Monday, February 19, 2018

"Alianza de Campesinas" Board Member Monica Ramirez Talks Golden Globes, Farm Worker Women's Rights and Time's Up Movement

-By Emily Anderson

In a time in our country when people of all races, ethnicities and genders are finally getting some equality recognition in the United States (with gay marriage being legalized and women speaking out against sexual harassment), there are still a lot of issues that aren’t quite right. Often, society chooses to single people out who aren’t straight, white, or male.

The Time’s Up movement – a recent movement created by Hollywood women – is gaining a foothold across the country as it empowers other women across all organizations, industries and social class to take a stand and help trump sexual attackers and harassers in the work place.

Monica Ramirez was one of the guests who attended the Golden Globes award ceremony in Hollywood with actress Laura Dern in January. Intrigued by who this woman is, I wondered why she attended and how she is a part of the Time’s Up movement.

Photo courtesy of Monica's LinkedIn
Ramirez is involved in a bunch of political causes, and she is the deputy director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (L.C.L.A.A.) and a board president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Calif. Founded in 2011, this non-profit consists of membership-based organizations across the United States which collectively help farm worker women and women from farm worker families gain access to resources to help fight against sexual harassment and unequal pay.

According to its website, Alianza de Campesinas is committed to securing social, environmental, and economic justice; violence prevention; equality, and healthier work places, homes and communities for farm worker women and their families. Alianza de Campesinas members are particularly concerned with ending work place exploitation against farm worker women and all farm workers, including sexual harassment."

The Alianza de Campesinas had a letter published in Time Magazine on Nov. 10, 2017 about its opinions on the Time’s Up movement. Click here to read it (

A profound paragraph states: “We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Your job feeds souls, fills hearts and spreads joy. Our job nourishes the nation with the fruits, vegetables and other crops that we plant, pick and pack.”

The juxtaposition of prominent Hollywood women who started Time’s UP, working alongside equally important, less financially well-to-do women, is powerful. It goes to show that inappropriate men can act as such and can especially curb poorer women to speak the truth to protect themselves physically, financially and emotionally from future abuse.
"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."

It’s no wonder that the Hollywood women who started Time’s UP are connecting with other organizations which also have a no-holds-barred approach to giving themselves a voice. According to a recent Time article in January about Time’s UP, “Time’s Up formed a legal defense fund that currently totals $13 million in donations to help women from across the world of work to report sexual harassment or assault. The group encourages anyone to donate to the legal defense fund…”

As of today, the fund totals more than $21 million. If you'd like to donate, please click here:

One of the ways Alianza de Campesinas helps farm worker women is to direct them to legal help. According to their website, legal examples are:
  • As victim advocates in civil and criminal investigations and proceedings
  • Advocacy with local, state and federal agencies on behalf of farm worker survivors of  violence to improve the level of care and responsiveness to farm worker victims and survivors' unique needs
  • Providing information and testimony to government agencies and other groups to improve laws and systems that serve farm workers
  • Educate and inform social service organizations, legal organizations, crisis centers and coalitions about special considerations for serving the farm worker population, among others
After women connect with Alianza de Campesina, what happens?

"Since Alianza is a national membership organization, we determine where the individual is located and we connect them with our member organizations for help," Ramirez said. "If there is no member organization in the area where the individual lives, we could provide the individual with information and resources (from) other organizations that can provide assistance for a range of care and assistance, depending on their needs.

"We also share general educational information with the individual to help orient her ... and what to expect when or if they decide to contact an agency. This is because some people may not know what to expect and (by) helping provide some basic information to (her), the individual feels more comfortable."

Ramirez understood from a young age that women weren't always treated well. She says as a child she knew some women who survived domestic violence. As she grew up, she realized that the same opportunities were not always equal for men and women.

She feels that there are many women's rights issues.

"At the heart of it, we must address all forms of gender equity for the benefit and best interests of our world. Women must hold equal power in politics, must be paid the same and offered the same opportunities at work and at school, and to live free of violence at work, at home and in our communities. 

"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."

Ramirez took matters further when she attended the Golden Globes with actress Laura Dern as she was literally part of the movement. She and Dern bonded well and it was exciting for her to be with other Hollywood women are working toward ending violence against women.

"It was a really special time, which was made even better by the warm reception that we received by the other actors, individuals in the entertainment industry and the media who were there that night."

Other than being in the spotlight with Laura Dern, Ramirez has worked hard on several projects during her career. One example is when she co-authored Injustice on Our Plates when working at the Southern Poverty Law Center (located in Montgomery, Ala.), a report published in 2010 based on 150 interviews with immigrant women from Mexico and other Latin American countries. 

Most of the statistics on the Alianza de Campesinas website come mostly from the U.S. Department of Labor, and although Ramirez appreciates that the Department of Labor is one of the few agencies that conducts national studies on farm workers, she notes that the data isn't entirely broken down by gender statistics.

Ramirez' cofounder of Alianza de Campesinas is Mily Trevino-Sauceda. Ms. Trevino-Sauceda assisted with one of the first surveys in the 1980s about sexual harassment against farm worker women in California. So while most of the data is from the Department of Labor, much of its other statistics comes from her and Ms. Trevino-Sauceda's extensive knowledge they've gained over the years conducting other research on immigrant farm working women.

