Posts Tagged ‘Western Massachusetts’

I’m going to PodCamp WesternMass!

January 15, 2010

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience yesterday, getting to present Twitter: Where’s the ROI? at Online Impact at STCC’s Technology Park yesterday. It was an excellent event, and a huge thank you to John Garvey, Dave Sweeney, and Gordon Snyder for putting on the event and inviting me.

It was also great to reconnect with so many great folks who attended the inaugural PodCamp WesternMass, people like Christine Pilch, Jason Turcotte, Kelly Galanis, and Tom Galanis.

So I’m excited to announce that PodCamp WesternMass is happening again this year at Westfield State College on Saturday, February 6, 2010! It was so fantastic last year. We had about 60 people show up, and I hope even more attend this year. For those of you thinking about coming, check out the blogs, photos, and videos that came out of last year’s event. Here are a couple to give you a flavor for why people get excited about this special event:

Jaclyn Stevenson: We Came. We Saw. We Blogged About It.

Shawn Toohey: PodCamp WesternMass 2009

You can read all of them on the PodCamp WM’s wiki page.

Reserve your spot by registering on Eventbrite!

Then mark down that you are coming on both the Facebook event page and LinkedIn event page, and let all your friends and colleagues know about it! I can’t wait!

If you are going to PodCamp WesternMass, please post a blog about your past experience, or what you are looking forward to about attending this year. Use the social media tools to spread the word!

Zucchinis and credit unions: Not strange bedfellows

November 30, 2009

I love it when credit unions display their awesomeness.

And recently, UMassFive College FCU did just that.

I was driving about Western Massachusetts, when I heard a news story on our local NPR affiliate, WFCR, about UMassFive College FCU and their new CSA loan. Here’s the one-minute radio segment about it: Credit Union loans for farm shares

This statement may raise some or all of the following questions from you:

1.) What does CSA stand for, and what is it?
2.) What is a CSA loan?
3.) Why is it a perfect match that a Credit Union should offer a CSA loan?
4.) Why is this a brilliant business strategy on the part of UMassFive College FCU?
5.) What could UMassFive do to promote their CSA loans even further?
6.) Why do I care?

Q. What does CSA stand for, and what is it?
A. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically it’s a cooperative farm, in a similar way that a credit union is a cooperative financial institution. Customers each purchase a share of the food that is made by the farm. For example, one share might cost $700 for the year. During the spring, summer, and fall, you come to the farm and grab that week’s share of food, the contents and amount of which will vary during the harvest season. Typically, you get a box full of fantastic fresh produce each week. Here’s an example of what Simple Gifts Farm’s produce share consists of. The photo on the right is a typical summer week’s share from Doe Run Farm, a CSA in Tennessee.

What is the advantage of a CSA? Terrifically fresh and local food. Savings over what it would cost if purchased from a grocery store. Half-shares are also often available from a CSA, which get you half the amount of a full share of the farm harvest each week, usually at somewhat more than half the cost of a full share. Often times, membership in a CSA also requires a few hours per month helping to box up the week’s harvest.

Q. What is a CSA loan?
A. A CSA loan is a loan for the cost of one year’s share. While many people might be interested in buying local, and supporting local agriculture for a variety of reasons, many of the people interested in doing it can’t afford a lump sum payment of $600-$700. So in this case, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union is offering their members a NO-INTEREST loan, payable over 6 months, to finance buying a share in the CSA. So instead of $700 in one payment, the consumer would be able to pay $117 a month for six months. For many families, they may lower their total grocery bills while receiving a plentiful amount of fresh fruits and veggies.

Q. 3.) Why is it a perfect match that a Credit Union should offer a CSA loan?
A. The sixth of the Seven Cooperative Principles states that cooperatives should cooperate with each other. Both credit unions and CSAs are cooperatives. Both are (usually) dedicated to local cooperative principles. It’s a perfect fit.

Q.) Why is this a brilliant business strategy on the part of UMassFive College FCU?
A.) Because great businesses differentiate themselves, which creates a brand unique to that business. Credit unions are the only type of financial institution which can partner with CSAs in this way, authentically. (Banks could do it, but they’d be seen as copycats. Realistically, offering these types of loans is not on any bank’s radar screen.) This loan does many things at once: Strengthens the credit union’s brand as a local cooperative, actively doing things to strengthen the community which they serve. It also helps the CSA by making it possible for more people to afford to buy shares in it. It helps the member by spreading the payments for a CSA share out over several months.

There are other benefits of of buying local food, (belonging to a CSA is one way to do it), from which the Credit Union’s brand image is enhanced by association: CSAs help reduce the nation’s overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the fuel needed to package and transport food through the wholesaler to supermarket supply chain.

