shown in this essay is a very Virginia-centric map created the year after my 8th great grandmother was born in Carolana.

East to west, it depicted the continent clear to the Pacific, something famously reprised by a cover to The New Yorker in 1976 parodying the view of the continent from 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

General notions of this span had been created when Spanish explorers rode across North America a hundred years earlier.  Ironically, the first was Estevanico, an enslaved African-American, who made the journey in part, as the main guide, all the way from Florida to New Mexico and Arizona.

The other was Hernando de Soto who crossed into what is now North Carolina in May of 1540 near what became Tryon, NC and explored across the Appalachians where Asheville is now and all the way to the Mississippi River near what would become Memphis.

I suspect my 8th great grandmother’s parents when she was born in North Carolina in 1650 were French Huguenots who had settled along the Virginia headwaters of the Chowan and had begun by the time she was born to venture down to trade in furs.

My hunch is because she married a Huguenot and because in the 1630s, this area had been intended for resettlement of large numbers of Huguenot refugees who had fled murderous religious persecution in France.

The grant was disputed and the idea eventually entangled in the English Civil War by 1642 just after some Hugenots had landed near Jamestown.

Huguenots are a branch of Protestant Calvinism and I have that heritage on both sides, though separated by 197 km in western France, the other settling near that time in Massachusetts.

My earliest Tar Heel roots eventually merged with the lines of an ancestor, James Shelton, who had arrived in Virginia in 1609 with a cousin and fellow London Company investor, Lord De La Warr.

This heritage was passed to me from my maternal great-grandmother Lizzie Shelton, whose grandfather Sebert had migrated first from Virginia to Illinois and then over my native Rockies coupled with a stint in the Mexican-American War before ranching in Northern California.

A life-long westerner and fifth generation Idahoan, I soon learned a part of me was coming home when twenty-six years ago I was recruited to North Carolina, a two hour drive west from where my ancestors gave birth to a baby daughter 339 years before.

In 1728, the border between Virginia and North Carolina was first jointly surveyed, with each side alternately measuring two mile segments.

But after the line had been run inland for 73 miles, the North Carolinians went home, refusing to believe that anyone would settle that far inland, let alone the more than 100 miles further where I would settle 261 years later.

It took twenty years before all 327 miles would be fully mapped.

One of my first purchases when I arrived was a newly published text to which I still refer today entitled, North Carolina Through Four Centuries.

Little did I realize how personal it would become.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Far From Being Mainstream

When I arrived in Durham in 1989, the farm to table movement was well underway, pioneered earlier in the decade by chefs such as Barker and Bakatsias who were already spawning a nationally recognized colony here with similar sensibilities.

My job was to weave this aspect into overall sense of place and give it prominence as a point of Durham differentiation, the essence of the community destination marketing which I was brought here to jumpstart.

Durham was one of the first destinations anywhere to do so but an attribute now claimed by even the smallest hamlets in North Carolina, making it seem that it has become mainstream.

But it hasn’t.  In fact, it’s far from it.

I’ll come back to the farm aspect of Durham’s farm to table in a minute but a new report entitled Farm Factory Nation documents the incredible growth, between 1997 and 2012, of what those intimately involved prefer to call “concentrated animal feeding operations.”

It has been due to consolidation, little or no environmental oversight and especially the powerful influence given special interests by Congress over food policy.

As a result, factory-farmed livestock now annually generate 13 times as much sewage as the entire U.S. population.

Unlike sewage in towns and cities where most of us live, this animal waste doesn’t undergo any wastewater treatment, passing along huge hidden costs to other taxpayers downstream, so to speak.

While my most conservative friends have an uncanny way of making every societal ill the fault of government, in this case, according to the report, they may be right.

While many of us became drawn to locally sourced foods, the U.S. Congress was doing the bidding of huge agribusinesses and as a result, shifting the food chain away from small, family producers to factory farms.

This is evident when you look at hog production, which is big business in sections of North Carolina.  During the 12 year span in the study, the number of hog farms fell by half, while the number of hogs sold each year increased by 39%.

During just the latter half of the study period, the number of hog farms in North Carolina decreased from 2,836 to 2,217 while the number of hogs in production increased from roughly 8.9 million to 10.1 million.

Another way to look at it is that the number of hog growers fell by 90% over the last three decades but the number of hogs produced remained about the same.

North Carolina’s share of national hog sales declined during the second half of the study period but it remained the second largest producer.  One county, Duplin, was the source of three percent of the hog sales in the United States.

Just one producer there generates more manure than all of the people in North Carolina put together.  Duplin, with a population of just 60,000 people, generates more sewage than the entire metro area surrounding New York City.

Another way to look at the transition to factory farms is that just 8 corporations and 7 huge partnerships now control 57% of all hog sales in the United States.

Of course, conservatives would spin this by saying the result of attempts by the EPA to deal with the issue of hog waste drove small producers out of businesses.

If that view has any merit at all it is because the protective regulations were drawn too broadly because small pasture producers don’t create a problem.  It is more likely that large producers insisted on a “one size fits all” approach to eliminate competition.

While the investigative analysis has a liberal bent, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make an excellent point.

It is the very nature of how factory farming is done that concentrates and intensifies the pathogens.  From farrow-to-finish, a 1,000 lb. hog generates an average of 9.3 lbs. of manure a day including 2 lbs. of solids that never degrade.

