Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Local Community Fibre Internet Service Provider is O-NET, Olds, Alberta, Canada

Taking Control of Your Destiny

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If there is one thing you can do Monday that will make your community grow, what will it be?

Local communities are going through difficult times in Alberta, Canada. The Province is hurting from tens of thousands of people out of work. Businesses are shutting down. Folk are seeing their livelihoods disappear. Hope is increasingly in short supply. A series of events are causing pain in Alberta. People all over are forced to deal with it. Some communities are better equipped to deal with it, than others.


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Alberta got everything it could have wanted in the modern world. It is energy-rich, food rich, and enterprise rich. Not so long ago, and for a while it was the chief breadwinner for the entire Canada - a "have" Province. Billions of oil royalty dollars from the pockets of the Prairie citizens sustained social welfare for the entire country of Canada - the "have not" Provinces.

In good times people often neglect to ask the hard questions. Questions about a future that may not be as rosy as the present. Responsible people know that good times don't last. They don't wait for adversity before addressing risk. These people don't wait for others to move. They don't rely on governments and corporations to do things for them. They take control of their destiny. Take measures into their hands to become future-proof. They have a producer mindset.

Just north of Calgary, twelve years ago a small community's leaders dared to confront their town's hard questions. It set in motion a series of events that is now helping its people.

Joe Gustafson, the chair of the Olds Institute puts it this way: "The people of Olds took destiny into their hands by investing in infrastructure that helped to create more capacity to connect, do business, innovate, educate, learn and compete."

O-NET started to connect the community in Olds.  As a result, residents and businesses have access to the kinds of technology services and experiences you’d only find in larger cities. They went all out. Olds now has access to technology services and experiences you only find in a select few places on the planet!

It has Gigabit Internet.

In 2004, the Technology Committee of the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development began focusing on laying the foundation for this connected community with the development of an Open Access Telecommunication Network. In 2011, the construction of a state-of-the-art fibre-optic network began. With this network now in place throughout the entire community, every resident and business in town have access to technology that far exceeds that which major corporations in cities of the world can access.

As Canada’s first community-owned and operated Fibre-to-the-Premises network, O-NET brings together and delivers unique broadcasting, phone and Internet services to their residential and business customers. They have the fastest Internet in the country, the latest high-definition television features, fully customizable telephone systems, mass data storage and unlimited capacity for virtual private networks and other computer systems. The town stepped into the 21st Century. The rest of Alberta fell behind.

Observations


Olds made the commitment to a fibre network once they acknowledged the importance of Internet as a utility in the same way electricity, sanitation and water are important to the town. With it, the community is better off.

The approach to sourcing and provisioning changes, if the Internet is treated as a utility. It becomes a common community concern. Its quality becomes recognised as having an integral role and impact on the lives of all the people; it cannot be entrusted to someone else in the hope that they will have your best interest at heart. It becomes the responsibility of the members of the community to have a stake in infrastructure that serves and impacts their daily lives.

The utility infrastructure and its performance attract a different level of ownership, commitment, control and responsibility from a community. Collectively they invest in it, use it, and share in its benefits. The burden of the utility is divided amongst the various members, with heavier users contributing more to offset the cost.

Yes, high-speed Internet is bringing more business to Olds. It is the term "capacity" that got our attention. Having the infrastructure created more capacity for the community overall. It contributes to better business, education, entertainment, communication and innovation. It enriches people's lives in Olds. There is no end to the possibilities it offers the people of the community.

The biggest value of the investment is its ability to give the members of Olds options. With options, people can weather the storm.

We are proud to tell a little of the O-NET story. There is a lot more exciting story to be told, and we look forward to bring you further instalments about O-NET, The Olds Institute and the successful Producers in communities all over Alberta.

Hendrik van Wyk
One of the Two Cowboys
O-Net Users.

Who we are: We are a social enterprise. We are funded through donations and sponsorship
All our earnings are applied back to covering our costs of marketing and promoting Producers and inspiring local communities. Please support us to bring you more (www.forwardthefavour.com)

Photos

Olds 
Connected

Summer Time

Future Producers

Capacity

Past

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Small Town Newspaper - Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canmore, Alberta

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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In the autumn of 2000, Larry Marshall, Bob Schott, and Carol Picard began planning for a new publication in the Canmore-Banff corridor. It will be a community newspaper that would cover all communities from Lake Louise to Kananaskis. It is the place we call home. The Bow Valley.


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They had a novel idea for the day, of a free weekly newspaper. It would put the news, entertainment, and sports updates from the community into the hands of residents and the area's millions of tourists. It will also offer advertisers another vehicle to reach those visitors. 

The paper saw the light September 1, 2001. Today the paper is in its 15th year fulfilling its mandate. It is an institution in the Bow Valley. A must read for everyone and anyone that has an interest in this bucket list location.

Enjoy with us the video as we get to know a bit more about the people behind the Rocky Mountain Outlook and the history of the paper as we also take a closer look at why a newspaper remains an important part of, and plays a critical role in the health of a community.

Local News


The world is a much smaller place today thanks to an online connected and digital world. An all too familiar message is that newspapers are under threat.

The Internet reaches into all the corners of our daily lives. We do our banking, shopping, learning, and get our entertainment online. Social media ensures we remain connected through mobile phones. We have the opportunity to know more than we ever did about elections in foreign countries and interact with people we are unlikely ever to meet.

The Internet has made information and news more accessible. It has also added equal access to information by allowing any and all perspectives to have access to, publish and interpret information online.

"When we go online", writes columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, "each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper." Where once the ability to disseminate information was restricted to those with printing presses or broadcast mechanisms, the Internet has enabled thousands of individuals to communicate directly with others through sites, blogs, instant message, and social media services.