And while she wasn't able to attend the women's march on January 20th, she was busy attending to other equal important meetings. Other Alianza member organizations did attend marches all throughout the U.S. that day.

As for one last food for thought?

Ramirez wants to make sure that people understand that although she works to advocate for farm worker women, she knows that women across the board regardless of their background, are all connected.

"In order to end workplace sexual violence, we must also address other types of inequities that are symptoms and contributors to this problem."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It's All About That Bass - Maryn Boess - Grant Writing Trainer Extraordinaire - That Is!

Just as Meghan Trainor sings that it's all about that bass, it's all about a certain Ms. Maryn Boess who is all about grant proposal training. 

Maryn Boess (pronounced base) is a grant writing guru who loves all things grants-related. She's a long-time grant writing professional who has written grants as well as reviewed grant proposals others have submitted. Her familiarity with both sides of the grant-seeking and grant-reviewing world has helped to shape her current business format - she provides wonderful grants-training courses online. She's based in the Pacific Northwest but enjoys teaching people all over the world.

Here's a close-up Q&A with Maryn Boess.

Photo courtesy of the GrantsMagic Facebook page
How long have you been in business with Grants Magic U? 

I’ve been a grant professional since I wrote my first grant proposal in 1984 … yikes! Pre-Internet, pre-computer … In 1989 I broke off and started working on my own as an independent grant project planner and consultant. Over time I noticed that I was having a different level of success than many of my peers and colleagues, especially with federal funding. I put together a simple little 2-hour workshop for the local United Way called “Are You Afraid of Federal Funding?” – it was beyond standing room only. 

At some point I realized that I had an ability to synthesize complex information and make it accessible. After a [clash] with one of my biggest clients, I decided to stop the grant writing and go full time on developing and delivering grants trainings. I don’t exactly remember what year that was … maybe 2003? That business grew and grew and grew and I was traveling all over the country giving live workshops. GrantsMagic U was born in April 2015 when I realized that though I loved developing and delivering the training, I did not so much love all the traveling and I could really reach more people if I could transfer the portfolio of courses to an online, virtual platform. The path forward was pretty rocky but we opened our first signature course in October of 2015 with three nonprofit associations as partners – a big win! 

What do you enjoy most about teaching grant proposal writing?

I have always lived for the “aha!” moment – that moment when I can see a new concept drop in and someone suddenly “gets” something in a really big way – (something) that transforms them, transforms their belief system, and transforms the way they relate to themselves and their reality. I’ve taught in other, non-professional arenas and I’m always going for that big “aha!” (moment). Even (with) making a video all by myself in my office I have no trouble tapping into that energy and excitement and passion in myself and I am 100 percent committed to making sure that it comes through, full on, in everything I share. 

So I love two things about this work. First, I LOVE it when someone shares with me their excitement at having gotten a grant thanks to the tools they’ve learned with me. Even more, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when I get an e-mail from someone expressing gratitude for my passion and my energy and encouragement: “You give me great confidence that I can do this” or “I’m so inspired and excited” are two of my very favorite phrases.

What brought you to the Pacific Northwest from Arizona?

Sometimes life decides it’s time to shake things up. That was me, in 2010. After living most of my life and raising my family in Phoenix, the earth kind of shook under my feet and all the things that had kept me feeling pretty much obligated to stay in Arizona all fell away, in powerfully positive ways. (Example: A large part of my business was specifically tied to providing grant-maker information services specific to Arizona nonprofits. Out of the blue, I was given the opportunity to transfer that service over into the care and keeping of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, which still views the Arizona Guide to Grants Online as a key element of their member service portfolio.) 

I’d first visited Portland as a board member of the Grant Professionals Association, in 2009, and knew (even though it was November) that I’d move there in an instant if I could. Green things! Water! Hurray! So when life set me free, so to speak, I made the move in early 2011. What made it easier was my daughter and her family (including my grandson) also moved with me. Within the next few years my second daughter and one of my two sons have also moved here.

What do you want people who are seeking a career in grant writing to know? Is it a hard career to get into? Do people with certain skill sets have a better chance of being a grant writer than people who don't possess certain skills?

In the grant writing world, it’s hard to balance optimism and realism. It’s tough! And there are so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about the landscape, the ecosystem, and “how it all works.” If there’s anything at all I would want everyone in the grant writing world to know, it would be to have a better understanding of the world of the grant maker. It’s a world I’ve come to know and inhabit myself. I was very much an insider in the grant making community in Phoenix, and in 2006 I became a program officer / manager of a quasi-governmental grant making program (which I still run), managing up to $2 million a year in grant making. Now my sweet spot, I guess you could say, is to really play off my dual citizenship in the grants world, pull back the curtain, open up that Black Box, and try to give the grant-seeking folks an experience of what it’s like for the grant making folks. I think having what I call the “3-D Perspective” – as opposed to a kind of tactical tunnel vision – is hugely important. And being able to zoom in (to the fine detail) and zoom out (to the very big picture) quickly and without becoming seasick is crucial too.