Most are sold before reaching that weight but you get the point.

Hog waste consists of 13 essential plant nutrients that are used by plants that originate in the feed, water and some supplements ingested by each animal.

Small scale, pasture production naturally regulates the waste in amounts that can be productive for soil and vegetation.

Even in a county where the state’s fourth largest city takes up more than two-thirds of its relatively very small land area, Durham is fortunate to have 232 farms averaging about 90 acres each.

The number of farms in Durham fell rapidly from the 1600 in 1910 to a low of just over 100 by 1950.  During several of those decades the city was the fastest growing in the state.

Since then, the number of farms has stabilized and even inched back above 200.

Meanwhile, the city, though constrained the county’s small land area, has continued to be one of the fastest growing in the state, including #1 again in the 1990s following my arrival.

Today on 45% of Durham’s farms, the primary occupation of the operator is “farmer.  Farmers on 133 of these operations work elsewhere for about a third of the year.

Durham County has a farmland protection program as part of its strategic approach to open space including voluntary agricultural districts in three priority areas.

Nine Durham farms are preserved now under conservation easements.

Even as one of the state’s most dynamic and nationally recognized communities and the center for one of its most appealing metro areas, Durham farms remain an essential ingredient of its sense of place.

They are also unsung contributors to Durham’s “foodie” reputation and appeal for the visitor-centric economic cultural development which has been so successfully leveraged by the community’s destination marketing organization over the past 26 years.

Many Durham farms either raise livestock and crops for sale to local restaurants and/or at various Durham farmers markets including the big on downtown.

Others raise feed such as hay and corn for those who do.  Around 38 use irrigation while for the most part the farmland is protected as a means of protecting the watershed.

Durham farms includes 46 that grow cattle for beef, 15 that grow sheep and lambs and only 5 that grow hogs.  But there is nothing remotely close to factory farms here.

In 1997, the animal waste scorecard showed Durham farms generating 32,000 tons of livestock waste, making it 84th out of 100 counties and less than any other urban county.

To put this in perspective, Duplin County, which is about an hours drive southeast of Raleigh, generated 4.5 million tons of animal waste. They are one of four counties that generated more than a million tons each in 1997.

Overall that year, livestock generated 31 million tons of animal waste in North Carolina, ranking in the top 10% nationwide for hog and poultry waste and nitrogen expelled into the atmosphere.

Waste is a fact of life but our widely dispersed, factory-driven food supply chain is not sustainable.  Powerful special interest lobbies stand in the way.  But this is one area where we need to return to a better way.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Overlooked Sense of Place Ingredient

When I was recruited to Anchorage, where I spent most of the 1980s, I hadn’t yet given much thought to the “commons,” including the spectacular views in every direction.

But it was clear someone there had by the time I arrived in July of 1978.

Often, as a hobby and for my work in community marketing I would snap photos from the tops of tall buildings - the Alaska Range across Cook Inlet, Mt. McKinley to the north, the Chugach Mountains backdrop or Mt. Saint Augustine, up inlet to the southwest.

It wasn’t necessary to be on top of a building to see these views but something else struck me from up there, just how long a shadow they cast.

So I wasn’t surprised to learn recently that towers being erected today in Midtown Manhattan will cast a shadow nearly a half mile long, enough to block out the sun in Central Park.

A few towers in Anchorage of 14 stories or so had been built in the 1950s.  Hotels of 15 or more were built in the 1960s, followed by several others, some as high as 18 stories in the 1970s.

But several office building of 20 or more stories were going up just as I arrived.  So it is in this context that I first became aware of viewsheds as part of the commons and a community’s sense of place, a term just coined back then by Wallace Stegner.

From comments in passing, I get the feeling that officials in Durham, North Carolina weren’t too worried about either viewshed, sense of place or blocking much of this district from the morning sun when they approved a new 26-story City Center tower here.

Renderings were careful, it seemed, to show only the angles from where the sun was setting.

Officials and developers here have been sensitized to the importance of Durham’s sense of place by the community’s destination marketing organization but currently boomers seem to have more sway than stayers and boomers seem rarely concerned with the “commons.”

Unfortunately, friends of mine in high office has a few months earlier slapped down those who wanted to preserve even the skyline, let along viewsheds.

Maybe this lack of concern for commons is because most boomers fall under the spell of building icons when they should be concerned with creating settings, according to acclaimed architectural expert Witold Rybczynski (pronouned Vi-told Rib-shin-skee) in his book Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities.

In another book entitled, How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit, former Penn dean of architecture Rybczynski reminds us, as well as developers and architects, that new buildings should seek coherence with place not personality cult.

It isn’t just blight such as roadside billboards that rob us of viewsheds.  I don’t actually have anything against billboards, I am just very pro scenic character and preservation.

So I try to read not only from the viewpoint of developers and architects but also from those who are concerned about the privatization and surrender of the commons.

Important to preserving a community’s sense of place is the ability to hold contradictory viewpoints and perspectives.  Leveraging a community’s sense of place requires differentiation and differentiation of place requires continuity.

But according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Georgia State, we have a natural defense mechanism to avoid cognitive dissonance or having to admit we may be wrong.

The study concluded that it is far more comfortable for many of us to be close-minded than to endure the ambiguity and uncertainty of being open-minded.