Offering interest-free CSA loans is not going to add significant dollars to the CU’s bottom line, nor is it going to cost them a significant amount. But their reputation is enhanced immeasurably, and management and the board must be taking the position that the PR gained, and thus future business, will more than offset the small amount of the cost of the program. Already, being interviewed by the local NPR affiliate is fantastic marketing, which had no cost.

Q. What could UMassFive do to promote their CSA loans even further?
A. Right now, their CSA loan page has a link to a local food site. I’m not sure if UMassFive is promoting this in their lobbies and teller lines too, but if not, they should. Also, they could provide a more direct link to the CSAs that are in the same area as the majority of their members. And of course, they should get in touch with all of these area CSAs and make them explicitly aware of their interest-free loans. UMassFive could also create a CU/CSA-day event, inviting representatives of the CSA to bring samples to the CU, and make it a festive occasion, bringing both more awareness to the CSAs themselves, and to the fact that UMassFive supports them. Also, UMassFive could publicize the WFCR story about their CSA loans nationally, which if successful, will increase the pride that its members have in it.

Q. Why do I care?
A. Long before I knew what a credit union was, as a child, my mother belonged to a food coop. Now that I’ve made a profession helping credit unions, it’s great to see a credit union that is doing something that makes a lot of sense from a business and community-enhancement standpoint. And by so doing makes the world a better place.

Oh yeah, and my mother is a not only a member of UMassFive College FCU, she’s also a member of CSA Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst. And on Thursdays in the fall, she often brings my son there to help gather the week’s share.

Why I love Western Massachusetts

November 19, 2009

SunsetMy honey, Lesley Lambert, poses the question what are you thankful for about Western Mass? on her blog. My reply became so lengthy it needed its own space:

As a kid growing up in Amherst, I took the Pioneer Valley for granted, and lamented the things it lacked. Namely interesting things to do for teenagers, (aside from going to the movies), and not many good venues for a performing rock band (though we probably were not as good as we thought we were back then.)

I went away from the Valley for my college years, to the University of Utah, to be near my dad and family there, as well as to broaden my horizons. I loved the mountains and the time I spent there, but then I returned to Western Mass right after. As an adult, I discovered an immense beauty and wealth of resources here that I simply was not aware of in my youth. My love affair with Western Mass started with a trip to Tanglewood, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

As I wrote in the description for the first PodCamp held in Western Mass, we have a joyous blend of urban and rural; business, academics, and the arts; it’s big enough to have interesting places, things, events and people, but small enough to hear yourself think.

Here are the reasons I love Western Mass:

CT River from the S Hadley BeechgroundsThe Connecticut River – The word connecticut is a French corruption of the Algonquin word meaning “long river”. This river is the longest river in New England, and is what brought people and industry to the Pioneer Valley. It’s a beautiful river, and I enjoy looking at it every time I cross it on one of the many bridges that span it in Western Mass. There are boat tours on it out of Brunelle’s Marina in South Hadley, as well as out of Northfield at the energy facility there (now called FirstLight Power).

Wonderful People – Western Mass is the perfect blend of small town, mid-size cities, rural, and educated, intelligent people. Our fantastic, world-class education attracts wonderful, quirky, thoughtful, intelligent, geo-aware folks. Our people are real, interesting, and down-to-earth for the most part. Plus the diversity of people and their interests are rather amazing. And oh, did I mention talented?

The Seasons – Exactly as Lesley states, it’s an ever changing beauty, always something new. Spectacular fall foliage, summers that are warm but not too hot (usually), winter that has enough snow for fun outdoor activities like skiing and sledding, and makes being indoors cozy, and spring which is blooming and growing time.

Peak of DeadtopThe cute little hills most locals call mountains. Having grown up both in Western Mass and Utah, I have a tough time calling our hills mountains. But they are elevation, unlike the great plains states which have an elevation variation of plus/minus 15 feet. But our “mountains” are cute, are easily climbable, provide some elevation variety, and do have fantastic views. Mount Tom, Mount Holyoke, Mount Sugarloaf, Noble View, and the edge of the Berkshires, including Goshen, Chesterfield, etc

The Berkshires – I didn’t really know much about the Berkshires as a kid, but as an adult I am thrilled to discover all they have to offer. Especially Tanglewood and….

ProjectionsMassMoCA – A recent addition, it’s now the jewel of the Berkshires as far as I’m concerned; even better than Tanglewood – MassMoCA is a huge, converted mill building complex devoted to modern art. Worth visiting multiple times per year. Always shifting, and also includes performing arts, music, movies, etc.