Being able to write well is important. That means being able to organize information clearly and compellingly. Attention to detail is important, yes indeed. But more than this, I do believe, the ability to stay clear of single-organization / single-focus tunnel vision and step fully into the possibilities as a catalyst for positive change in the community … that’s what I really like to see.

What do you enjoy about non-profit work in general?

My first 10 years in grown-up jobs were pretty much all about writing for corporate clients: business press releases, business publications features, ad copy, etc. I used to call it “selling soap.” It was gratifying to put my skills and creativity to work, but soap was not my passion. I didn’t encounter non-profit work 'till my early 30s and there was no looking back. People of passion work in all kinds of areas. And these days there’s more and more crossover between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in terms of our roles as change agents in the world. But working with and for not-for-profits just keeps me closer to the heart of that change-agent energy. Many nonprofit folks are entrepreneurial in their approach to their work and I’ve always had a strong (in-born) entrepreneurial streak so I value that as well. And gosh, the not-for-profit sector is so under-resourced! I guess I just decided to dig in and go deep in an arena where I could really make a difference.

Your online courses are amazing, especially for the prices. What do you want potential students / customers to know about your grant courses if they are deciding between your courses and other online grants courses? What makes yours unique?

The comment I hear most often about my online courses is “Gosh, I thought it would be just another dull and dry presentation. But you were so enthusiastic! Your passion was contagious. The time just flew by.” I love that! 

I make a commitment every single time to bring that aliveness and energy and excitement and inspiration and confidence to the training I do. No one will be bored on my watch! The other aspect that sets these courses apart is that dual-citizenship thing – the fact that I can speak with authority about what life looks like “on the other side,” from the grant maker /program officer’s perspective. This is jaw-dropping for almost everyone … it’s so hard to really get outside our own “black box” of beliefs and perspectives … there’s that “aha!” thing again. You just don’t get that 360-degree, 3-D view in other grants trainings!

When students complete your courses, you send a congratulations e-message as well as a profound quote. Do you attach a profound quote to all e-mails when students complete any course of yours? What made you want to do this?

It’s all part and parcel with my commitment to show up and encourage and inspire. Profound quotes ground me and keep me moving forward, and if I can share something that does that for someone else, I will. I use a quotation from Peace Pilgrim at the bottom of every email. I’ve used the same quote for years and years. Every once in a while I try to mix things up and use a different one … but this one just keeps coming back: “Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold." – Peace Pilgrim. The simplicity and directness are what appeals to me. 

[I also use quotes] from Howard Thurman, [and it] is just so deep and rich and just feeds my soul and makes me feel brave enough to do really tough things. And don’t we all need more of that in our lives?

Please tell me anything else you'd like to share!

There are big plans for GrantsMagic U in 2018! The foundations (of the business) are solid now and we’re ready to grow and evolve in a big way. We now have more than 4,500 community members from (at last count) 48 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and at least 11 foreign countries. How amazing is that! I’m both humbled and thrilled … and can’t wait to get busy on those big plans.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Re-posting March 2017 article from The Oregonian

In this world full of uncertainty, political upheaval and violence, it's so refreshing to read about wonderful, ordinary citizens who help each other...

This story, in particular, stood out to me:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mountain Mel's Serves Up a Melodious Blend of Marvelous Loose Leaf Organic Herbal Tea

Mountain Mel's is a tea company that makes wonderful loose-leaf tea as well as a few other items like body balms and salve, bug repellent and lip balms. The tea names are wonderfully witty and the one tea I sampled tasted tea-rrific. It's called UnFrazzle Your Dazzle. 

Melissa Mutterspaugh is the owner who happily and fortuitously stumbled upon her herb-inspired creations which inadvertently led to her starting a business. She is an avid nature lover and believer in natural healing methods and before becoming an herbalist, she was a wilderness guide.

Guiding her decision was the fact that people would pay her to teach them stuff about plants while exploring nature. She thought she'd make her own herbal remedies and she sold them to people, made her own labels, and although she always told people to check with their doctors for medical advice, she knew she was on to something good.

Over the course of a few years, she studied herbalism at two schools - Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine and the School of Traditional Western Herbalism - both of which are in Portland.

"The beauty of herbalism is that it is a never-ending spiritual journey," Mel said. "There is just so much to learn. Whether you’re a farmer or a formulator, there’s just always so much to learn about how much body and plants work together. "

Mutterspaugh opened up a shop over three years ago in Welches, Ore. She used to have an office space that also served as a retail shop, but this space now serves as the production facility where her products are made.

A chiropractic office across from her Welches shop carried her products when she first opened in early 2014. She has taught two classes at the National University of Naturopathic Medicine (located in Portland). Her connections from conferences she attends annually at N.U.N.M have led to people selling her products to their clients. Mountain Mel's is now sold in a few acupuncture and naturopath shops throughout the Portland area as well as (soon-to-be sold) in the Vancouver Wellness Clinic. Vibrant Family Medicine and Midwifery in Gresham have sold Mountain Mel's for three years.  