What makes me pessimistic that Durham may be on the slippery slope to surrendering its sense of place is an increasing unwillingness to engage in discourse about attributes such as viewsheds for fear it may result in losing a project.

Researchers led by social ecologist Dr. Paul Piff at the University of California, Irvine have found that things that inspire “awe,” such as gazing up at a grove of huge trees, significantly more than say a tall building, have the effect of lessening our self-absorption.

They encourage us to forgo self-interest, be more ethical and take action to improve the lives of others, our neighborhoods and communities, what the researchers call prosocial behavior.

This gives me reason to believe that community discussions of the commons is worthwhile, including developers, regardless of whether they are incentivized with public funds or have so-called “air rights.”

Anyone concerned with preserving a community’s distinctiveness is well advised to include viewsheds as an ingredient and the subtle “awe” created by these settings.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Puzzling Folly Is North Carolina’s Tragedy

It isn’t clear why a powerful North Carolina senator from Onslow County, has been relentlessly working over the past five years on behalf of the billboard lobby, but it is extremely puzzling.

Whatever the motive, this seemingly good and otherwise reasonable official, has been a highly effective at battering North Carolina’s sense of place and overall appeal, which is so essential to tourism and other forms of economic development.

Maybe it is, in part, payback for copious campaign contributions?  Makes sense.  Because he owns auto dealerships which have in the past used billboards?  Possibly.

Because billboards are so effective?  Very doubtful, unless he has been living under a rock.  Here’s why.

The automobile sector is one of the few where traditional advertising was still found to be clinging to effectiveness when a 2010 longitudinal study found that this element of marketing had fallen to a negative return on investment, following a three-decade free fall.

By 2012, two years into the senator’s push on their behalf, roadside billboards had clearly fallen out of favor with consumers, when only 2/10ths of one percent found them useful to purchase something.

That percentage climbs to only 4.6% when you take into account other types of less destructive outdoor ads such buses and kiosks but it is clear that huge roadside billboards, the focus of the senator’s zeal, are the least effective of the least, barely clinging to life support.

By 2013, when the senator set his sights on overriding popular billboard bans in some towns and cities, his own automotive industry was rapidly shifting its advertising elsewhere, online in fact.

It was clear by then that even around town, nearly two-thirds of consumers had shifted to smartphones to find products from roadside and according to analysts the trend was rapidly growing.

While traveling, this percentage is now over 75%, meaning Cracker Barrel could be saving a lot money instead of paying for the 1,600 billboards it claims to have rented as of 2014, making it one of the top source of blight among restaurants.

The chain is traveler-driven with pass-through visitors representing 40% of its business.  But it obviously hasn’t updated its marketing plan for a few years. On the road, 3-in-4 are now using smartphones instead, resulting in a conversion rate of 85% for restaurants.Empty Fairway Board on I-40 (1)

A 2012 Nielsen study found that mobile advertising and online searches reached 62% of automotive consumers before they had made a decision as well as 38% of those who knew exactly what they were looking for.

More significantly, 49% made an automotive purchase related to using their mobile device.  By year end, even dealerships such as the senator’s had shifted as much as 40% of traditional advertising to digital.

Let’s see:  use billboards and influence 2/10ths of one percent or mobile advertising and influence 49%?

No brainer.  So why are a few legislators so bent on forcing billboards down the throats of Tar Heels and their visitors while levying a hidden tax from the destruction of thousands of acres of public roadside forests?

In 2013, auto manufacturers and dealers spent more on online advertising than traditional advertising and at a rate of nearly three times the growth of overall advertising.

During 2015, they will spend $7.30 billion online.  That amount will increase to $12 billion by 2019, more than double the amount of annual spending there the year the senator’s onslaught began, at tax payer expense, to keep billboards on life-support.

The automotive industry’s online spending is 60% on direct response such as email and 40% brand advertising.  Nearly half is mobile related and half PC related.

It will be the third highest industry in mobile ad spending this year, at $3.43 billion, several positions above even the early adopting travel sector.

Online ads are considered viewable when half of the pixels are in view for one second, according to experts, only 40% as long as it takes to decipher a message on a billboard and they do not contribute to blight and deforestation.

It isn’t a coincidence that the time it takes to decipher a billboard is   the span of inattention found just prior to 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes.

The senator’s most recent push on behalf of billboards is to permit them to clear the view of trees along exit ramps each of which average 1,200 crashes each per year, which is already influenced by visual inattention as a contributing factor for 93% of rear-end crashes.

The most convincing evidence of the complicity of billboards on accidents came from a study of locations before and after they were removed.

Flippantly, many lawmakers dismiss the senator’s illogical obsession by testifying, in jest, that billboards will soon be entirely irrelevant, abandoned by their out-of-state owners.

What the heck, it will only take 50 to 60 years for North Carolina’s roadsides to recover.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A 150 Year Old Tension

Brown University sociologist Dr. Hilary Levey Friedman traces the evolution of after-school sports to the mandatory schooling movement which took effect state-by-state between 1852 and 1917.

The theory is that compulsory schooling brought the concept of leisure time into focus, delineating school time from free time.

That surely was an accelerant, but in New York, where it didn’t take effect until 1874, the struggle over what to do with free time was apparent in the competing 1860 proposals for Central Park.