View from on highHidden Gems EVERYWHERE – So MANY things to discover here…. I think I know Western Mass well, yet I am CONTINUALLY discovering new cool places, hidden gems, such as kayaking and canoeing on the Connecticut from Barton’s Cove in Gill, great trails and a spectacular view from Noble View in Westfield, incredible world class restaurants such as the Blue Heron in Sunderland, Mike’s Maze (corn maze) also in Sunderland, the historic train station in Chester, Drive In movie theater in Northfield, interesting golf courses everywhere, mini golf in East Longmeadow among others, softball leagues in every town in the lower valley, world-class colleges and universities, fabulous cafes, bookstores, restaurants in Northampton, Amherst and so many other towns, the Montague Bookmill (bumper sticker: books you don’t need in a place you can’t find), Magic Wings (butterfly conservatory in South Deerfield), the Basketball Hall of Fame, sports teams such as the Springfield Falcons, the new Springfield Armor, UMass sports, Holyoke minor league baseball, boat tours in South Hadley and Northfield, oh, and I almost forgot the Big E that happens every September…

Outdoors – Aside from the CT River, kayaking, and hill/mountains already mentioned, there are scores of state forests, swimming, camping, hiking, and geocaching opportunities throughout all four counties of Western Mass. Notable hiking includes the Holyoke Range and Mount Tom, as well as the Appalachian Trail that goes through the Berkshires.

Herrell'sScores of adorable downtowns – Many are in need of help, but there are still some great downtowns in Western Mass – Northampton, Amherst, Indian Orchard, Chicopee, Greenfield, Westfield, West Springfield, Florence, Easthampton, Shelburne Falls, Great Barrington, and I’m sure I’m missing others

Fresh Beer – Berkshire Brewing Co, Paper City, and Opa Opa. And the Northampton Brewery and the Dirty Truth in Northampton for enjoying them, among many other establishments.

Here’s a link to just some of the Western Mass photos I’ve taken over the years.

Proximity – Lesley listed proximity to NYC or Boston. While those two cities have their appeal, there’s a vast wealth of wonder which is not urban. Within a three hour drive, you can get to ALL other New England states, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, as well as New York. Also, within a five hour drive is Canada, including Montreal. Notable charms within a few hour drive: Upstate New York, including the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Albany, Schenectady, the Adirondacks, Lake George, Lake Placid, Plattsburgh. In Vermont, there’s Burlington, Lake Champlain and islands, Brattleboro, Windsor, Ascutney, Manchester, and ski resorts galore. In New Hampshire, there’s skiing, Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, camping, skiing, Manchester, Portsmouth, Keene, Concord, The Common Man restaurants. In Maine, there’s the beaches, resorts, Rockland, Portland, LL Bean, Kittery, lighthouses, islands, and lots o mooses. In RI, there’s Providence and Newport (including the mansions), and there’s too much in CT to even begin listing all that that state has to offer, including wineries, beaches, camping, Hartford, adorable downtowns, restaurants, steam train rides, etc

And if you expand your horizons a bit further, within a day’s drive is Bar Harbor, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Toronto, Quebec City, and Washington DC.

BeechgroundsBut bottom line are the people. People who are friendly, genuine, interesting, and most importantly, care about where they live, and the other people who share their love of all that is Western Mass. Of course, my number one reason why I love it here is that this is where my family and friends live. But aside from that, they all love it here for all the reasons listed above.

Aside from the meager reasons listed above, I guess Western Mass doesn’t have too much to offer after all. ;)

What did I miss? Share it here or on Lesley’s blog!

Fred Brown visits EverythingCU.com HQ

November 6, 2009

Fred Brown stops byBased in Western Massachusetts, EverythingCU.com doesn’t often get a CU executive stopping by our offices to say hi.

So it was such a great pleasure that EverythingCU.com member Fred Brown, from Northeast Family FCU in Manchester, CT stopped by for the nickel tour. Fred is originally from Holyoke, and knows the area well.

Fred was kind enough to give us some Credit Union Man™ schwag, including the hat I’m wearing in the above photo! (That’s Fred on the left, and me on the right.) Thanks so much for visiting us Fred!

Time to rethink Marketing 1.0 techniques

April 17, 2009

My new friend, and Amherst native, Ron Miller has graciously allowed me to be a guest author on his new blog, Social Media 101, which is co-created with Julie Roads.

I met Ron through mutual friend Tish Grier, who brought the two of us together, along with Ann Kingman, to be on a social media panel for the Hidden Tech group of Western Mass.

My guest post describes how those brought up in traditional marketing must adjust their mind-set in order to thrive in World 2.0.

It’s an honor to appear on Ron’s and Julie’s excellent new blog!

Publicity for EverythingCU

November 13, 2007

A nice article about EverythingCU was just published in our local business magazine, Business West. HUGE thanks to Jaclyn Stevenson for conducting a great interview and doing an outstanding job capturing the ongoing evolution of EverythingCU. I am looking forward to working with Jaclyn and Tish Grier to create the PodCampWesternMass event scheduled for March 1, 2008.


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