This week, on December 7 from 6 to 9 p.m., she will be selling her tea-riffic business, in a manner of speaking, at Portland Athletic and Outdoor. She'll be participating in their "Athletic and Outdoor Annual Industry Celebration" which is teaming up with the Oregon Angel Fund. The O.A.F. is hosting a competition for attendees to vote for businesses who give a three-minute-long pitch about their business called In the Running. This event takes place at Terrazign at 939 S.E. Alder St. So if you'll be downtown Thursday evening, let her un-frazzle you while dazzling you with her infectious personality. If Mountain Mel's is chosen by the audience as a winner, she'll have a meeting in January with the Oregon Angel Fund for a shot to receive angel investment.

But if you don't have a chance to meet her, you can purchase her goodies through her website (hello holiday shopping!) and there is free shipping on orders over $50. She's also offering a 50 percent discount to people who purchase her products through then with the code INTHERUNNING. Mutterspaugh is also going to be insanely busy these next two weeks, selling her teas in person at various locations in the Portland metropolitan area but she's always excited to sell her products face-to-face.

The names of her teas are teasingly terrific and they come in beautiful, tall, skinny cans.  

What is more terrific is that Mutterspaugh hit the grocery jack-pot of sorts when she landed her products in New Seasons Markets, a natural grocery retail chain that is prominent in Oregon.  

When the buyer at New Season's Market first sampled her teas in 2015, she was pleasantly surprised by how naturally good it tasted while at the same time being good for the body.

Mel and her team are currently busy making plans to raise funds (starting with the In the Running event on Thursday) to help get her products in more stores. She and her team are gearing up for having their products sold in 495 stores across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington throughout 2018. Her company also donates one percent of its annual sales to environmental non-profits vis-a-vis 1% for the Planet.

Mel is always sure to inform people to consult their doctors about whatever ailment they face and that her tea isn't considered formal medicine, but she is delighted that her business circle of naturopath practitioners and acupuncturists truly value her simply wonderful teas.

Photo by Emily Anderson - A close up view of the calming, delicious tea

What comes to mind for internal ailments is the Diges-Teas she sells. When asked what her favorite herb is, she had trouble narrowing it down but mentioned calendula and plantain. Her Diges-Teas contains these ingredients: peppermint, lemon balm, fennel, anise seed, plantain and chamomile.

"I absolutely love calendula" Mutterspaugh muttered to me when we chatted. "It’s amazing to help regenerate skin cells. I have an amazing painting of it in my shop. It’s anti-fungal and great for bee stings and bug bites. Plantain is a weed that grows everywhere. When in doubt, plantain is the way to go. Everyone tries to kill it. It draws out infection really well. It’s great to help with snake bites or spider bites. It draws splinters out of a carpenter’s hand easily. It’s so great for the gut and the skin."

If your curiosity is piqued like mine was, I dug a little deeper to find out more about calendula. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, "the flower petals of the calendula plant (calendula officinalis), or pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries... Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well as relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Today, calendula is often used topically, meaning it is applied to the skin.

"Fresh or dried calendula petals are available in tinctures, liquid extracts, infusions, ointments and creams. Calendula products should always be protected from light and moisture and should not be used after three years of storage."

Other than calendula and plantain, she likes another herb.

"As far as being a business owner and mother goes, my favorite herb to take for ingesting is ashwagandha root. It’s an adaptogenic herb. It allows your body to adopt stressors in life. It’s a gentle but effective herb. If you take it over a long period of time, you definitely know you’re able to handle more that life hands you."

She has a tincture of it on her nightstand she takes every night.

According to the Chopra Center, "Ashwagandha, one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means "the smell of a horse," indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness."

The Chopra Center also says that using Ashwaganda can alleviate symptoms of stress, fatigue, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating.

Mutterspaugh has a tea called Where is My Mind? A Mental Tea for Clari-Tea and Focus and one of the ingredients is Ashwagandha. Her description is clever and intriguing: "Do you have trouble focusing? Can't remember what you were supposed to do next, or where your keys are? Where Is My Mind???"

We've all misplaced our keys, so maybe the key to relieving mental stress would be to buy a tin or two of her teas. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Second Annual Holiday Pancake Breakfast with Santa to be Held at Newark Community Center December 9th, to Benefit Drivers for Survivors

--Story by Emily "Miss Parmigiani" Anderson

For those of you living in the Alameda County area who like to support good causes and also love pancakes, then going to a breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Newark Community Center might be the perfect event to feed your soul.

The Newark Community Center is hosting the non-profit Drivers for Survivors on Dec. 9 from 8 a.m. to noon for the 2nd Annual Holiday Pancake Breakfast with Santa. Drivers for Survivors is a non-profit that pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments. This event is a fundraiser and an anniversary to celebrate its founding over five years ago.

According to Drivers for Survivors' press release, Castro Valley Performing Arts will be giving performances, there will be a silent auction and raffle, and, of course Santa will be in attendance! Food is being sponsored by the Newark IHOP and McDonald's. Newark police and the Alameda County fire department will be flipping the pancakes. And Calif. state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and some Newark city officials will be there as well.

The kids will be able to get their faces painted, and Jewelry by Design (a Newark, Calif. jeweler) should be have items available for auction.

Please click here to register:

The admission for adults is $10 and $5 for kids under age 12. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at the above link or at the door on Saturday.