Olmsted and Vaux, especially the former, both of whom were selected envisioned the park as a respite from city life; a source for the soul’s replenishment, according to Justin Martin in his excellent biography of Olmsted entitled, Genius of Place.

Their bitter rivals, a politician and a banker, envisioned the park as a place of promenades, amusements and sports.  For decades after its completion, a few New Yorkers relentlessly pushed to undermine the park with forms of recreation for the frenetic.

Olmsted’s vision won out, in part, due to strong editorial support from two major newspapers including his recent employer, The New York Times, while his rivals pushed their vision of hyper-activity by buying huge advertorials in a third newspaper.

However, across the country, this struggle is still playing out today between those who see the value of unstructured play in nature and those who seek to populate parks instead with amusements, theme parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and festivals.

It is the story possibly of introverts vs. extroverts, reflection vs. “ants in your pants,” stayers vs. boomers, as well as those who value preservation vs. exploitation, see vegetation as green infrastructure vs. purely aesthetic, and seek retain sense of place rather than surrender to mainstream generica.

Gradually, over the last 150 years, the notation of recreation was estranged from nature.

My native state of Idaho made education mandatory in 1887, while still a territory, while North Carolina where I have lived longer than any other state waited until 1907.

My father, who was born on the same ancestral Idaho cattle and horse ranch as I was defied the theories linking sports to leisure.

Born in 1922, a fourth generation Idahoan and rancher, he walked or rode a horse first to a two-room school house his grandparents and parents had forged when they homesteaded.

A year before entering high school he began to walk or ride a horse across the Henry’s Fork the four miles to Ashton, the nearest town.  There he played sports both for school and church teams but it was from passion, not for leisure.

From age 15, when his father first experienced heart problems, Dad ran the ranch by himself as well as attending school and playing on four sports teams including baseball, basketball, football and track and field.

On Saturdays, he begin going snow skiing at Bear Gulch just as soon as it opened in 1939, ten miles northeast of Ashton, more than forty years before Grand Targhee would open near there.

By then he was probably driving his parents Whippet sedan or an old truck.

Some rudimentary ski areas had begun to spring up in the western part of the state a few years earlier and Sun Valley had brought national attention to the sport when it opened at the end of 1936.

Still, he had to feed the livestock and milk cows before going skiing on weekends.  Dad played church ball well into his forties, water skied into his 60s and snow skied into his 70s when he no longer had to pay for a lift ticket.

He was a testament that sports can be much more than leisure.

Snow skiing by the way dates clear back to 4,000 B.C., about the time of the Pyramids.  It was used for work or transportation.  Before Olmstead’s creation of Central Park, hoards of California gold rush ‘49ers learned to ski and races were taking place in the 1860s.

That’s about the time that school sports became a tool to help immigrants and poor children learn the so-called “American” values of “cooperation, hard work and respect for authority”, according to Friedman.

She is also the author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, which deals with all after school activities.

During the Progressive Era, public school athletic leagues began popping up in New York City followed within seven years by 17 other cities.  Friedman explains that “settlement houses and ethnic clubs followed suit.

“Pay-to-play” organizations, such as Pop Warner Football and Little League Baseball began popping up in the East by the late 1920s and 1930s when my dad, out West in rural Idaho, found sports through school and church.

Today, organized sports has become more the province of middle and upper class kids, especially at what is called the travel competition level with parents hoping, in part, that it will improve college applications or possibly their retirement.

However, schools, according to Friedman, gradually began to de-emphasize sports beginning in the 1930s because educators saw the ugly side of competition.

It is a view Friedman thinks became mainstream in the 1960s with the “self-esteem” movement still very much with us today when we see some sports leagues for young children pretend that both teams won the game.sports

However, an unforeseen side effect was flip flopping sports after WWII from a tool for the masses to one for the privileged or talented.

According to a poll this month by Harvard and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, my dad would also be an outlier today.

The report entitled, Sports And Health In America has been in the news this week but warrants much more than a sound bite. Sports took off during the Progressive Era, not as amusement or recreation but when it became fused with health.

Participation in sports drops off dramatically after age 25.  While three in four of us say we played sports when we were younger, only one in four do so as adults and again that strongly associated with higher income.

Even so, because there is some machismo involved, I suspect the ratio may be even lower.

Another survey by the CDC calculated in 2011 that only 18.3% of adults in North Carolina, where I live, met the guideline of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly and muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week.

Click here for a detailed national and state-by-state breakdown.

Kids aren’t given much time in nature or unstructured play these days, in part, because parents hope their children will become a professional athletes.

Some now even “red-shirt” their kids as early as pre-school in hopes it will later give them a physical advantage over classmates.

In a Boston Globe article entitled, How parents are ruining youth sports, Jay Atkinson cites a study in a sports medicine journal noting that out of the 45 million school age children playing at least one organized sport, as many as 80% will have quit by age 15.

One reason he notes is “the gap between a child’s desire to have fun and the misguided notion among some adults that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grow-up competitions, where the goal is to win.”

This premise that their kids will become professional athletes is held by 26% of parents whose children play high school sports, including 44% of those with a high school education or less and 39% of those whose household income is $50,000 or less.

In his new book Cultural Matrix, Harvard sociologist Dr. Orlando Patterson refers to studies that support what he calls:

“one of the cruelest sociological hoaxes played upon black youth from the beginning of their integration into popular culture at the middle of the twentieth century…”

[This] “the myth that replaced the old “credit to your race” indignity, namely that participation in sports and the popular arts offer significant employment opportunities and mobility out of the ghetto.”

Patterson cites computations that of all the black male high school students currently between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, including those whom he calls “dreamers, the odds of becoming a professional athlete are 1 in 15,764.

He concludes with statistics that their odds of being killed in a traffic accident are three times higher than becoming a professional basketball player and they are 5,238 times more likely at some time in his life of going to prison.

At the end of his article in the Globe, Atkinson, a former athlete who works with children in sports, notes that:

“This summer, encourage your children to go fishing, play mini golf, and invite their pals to shoot hoops in the driveway. Have them visit the library, and loaf around in the backyard chewing on blades of grass. And keep in mind that the interior experience of playing a sport, the beauty and the joy of it, is sovereign territory and belongs to the kids themselves.”

Golf, a sport that many see as in decline now, rises as the sport of choice among Americans at age 50 but experts on NPR notes that two-thirds of golf played in the U.S. is done using motorized carts, required primarily due to their becoming a revenue center for courses.

Golfers who walk the course average 5 miles but when using a cart this falls to a mile or less. Experts suggest an average of 6,000 steps (3 miles) a day to improve health and 10,000 a day to lose weight.

I don’t golf but I average over 7,700 steps a day, some weeks as much as 9,000, in part, by religiously walking more than two miles each morning.

It takes 48 minutes at a fast clip of 4 mph for a 150 lb. woman to burn off a donut (240 calories.)  It takes walking an hour and forty-eight minutes to burn off a Big Mac and compensating for eating just one M&M takes walking the length of a football field.

It goes without saying that for me at least walking also makes you far more conscious about what you eat.

Studies show that walking a mile in 15 minutes, which even for me is motivated walking, burns the same amount of calories with far less wear and tear to my knees and hips as jogging that distance in 8.5 minutes.

But exercise and sports have different motivations.  About 60% of adults play sports for enjoyment or competition, while 71% exercise for health-related reasons.

The sweet spot for me at my age (almost 67) is to do both. I walk while enjoying nature seven days a week and lift weights twice a week.

I think Olmsted had it right.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Living On The Cusp of Climate Change

Another summer job I had in high school was shoveling grass seed.  I even got to take turns driving the truck once it had been filled alongside the combine, over to where it was emptied and back again.

It was in the Northern Rockies of Idaho near where a lakeside rendezvous with family now takes place most summers. Yup, Idaho is a lot more than potatoes or even mountains.

Nearly half of the Kentucky Bluegrass seed in the nation is grown there as well as about 84 tons of fescue, a grass seed that is also used to create turf in North Carolina where I live.

Kentucky may have bragging rights for Bluegrass sod but the majority of it is seeded with grass seed grown in the mountains of Idaho.

By comparison, Idaho only grows 29% of the nation’s potatoes but more than 70% of its food-sized trout.  State slogans can be very misleading.

With 26,000 overall, the state of Idaho has only 1% of the nation’s 2.1 million farms and ranches, but still ranks in the top 10 for production of 26 different types of livestock and crops.

But these pale in comparison to the dominance of its mountains, forests, lakes and streams.

Northern Idaho is nicknamed the Idaho Panhandle.

It is 21,000+ square miles of spectacular, forested mountains, about a quarter of the land area of Idaho.  It includes 324 square miles covered by water, including many of America’s most scenic rivers and lakes.

Stretching between eight or nine of those lakes is the Rathdrum Prairie, part of a 370 square mile trench gouged out between the Selkirk and Bitterroot ranges and planed flat by a glacier.

About a dozen miles long and a dozen wide, it then elbows west across the border to Spokane, Washington.

But this Prairie, which discovered in the 1950s as the perfect place to grow grass seed, had been created 15,000 years ago by a series of floods after the 3,000 sq. mile Lake Missoula broke through an ice sheet dam sending a wall of water 2,000 feet high gushing down its length and beyond, clear to California.

The Cordilleran Ice Sheet, which held one and a half times what Antarctica does today or did until recently, also melted very fast leaving Northern Idaho’s spectacular, natural mountain lakes as remnants, 75 overall within 50 miles of Spokane.

I was reminded of that sweaty, dusty, round-the-clock work harvesting grass seed when I recently learned by trial and error that the ridgeline where I live a mile and a fourth from Downtown Durham, NC is apparently on the cusp of climate change.

Kentucky Bluegrass seed such I harvested is used to grow turf up in the mountains here.  But until recently, it has been fescue that ruled around Durham, including 10% of my city lot covered by four strips of lawn to slow runoff from my house and natural areas.

The battle lines for climate change apparently run between Durham and Raleigh, where the Piedmont falls away to the Coastal Plain, which has also been, until recently, a sort of demarcation line as well between “cool” and “warm” season grasses.

The year before last when heat and fungus overwhelmed my turf, I tried to jump ahead of the curve by replacing the fescue with what was touted as a cold tolerant Zoysia turf, as a few institutions and homeowners did.

Of course, grass is not always grown from seed even in North Carolina.  Tall fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass began and still are pasture grasses.