For information on Drivers for Survivors, please read the article I published in July:

and please visit their website.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Few Oregon Restaurants To Donate a Portion of Veteran's Day Sales to Returning Veterans Project

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, and while Oregonians will be celebrating in many ways, there are a handful of Oregon restaurants that are participating in what is known as Chow Down for Vets, a community event created by a Portland, Ore.-based non-profit called Returning Veterans Project. If anyone eats at the participating restaurants tomorrow, each restaurant will donate a portion of their days' sales to Returning Veterans Project.

Pastini Pastaria, a popular Oregon Italian-themed restaurant chain, will be donating a portion of each sale to the Returing Veterans Project, according to their blog. Pastini Pastaria will "also be offering a free entree to every current service member and veteran on Veteran's Day along with a big 'thank you!' from all of us at Pastini." According to their website, in order to receive a free entree, any veteran or current service member will simply have to let his or her server know. Other participating eateries are On Deck Sports Bar & Grill (located in downtown Portland), 12 Bridge Ciderworks & Taproom in Oregon City, and The Pit Stop Sports Bar & BBQ Grill in Beaverton.

The mission of Returning Veterans Project is to provide free health services for veterans who have served in the military after Sept. 11, 2001 and their families who live in Oregon and Southwest Washington state. According to their website, "Returning Veterans Project fulfills its mission by recruiting, training and supporting a volunteer healthcare network of more than 335 licensed independent mental health and somatic practitioners, healthcare clinic providers and equine therapy projects. To become an R.V.P. provider, each practitioner must be licensed in good standing, complete our application / orientation process and agree to deliver only pro bono mental health and somatic services (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic care and more) to post-9/11 war zone veterans, service members and their families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington."

Mike McCarrel is the director of operations at Returning Veterans Project. When asked about what he enjoys most about working here, he says that "R.V.P. [provides] the opportunity to connect the military community to the civilian community. Our whole model is based on asking volunteer professionals, the majority of which are not veterans, to volunteer a slot of their [health] practice to a post 9/11 veteran or a family member. This creates a space not only to provide needed services to veterans and their families, it also creates an avenue for people from very different backgrounds to connect and support each other in their local communities."

He's not sure yet if he can make it to Pastini Pastaria, but he will try. He also may grab a beer from On Deck Sports Bar & Grill, a new partner that joined forces with his organization last year. Jeff, of 12Bridge Ciderworks & Taproom, will donate 15 percent of all cider sales to the Returning Veterans Project. Jeff served as a Marine Corps reservist for six years.

"I have a special place in my heart for those who serve in combat" he said. "They need all the help we can provide."

Veteran's Day became a legal holiday declared by the U.S. government on May 13, 1938, but the idea behind honoring war heroes started on November 11, 1918. The World War 1 armistice (temporary halting of fighting) was on November 11, 1918 and lasted about seven months before the war officially ended. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day as a day to celebrate and honor those who served in the war. Throughout time, Veteran's Day (when it became a legal holiday) became a way of the U.S. government and fellow Americans to recognize those who served in both world wars and then, as of June 1954, the government voted to change the phrase from Armistice Day to Veteran's Day as a way to honor those who served in the Korean war. Since then, Veteran's Day is a way to honor all of those who served in any U.S. war.

So come down, chow down and know that by simply eating a meal, you are helping a worthy non-profit provide free health care services to worthy veterans.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pasta Gardner's Jeff Gardner Builds Business With Lots of Hard Work, Fun and Creativity

--By Emily Anderson

With a dash of energy, a sprinkling of creativity, a dollop of hard work and lots of love, Jeff Gardner is a 34-year-old chef from Eugene, Ore. who is cooking up one awesome business. While growing his pasta business, aptly named Pasta Gardner, Jeff is reaping the rewards of his pasta garden empire-to-be that he has so earnestly worked hard to sew. Jeff is a friendly, lanky, smiling entrepreneur who is very proud to be doing what he's doing.

Gardner has cooked in Napa Valley, Calif., Georgia, and Italy (where he attended a school called ItalCook) before coming back to live in Eugene. Gardner is a huge fan of Italy in general, and he loves cooking because it brings people together. He is a "certified sous chef," which is a designation he opted to receive about three years ago from the American Culinary Federation - a membership-based organization that provides exams to chefs to prepare them for certification - to let people know  he can cook. Under one of his photos on his website reads the title "CHEF / PASTA-PRENEUR." Perhaps his love of puns is why his business name works so well, or perhaps it's his hard-working demeanor, but either way, a talented, hard working chef and businessman can and should deserve success.

In 2014 Jeff began selling his pasta which he makes from scratch using flour from a local mill and his own pasta maker. His seeds of hope began to sprout when his hobby-turned-passion came to fruition after spending several years perfecting his recipes before he found his perfect match in pasta heaven when he decided to use Camas Country Mill's flour in his pasta noodles. But even then, it took him about a year of testing different Camas Country Mill's flours to find the "right texture and bite," as Gardner puts it.