Back when I was a teenager, as the tall grass ripened,  big swathers, (aka windrowers) were used to cut the grass where it lay drying in the field for about a week or more.

Then several staggered combines ran down the rows without stopping while processing the seed into trucks.  Outgrowing teenagers, all of the equipment used today seems two or three times larger than back then.

Zoysia, which is primarily grown from plugs, is purely ornamental.

And as it seems the case with everything, there are now heritage or heirloom varieties of seed being grown.

But sod growers have a varied clientele.  In North Carolina, tall fescue sod is grown by 40% of sod growers compared to 25% who grow Kentucky Bluegrass.  Warm season grasses such as Bermuda and Zoysia are grown by 75% and 80% respectively.

Only 12.3% overall goes to homeowners while 63% goes to landscape contractors, 9% to golf courses, 7.6% to athletic fields and 4% to retail garden centers.

Lawns didn’t begin with the invention of the lawn mower.  They moved from pasture to homes in the 1500s during the Renaissance in France and England.

Both U.S. Presidents Washington and Jefferson had lawns.  They became fixtures around ranches and later farms for the same reason they had in Europe.

But it was the leisure activity of lawn bowling that had brought lawns to America by 1650.  By the 1850s, lawns were used to create meadows in urban parks, followed by golf courses by the 1870s.

The first lawnmower was invented in 1830 in England.  A reel mower was patented in the U.S. in 1868.  By 1890, they were a fixture of landscapes and by 1914 gasoline-powered mowers were available.

Even riding lawn mowers date to 1922.

But the lawn mower became truly mainstream in 1946 when soldiers returned from WWII and bought homes created for them in the suburbs.

That year, two years before I was born, 140,000 mowers were sold.  By the time I was three years old, 1.2 million mowers a year were sold in the U.S and lawns had become a fixture around farm and ranch houses as well.

By the time I turned ten in 1958, 4.2 million were sold annually, and using ours to cut neighbors lawns became one of my first part time jobs away from home.

Still, the majority of grass seed is for non-residential use.  There are nearly 50,000 square miles of lawn across America, about the equivalent of the entire state of North Carolina and more than irrigated crops such as corn and wheat.

When I worked part time to combine it in Idaho during the mid-1960s, grass seed was dry farmed.  Back then, as it had been since the 1950s, the stubble was burned after harvesting.

There are other ways to manage stubble including baling and selling it for feed but since 2007 but due, in part, to burning the number of Kentucky Bluegrass farms in Idaho has fallen by 55% and fescue growers by 40% as they have nationwide.

That practice came under increased scrutiny for air pollution until 2007 when as a result of a court case, the state of Idaho began to regulate burning of harvested grass fields except on tribal lands.

This involved permitting, burn management training and a $2 per acre fee to burn, as well as identification of no-burn days calibrated to atmospheric conditions especially near population centers such as Spokane.

Apparently Americans now spend $40 billion a year on lawn care.  However, NASA scientists believe that under conditions such as recycling grass clippings, lawns are a carbon sink, meaning they sequester harmful gases causing climate change.

But the real issue is water.  Over half (56) of North Carolina’s 100 counties are at risk for water shortages which nation-wide studies show will be aggravated by climate change.

Unlike Durham which began to invest heavily to build its own reservoirs in the late 1920s when the population was fewer than 50,000 people, less than 20% the size it is today, many counties waited for state and federal assistance, which dried up long ago.

In Idaho, which relies on melting snow, the percentage of counties at risk for water shortages is 64%, in part, due to overuse of the Snake River aquifer.  In other mountain states such as Utah it is 72%.

In Texas, it is 98%.  A quick calculation suggests there is a correlation between red states and water shortages.

But climate change, as it already has in North Carolina, is shifting growing zones north and west while creating drier, less arable micro-climates in some parts of the country.

This will also increase pest and noxious weed populations, all of which will create more pressure for burning as a crop management tool.  It will also lead to a return to dry farming rather than irrigation, resulting in more burning.

Dry farming is natural to one-third of the earth’s land surface.  Mormons heading west in 1847 learned it from Native Americans who had been practicing it in that region for hundreds of years.

At Fort Laramie, a stop on the trail, they also saw it being experimented with to grow wheat for provisioning along the Oregon-Mormon trail.  It is how we grew feed crops on our ancestral cattle and horse ranch west of the Henry’s Fork in the Yellowstone nook of Idaho.

Following a fifty year period when irrigation technology has depleted aquifers across the nation, 12 million acres of cultivation in the West has reverted to dry farming.

It was the technique that was used where I was harvesting grass seed forty-eight years ago even though Northern Idaho sits atop an aquifer, it has twice as much rainfall as Southern Idaho.

Look for dry farming to continue its comeback. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lakeside Context

If it clears due diligence, I may be writing some of these essays at a retreat on Mayo Lake which, as I will describe, is very unique.

By the way, being drawn to lakeside getaways, like being a morning person, is probably one of those contexts that researchers have found to be predictors of relationship longevity.

Even if you didn’t grow up along lakes, as each of us did, like being a morning person or a night owl, it is just something in your nature.

Mayo Lake lies 35 miles and change north of our house in Durham.  The most scenic route, for me, will often be astride the Harley Crossbones up and over Mt. Tirza.

That will add a couple of miles to the route but will be well worth it after cutting up Moores Mill Road from Quail Roost in Durham.

Mt. Tirza is the location and namesake of a church where good friends of mine, Eddie and Nita Hill, were first posted after he graduated from Duke Divinity.

Nita helped us jumpstart Durham’s community destination marketing organization 26 years ago.

But the crossroads there predates the church by three or four decades, when it was established by a Revolutionary War veteran, Lt. Colonel Stephen Moore, in 1777 and 1778, two years before he famously led the Caswell County Regiment at the Battle of Camden in a losing cause.

The rest of Moore’s family had sided with the British so after the war he inherited the family’s estate at West Point overlooking the Hudson in New York, which he negotiated to sell to the newly created U.S. government beginning in the late 1780s for use as a military academy.

The Battle of Camden has significance to me because along with Moore, my fourth great grandfather, James McCrory, was captured there after seeing earlier combat at Brandywine and Germantown and serving a stint in General Washington’s select guard.

At Camden, he and Moore along with 1,000 other American soldiers were captured during the battle.  Moore was imprisoned on a prison ship in Charleston Bay while my fourth great grandfather was imprisoned on a ship near Wilmington.

Moore was held until a prisoner exchange in late summer 1781, but after only four months as a POW, my great (x4) grandfather was earlier released in only his underwear and without shoes upon taking a vow that he would never again take up arms against the British Crown.

Moore returned to a noncombatant commission in Hillsborough, a 20 mile ride from his home on Mt. Tirza and retook his seat in the North Carolina legislature there, then the capital.

But instead, just four months after his release, my fourth great grandfather McCrory rejoined the war in combat at the Battle of Cowpens where his British captor Tarleton was thoroughly routed, marking a turning point in the war.

A few months later he was fighting in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a place to which he had immigrated from Northern Ireland just as the Revolutionary War began.

The British Army retreated to the Virginia coast and seven months later surrendered to American General Washington bringing the Revolutionary War to an end.

While Moore was settled back on Mt. Tirza, my fourth great grandparents McCrory headed up and over the Appalachians, eventually settling on the frontier along the Tombigbee River southwest of Tuscaloosa.

The old soldier lived until 1840 at which time his daughter and son-in-law, whose grandparents had migrated from North to South Carolina before ending up on the Tombigbee, headed into the Rockies.

James McCrory’s great grandaughter, my great grandmother was claimed by the Great Influenza Epidemic in 1919 while visiting the ancestral Idaho ranch where I would be born three decades later and spend my early years.

It is from her parents and two other lines of ancestors that I derive my 5th generation Idaho roots.

Moore, who had been in the lumber trade in Canada before the war, was proud that his home on Mt. Tirza was “where the ax had never been laid to a tree.”

He would be greatly dismayed today by clear-cut timbering now laying waste along Mt. Tirza’s northern slopes not far from his home.  It is a lazy way to timber, fueled by technology, compared to the equally lucrative but more sustainably way of selective cutting.

Moore had a grist mill on the Flat River, just over what would become the Durham County line, thus the name Moores Mill Road, which I will take past Hill Forest and Mt. Tirza.

He died in 1799 while visiting friends in Durham at Stagville Plantation, now a state historic site, and is buried up on Mt. Tirza in a family cemetery along the route to Mayo Lake that bears his name.

Like the lakes that dot northern Durham - two to provide the city’s water and one to provide for Raleigh’s further to the south and east -Mayo is a reservoir, but not just for drinking.

It has 85 miles of shoreline that encompass its 2,800 acres lined with homes on the southern half that are very secluded compared to other lakes.

The shoreline while accessible for boating and swimming has been uniquely set aside as a wildlife habitat dating back to the late 1970s when Mayo Lake was created to cool a steam power plant on the far northern end near the Virginia border.

It finished filling in the 1980s, a few years before I arrived in Durham.

Mayo, both the lake and the stream that was dammed to create it, are named for Major William Mayo, an Englishman who immigrated first to Barbados in the early 1700s and then Virginia.

He led the survey teams that mapped the gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains through which my Messersmith ancestors traveled soon after immigrating to settle along a creek feeding the South Fork of the Holston River.

It is where the southern and northern tips of the Jefferson and Cherokee national forests, respectively, nearly touch today.

In 1728, Mayo also led one of the teams jointly surveying along each side to map the border between Virginia and North Carolina, guided, in part, through the area north of what is now Mayo Lake.

It was a prequel to officially dividing North and South Carolina the following year.  Mayo was guided by Native Americans in that area known as the Sappony (aka Sapponi) who had migrated down from the foothills to avoid Iroquoian raiders.

Sappony is derived from Monasusapanough, one of three villages they inhabited.

They were thought to be eastern Siouan cousins to the Eno and Shoccoree in what is now Durham and the nearby Occaneechi who had also migrated down from Virginia.

All of these tribes traded with the Catawba nation down the “Great Trading Path” remnants of which can still be seen where it cut diagonally across northern Durham near Stagville.

It is actually a spine or mainline for a network of countless other tributary trading paths along its route.  It was created first by buffalo, then by Indians following game, then for trade.  Then came pack horses and settlers, followed by wagons.

Signaling the road building savvy of buffalo, today, it is roughly the route of Interstate 85.

However, it appears the Sappony didn’t really migrate permanently across into North Carolina around Mayo Lake until after the Revolutionary War, in which they had fought on behalf of the colonists against the British Crown.