Once this "aha!" moment came, he knew he was on to something. He realized he could bring his pastas to local farmer's markets to see what other people thought. His dreams sprouted further in 2015 once he cooked for guests touring homes in the Tour of Homes tour (put on by the Home Builders Association of Lane County). As his web of culinary acquaintances grew, he received more offers to help cook at restaurants and events. He started selling his pasta at Eugene's Saturday Market. A representative of Sundance Natural Foods tried Gardner's pasta at Long's Meat Market in Eugene, which is the first place Gardner sold his pasta. Then someone from The Kiva Grocery in Eugene tasted his stuff and as time went on, Gardner's pasta business flourished. His pasta is also for sale at the Whole Foods Eugene location, as well as Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene. It's like the movie Field of Dreams - If you Build It, He Will Come! But replace he with they, as in customers, and they have come. And as of this past spring, Gardner's pasta is now sold in all Market of Choice grocery stores.

Gardner sells his fresh pasta at variety of farmers markets in Eugene and, more recently, the Portland region. Jeff connected with people at the Food Innovation Center in Portland. (The Food Innovation Center is part of the College of Agricultural Sciences of Oregon State University. This center helps people test and bring their products to market.) And as Jeff's circle of friends grew into the Portland region, so did his ability to expand his sales reach. Customers can  purchase 10 types of pastas from his online store: A few restaurants also use his pastas in their establishments: MembrilloNoisette, and Party Downtown in Eugene and Homegrown Public House in Florence, Ore. He does not sell all 10 pastas at his farmer's market tables nor in the stores that stock them. He sells only a few flavors. His favorite shape is the radiatore, and the first pasta he ever sold and pushed the most was the organic red wheat radiatore. "Radiatore" is the Italian word for radiator, and this fun pasta shape is named because it resembles small radiators.

Being busy and having fun is what attracts Jeff to cooking. He loves eating good food while socializing. He loves that foods connects people.

Gardner is often invited to help friends cook at private dinner parties. Most recently, he cooked at a dinner party on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Gran Moraine Winery in Yamhill, Ore. He has cooked at this winery over the years, on an as-needed basis.

Gardner likes to experiment with creative flavor profiles. He sells cricket-flavored pasta as well as cocoa-flavored pasta (sans crickets). He was recently featured on a local Eugene-area news channel's segment called "In The Kitchen" in which he showed the host how to make a noodle kugel. (A kugel is a Jewish word used to describe a baked casserole that has pudding-like consistency.) In this segment, Gardner makes his own variation of a kugel with Pasta Gardner
cocoa pasta. The recipe can be found on the news site:

His business associate is also a chef. Chef Clive Wanstall teaches culinary arts at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore and has since 1998. He's just as friendly as Gardner, and the two make a great dream team. This is evident in the videos Gardner has shared on his Instagram and Facebook feed when the two of them demonstrate their pasta at Market of Choice grocery stores. Pasta Gardner makes its own bags and the logo is simple, yet well-designed.

Gardner is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, which was an academic cooking journey he embarked upon after receiving a scholarship. He attended Lane Community College when this opportunity arose and  Chef Wanstall gave Gardner friendly advice that he ought to take the opportunity in New York. Chef Wanstall is a long-time friend and mentor.

Gardner's been a vendor at the Portland Saturday Market, which is held in downtown Portland every Saturday most of the year (March through December 24). Jeff used to participate in pop-up food events, but they require a lot of prep work, so in the near future, he probably won't do any. Gardner's been gearing up to teach a Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management class at Lane Community College for the upcoming winter term. 

Pasta Gardner officially became a business in early 2014, and it's been a busy, fun journey for Jeff these past few years. He's excited for his next adventure teaching others how to cook, and is definitely excited to be doing something where he's not the boss. Following a curriculum is different for him - he's used to whipping up dishes that delight his fancy at a moment's notice, but one thing is for sure: If he builds it, students will come. And his future students will undoubtedly become fans, and they will become customers and friends. And as his and his gregarious nature continue to take hold in peoples' hearts, and as his amazing pasta continues to tease more taste buds, his pasta garden empire-to-be will be ... his empire.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Drivers for Survivors Non-Profit Enters Starbucks Foundation Upstanders Challenge Video Contest

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about an amazing non-profit doing amazing work in the Fremont, Calif. area called Drivers of Survivors. This non-profit has entered Starbucks Foundations' Upstander Challenge contest. According to the Starbucks Foundation website, the Upstander Challenge contest is a "series highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things to creative positive change ...[by] awarding more than half a million dollars in grants and charities making a difference in their communities.

The contest will be hosted on, a video-sharing platform that allows fans and supporters to interact with brands."

The contest began on October 9 and ends on October 31 at 11:59 p.m. Please view this wonderful 2-minute-long video. A panel of judges will award 25 grants of $25,000 each to eligible 501 (c) 3 non-profits in the United States that generate the most social media buzz. So make sure to view, "like" and share this video by Halloween.

Here's the link:

It's moving how one click can help make a difference. Click. View. Share.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beaverton, Oregon Continues its Welcoming Week Celebrations in a Variety of Places

Portland is very well known as being a progressive city that accepts many people from various cultural, political and economic backgrounds. But its neighboring city to the West, Beaverton, is quickly becoming increasingly accepting of people from all walks of life as well. 

In January of this year, the Beaverton city council declared the city a "sanctuary" city, which means that the city is accepting of people, especially immigrants, who provide social, cultural and economic value to Beaverton.

Welcoming Week is a nation-wide celebration that sanctuary cities such as Beaverton are participating in to spread the message of acceptance among neighbors. The main website of Welcoming America, which is the social change agent, says that "during this annual series of events, communities bring together immigrants, refugees and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone." It is comprised of members, business and regular people who can use the website as a guide to learn how to host events and to write press releases to encourage spreading the message that by "welcoming communities [people] can foster a culture and policy environment that makes it possible for newcomers of all backgrounds to feel valued and to participate fully alongside their neighbors in the social, civic and economic fabric of their adopted hometowns."

So how is the city of Beaverton participating in this national Welcoming Week? Well, the main library hosted a pre-Welcome Week story slam last Thursday and various hosts throughout the city are hosting a variety of events. This afternoon, at 3, there will be a symphony of cultures concert held at a church, while at 4 p.m. there will be a potluck in a city park. Tomorrow night there is an African film screening at the Beaverton City Library, and on Tuesday evening there will be a poetry writing workshop as well as a play at the library.

Although the events have already started, please visit for a list of the upcoming activities. What's cool too is these events are all free to attend.

Christina Hanson is an adult services librarian at the Beaverton City Library and says that staff from both the library and city have coordinated the event planning, along with partner organizations who sometimes bring their own staff to help during the events. When asked how far in advance the Welcoming Week events are planned (this is the third year the city has participated in Welcoming Week), Hanson says that the planning starts about one year in advance. 

"The city encourages citizen groups, non-profits and other organizations to participate by holding [promotional] events ... through their networks," Hanson said. "There is a small group of staff who coordinated the main city-organized events who also serve as the point people for outside groups..." 

The city recently began organizing regular 'welcoming summits' with a wide swath of community groups to help with Welcoming Week planning..."

Ms. Hanson also noted that "Beaverton is the most diverse city in Oregon currently. Over one quarter of Beaverton residents were born outside of the United States. Beaverton's city council and mayor have been committed to using our demographics as a strength and joined Welcoming America's Welcoming Week initiative because of the direct connection to our community."

And while there are occasionally library volunteers to help with the activities when they occur, most of the events run pretty smoothly, Hanson added.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sharing press release written by Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce for upcoming September 7th event at University of San Diego

"San Diego, California, August 24, 2017 --  The Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce (HISCEC) is pleased to announce a public Q&A event and reception with Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), at 5:00 p.m., on Thursday, September 7 at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theater.  

The USHCC represents 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. that together contribute more than $668 billion to the nation’s economy every year.  The USHCC also advocates on behalf of 260 major American corporations through a network of more than 200 local chambers of commerce and business associations.  

Mr. Palomarez is one of the nation’s top Hispanic business leaders.  He will discuss the critical importance of the commercial and economic relationship between Mexico and the United States and the economic impact of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States.

"Small business is the economic engine that drives the American economy - creating 2/3 of all new jobs nationwide. Hispanic entrepreneurs in particular, are launching businesses at a pace more than double the national average. Also, the importance of the relationship with Mexico to small business cannot be overstated. Of the American companies that export, 98 percent are small and midsize businesses, and account for a significant portion of the $1.5 billion in cross border trade every day," said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of USHCC.  

“HISCEC is pleased to host this visit by Mr. Palomarez, one of the nation’s most important advocates for Hispanic small businesses and U.S.-Mexico trade and investment,” said Tayde Aburto, President and CEO of HISCEC.  “In the San Diego region, the entrepreneurship rate among Hispanics exceeds that of the region as a whole.  HISCEC and the USHCC give voice to the importance of Hispanic businesses to the regional and the national economy.”

HISCEC is a 1,100 member, San Diego-based business organization with a network of over 16,000 business owners and professionals, active chapters in Florida and Washington State, and strategic partners in both the United States and Mexico.  

HISCEC's mission is to promote the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized businesses in the marketplace through the use of the Internet as a business tool.  HISCEC’s overarching regional goal is to bring the Hispanic business community of the Tijuana-San Diego mega-region to the forefront of the national economic, commercial, and political agenda.  

For more information on this event and to register, please visit  More information on HISCEC is available at"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

California Cheese Trail Founder Shows her Love of Cheese Through Yearly Map Printing

There's a map that cheese lovers can get their hands on each year. It's a map that showcases the locations of dozens of creameries and farms throughout California with a smattering of information on each. Some of these creameries and farms give tours to the public during certain hours, and some give tours by appointments only. And every year, a cheese lover and entrepreneur named Vivien Straus makes sure that this map is printed for the public.

The California Cheese Trail is not a literal trail but is the map itself. Cheese lovers can traverse California to as many creameries as they want - some are in remote locations and others are in more populated areas of Los Angeles - using this map as their guide to scramble across what Straus' entrepreneurial friends called the California Cheese Trail back in 2010. During a Marin County Economic Forum meeting, once her fellow board members realized she'd be a great agricultural representative, the cheese trail idea was created, and they knew she'd be the one to put the Cheese Trail idea in motion.

To start, she invited about 30 people to her home to talk about this idea and to raise money. The map was first printed in 2010 and Straus ensured that 25,000 copies were printed. At this time, they were only available to the public in two counties. Straus receives money each year to pay for marketing costs to print the map and maintain her website. She has a few advertisements on the map but she doesn't profit from this venture. 