Their slow migration down into North Carolina had begun after the 1676 Bacon’s Rebellion.

At the time, only coastal counties in Virginia had been organized along with only a handful in the very northeast corner of North Carolina, including Bath near where my eighth great grandmother had been born twenty-six years before.

Yes, my Tar Heel bonafides stretch back to when there were fewer than 1,000 settlers in all of what became North Carolina, long before there were counties.

But a line of my ancestors, the Sheltons, had already moved into the interior along the border northwest of what is now Mayo Lake.

The migration of the Sappony had hastened by 1746: nine years after Mayo had laid out the city of Richmond and two years after his death, when Lunenburg County was created along the Virginia side.

At the time Granville spanned along the North Carolina side.

Their flow had quickened even more by 1752, when Halifax was carved from Lunenburg in Virginia across from Mayo Lake, while Orange County spanned North Carolina side by then.

At the time, there were fewer than 53,000 white settlers in all of North Carolina and another 19,000 enslaved African Americans.

In 1761, my fifth great grandmother Miller was born in Orange County before relocating with her family to a point in South Carolina along the Old Trading Path.

It was her grandson, my third great grandfather Graham who had later married a McCrory on the Tombigbee before heading westward to the Rockies.

The crossover by the Sappony into North Carolina had begun in earnest six years later just as western Halifax in Virginia was divided to create Pittsylvania.

It had become a steady stream by 1776 when my ancestors, the Shelton’s, petitioned to carve off Henry County further west along the border of Pittsylvania.

The next year Caswell County was carved from Orange on the North Carolina side which is why Lt. Col. Moore led a regiment from that county.

Person County, where both Mayo Lake and Mt. Tirza are located today wasn’t carved from Caswell until 1791; the year after Moore had sold West Point to the government.

It was five years later that the town of South Boston, Virginia was created in Halifax County just across the border from Mayo Lake. 

As with other nations of Native Americans across the country, we didn’t keep our agreements with the Sappony regarding land.

By the time Mayo Lake was created, the bottom land for the reservoir, which averages 30 feet in depth as well as the surrounding embankments were purchased from subsequent settlers.

There will be a lot to contemplate from lakeside and a lot to learn, but all of this is to say that it will seem like coming home.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Quiet Giant - Small Businesses & Local Merchants

A survey of small and medium sized businesses by Borrell Associates shows that their use of traditional advertising declined by $58 billion since 2005.

Not counting micro businesses, the “S” in SMBs which rarely ever advertise, or SMBs whose out-of-town parent handles advertising, nearly three-quarters of this segment, which is a bellwether for economic development, has switched to online as its advertising of choice, if any at all.

This downward spiral for traditional advertising began in the late 1980s, long before the Internet, due in part to greed and over-utilization to where by 2010 researchers found it to have a negative return on investment overall.

This, according to analysts at Borrell, is clearly the end of an era.  Consumers have simply tuned out.

Some channels such as outdoor advertising, even when used on buses and kiosks and when added with billboards, is now used by only 17% of SMBs including 3% of truly small businesses, making this way of reaching consumers all but obsolete.

Now appealing to less than a fifth of one percent of consumers, billboard companies have turned instead to campaign contributions and donations as a way to ensure survival, desperately hoping to lay waste to public roadsides as a result.

Meanwhile, consumers have shifted in mass to smartphones and navigation systems as less damage-prone alternatives.

The decline in advertising doesn’t mean a decline in the need for marketing overall.  Another new survey of small businesses as part of Small Business Week shows that 66% named finding new customers as their top concern, followed by 40% who are concerned about retaining existing customers.

Nearly all now rely on a website.  A survey by Adobe shows that by the end of this year, nearly 60% of all organizations will have a website with responsive design, meaning it will reconfigure depending on the device you are using to view it.

In fact, half already generate 30% or more of their digital traffic via mobile devices but, less than a third in North America have a strategic plan for using it.

When it comes to small businesses including local merchants, only 22% are using mobile marketing although nearly half allocate a quarter or more of their ad budget to it.

According to a survey by Street Fight, more than half of local merchants cite new customer acquisition as their primary objective.

Unfortunately, many local chambers of commerce, a type of business advocacy, have now turned their backs on small businesses as too needy compared to the fees they will pay.

It makes these organizations vulnerable instead to becoming hostage to interests who pay people to attend meetings and gradually less relevant and increasingly estranged from local business climates.

Small businesses are vastly under-represented in communities because they don’t have time for meetings, committees or public hearings, even though they are the key to economic vitality.

Even though 4-in-10 rely on community destination marketing organizations to fuel visitor-customers, barely 43% even have time to take vacations themselves.

Over half worked for a large or mid-sized organization before running their own business according to the study.  Nearly 70% cite “more freedom” as the reason for going small, and half sought less bureaucracy and politics.

The things you hear politicians claim they are doing on behalf of small businesses such as the economy, taxes and healthcare, are top concerns for only 25%, 22% and 18% of small business owners.

Most small businesses are not whiners as special interests would have you believe.  Unfortunately, politicians spend far too much time listening to these special interests and become hyper-reactive to complaints or so desensitized they dismiss them.

Like the vast number of voters, small businesses can often be heard by the silence they make, not the fuss.