Earlier this year, 75,000 copies of the map were printed. 73 creameries were featured. The online version of the map can be found at and showcases only 42 of the 73. People can print their own map online after downloading it as a PDF file - the 42 locations are the ones that are open to the public. The additional ones on the tangible maps showcase ones that are open to the public as well as ones that are closed to the public (available by appointment only). Straus assures that the real map is the slightly better version.

The northern California regional office of Whole Foods Market provided most of the funding for the $13,000 it cost to print the maps this year. Whole Foods Market is one of the few advertisers featured on the map. And while Whole Foods Market does not carry the maps in its stores, there are other ways to get them. The public can obtain these for free at the Marin County Visitors Bureau, the CaliforniaWelcome Center or the by contacting the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. Straus always keeps a few boxes of maps in her car when she's visiting places that might need them.

When asked why the head of marketing for Whole Foods Market of the northern California regional office supports Straus in her efforts, Norma Quon said:

“A few years ago, Vivien approached us and alerted me to the fact that the Cheese Trail Map was in jeopardy because of the costs associated with map printing. I had always been struck by the cheese map’s almost singular focus in promoting artisanal cheese and its encouragement of family farming, in an era when Northern California cheese making is still fairly new. 

Since then, Whole Foods Market has underwritten the cost of printing, both because of our belief in educating the consumer, but also [because of] our desire to support the overall program. Our NorCal cheese producers have worked incredibly hard to bring the highest quality products to the local market in a very short period of time... It’s an endeavor that we will happily continue to support.”

Straus also receives financial resources from the California Dairy Advisory Board for the map's marketing costs.

The California Artisan Cheese Guild is advertised on this years' map. It supports the website. The site attracts 12,000 visitors each month, according to Straus. If people scroll down to the bottom of the home page, they can download a free App as well from Google Play. It is also available on iTunes.

The executive director of the California Artisan Cheese Guild once stated a few years ago that "the project has been an essential marketing tool for the cheese makers." 

Straus is a beloved member of the cheese community. She understands how dairy farms work and she understands how businesses work. What led people to entrust her to take on this awesomely cheesy task each year?

It relates to her roots. Straus grew up on a dairy farm in the town of Marshall, Calif. She left home at age 18 and over the course of 9 years went to college in Portland, Ore., then moved to San Francisco to pursue theater acting then she ended up in New York and then Hollywood. But she moved back to her home town when she realized she wanted to be around more like-minded people who cared about farming communities like she does. She shares her love of the land and specifically, the importance of farming in her way, through the printing of the California Cheese Trail maps.

Straus currently helps run her family business called Straus Home Ranch, which is aptly named because this is located on the farm where she grew up. The ranch features a vacation rental property as well as plenty of space for weddings or corporate retreats. The cows on the property are diary heifers. And having grown up on this farm, she knows the value of hard work and that farms are essential to the community not just because they provide food, but because she was taught to respect land and open spaces. Her mother Ellen Straus founded the Marin Agricultural Trust in 1980 to try to hinder private development. The Marin Agricultural Trust is advertised on her map (free of charge). She treasures the beauty of the California coast ... all of California really, and she holds cheese makers near and dear to her heart.

Straus has met so many people who make cheese and many cheesemakers have ended up on the map.

For example, Keith Adams of William Cofield Cheesemakers in Sonoma County was glad to be on the map this year for the first time. Adams has noticed that there has been an upturn of visitors where he and his business partner sell cheese at an outdoor market called The Barlow in Sebastopol, Calif.

 Several creameries featured on the maps have employees who know Straus well. Over the years, people have felt she has been essential to the cheese community. Straus says the map is a great way for the general public to see more of California if people are taking road trips and that it can be fun for people to learn more about cheese and to see some farm animals.

Companies that make vegan cheese are not featured on the map. The Cheese Trail is truly an ode to dairy farmers and cheese makers who love to share their joy of cheese making with their patrons. 

Straus absolutely does not have a favorite cheese. If she does have a favorite cheese, it's a temporary feeling that depends on her mood. S
ometimes she likes soft cheeses and others she likes hard cheeses. She likes when different milks are mixed.

Straus absolutely does not have a favorite cheese maker on her map, but she values each farm for its own sense of cheese and farming pride. However, she does love that Ramini Mozzarella has water buffalo on site (after all, milk from water buffalo is how real mozzarella is made). She loves that Stepladder Creamery has goats on site and that sometimes visitors can pet the goats. She loves that Achadinha Cheese Company gives private tours and that “if people time the tours right, they can be part of the cheese making.”

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is another great company featured on the map this year (#53) and has been on the map since 2010.

Hilmar Cheese Company is located in the "middle of nowhere" - though not far from highway 99 - and it is the largest cheese maker in the world. Straus says they have a nice, walkable museum to tour and that it can be really fun to see workers unload 200-pound blocks of cheese. 

This map is her ode to all the dairy farmers, cheese makers, cheese conoisseurs and cheese lovers. Keep grating, creating and celebrating cheese and all it does for our souls and our palettes!