It is no mystery then that the "classic" role of newspapers are under threat. Wikipedia even devotes an entry to the subject. They refer to it as "The Decline of Newspapers". Is there then still a place for a community newspaper (emphasis on "paper") in a world like this?

Can a small town newspaper still play a role and flourish in today's digital age?

According to the folks at the Rocky Mountain Outlook, there is still a huge role for a community newspaper. Once you set aside the format conversation (paper versus digital), there is a significant opportunity and content responsibility that remains. Let's take a closer look.

For the Community


I've referred to a common recent social condition as "the connectedness fallacy." Because of ubiquitous access to information, we sometimes confuse access with relevancy. The urgency of social media and astonishing volume of Internet "news" bombards us all the time. It creates an illusion of involvement. Information confronts us every day that is unlikely to be relevant or to have an impact on our day-to-day lives.

While Putin's and the Canadian Prime Minister's shirtless antics may be comical, it has nothing to contribute to our morning coffee (except some entertainment). Donald Trump's latest gaffe may help with keeping bowel movements regular and be concerning to the free world (of America).

Instead, local news has an impact on our day-to-day lives. Our Mayor's most recent opinion on wastewater management may be a much bigger issue for us today. His mood has the potential to affect your pocket. We should know more about that. Our local newspaper will probably be the source to tell us about it, long before the Mayor does himself.

The value of the community newspaper is in identifying and highlighting relevant content to the members of the community. The paper has a role as a mirror and as a conscience. People get to read about and see themselves. We get information that may affect us and our families. It is a channel where the overall mood of the people is reflected, where stupidity is called out, and where people lodge concerns. Above all, it is also a way for local businesses to connect with their customers.

The local newspaper is therefore not just necessary; it has an immense role to play and a responsibility to the community.

While the Rocky Mountain Outlook has been telling our stories for fifteen years now, we are proud to return the favour. Thank you for the opportunity to tell your story, Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer - Rocky Mountain Outlook Reader

Who we are: We are a social enterprise. We are funded through donations and sponsorship
All our earnings are applied back to covering our costs of marketing and promoting Producers and inspiring local communities. Please support us to bring you more (www.forwardthefavour.com)

Photos

With Coffee

Banff

Every Day

Community

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

o-CNN: Chucking Scallops at the Whitianga Scallop Festival in Coromandel, New Zealand

Raw is Better


Or, is it? 

One of New Zealand's most popular seafood events, the Whitianga Scallop Festival took place this past Saturday the 10th of September 2016. 


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Sixty cuisine stands came together to cater for an estimated 4,000 - 5,000 attendees by turning out mouth watering dishes, and serving crisp chilled local wines (from the Waikato of all places!). 

If the food wasn't enough to get you there, then the entertainment did the rest. The festival included performances from iconic New Zealand performers (none of whom we knew), seafood cooking demonstrations from celebrity NZ chefs (Ray McVinnie we knew and were also fortunate to interview). The stars of the occasion were undoubted: Fresh Coromandel Scallops, Oysters, and Kina (Sea Urchin).

And this is exactly where the rubber hit the road. All three of these star attractions needed no special attention if you listened to the locals. Once chucked: "You should eat them raw!".

We can now proudly proclaim that we've lost our seafood virginity. We ate our scallops raw. All of them. Whitianga Scallop Festival introduced us to heavenly combinations of Scallops and Champagne, Kina and Port, and Oyster Shots (something to do with Tomato, Tabasco, and Vodka). 

I can honestly testify that once alcohol got involved, it was hard to know the difference between cooked or raw. In the end, the texture was all that gave it away - rubbery or juicy. All of them stayed down with our breakfast.

The Coromandel put its best foot forward in all manner of ways. The Spring weather was perfect. The roads were as twisty as usual (making sure that only the best Scallops stayed behind). The scenery was breathtaking, and the people friendly. 

Anyone that contemplates a trip to New Zealand, should aim for the Coromandel this time of year. It is surprising to see how well the Kiwi's are keeping this thirteen-year-old event, a secret from the outside world (of New Zealand). 

I think we were probably the only foreigners there, except for a few lost Canadian Geese on a pond.

Enjoy the video. We had fun making it

Hendrik van Wyk
Sea Cowboy (not really).

Who we are: We are a social enterprise. We are funded through donations and sponsorship
All our earnings are applied back to covering our costs of marketing and promoting Producers and inspiring local communities. Please support us to bring you more (www.forwardthefavour.com)


Photos

Sun and Surf
Adrenalin and Wine

Cowboy!






Monday, September 12, 2016

o-CNN: Weta Coffee - Your Local Roaster in One Tree Hill, Auckland New Zealand

The First and the Last

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There should be two important and largely invisible people in every person's life. Ones with the power to make a person's day. They are people not usually noticed, but who are integrally part of our daily routines. Thanks to them, life can tick over with a familiar and predictable rhythm. Without them, it becomes just a little bit harder. If they play their parts perfectly, you don't notice them. If they mess up, everything is affected.


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Even when things don't always go to plan, these people provide you with a foundational stability and familiar comforts. Something reliable. They help to prepare you to face the next big challenge life may throw at you.

No, I am not talking about the people stocking your toilet paper. I am referring to the two unsung hero's of our society: The Barman, and the Barista. The one puts you to bed at night, and the other wakes you in the morning. The one pours you your favourite drink after a hard days work. The other, sets you up for greatness in the morning, with your first kick of caffeine for the day.

It is important that you choose these people carefully for a harmonious and meaningful life. Ask anyone that is married just how critical this choice is. Yes, it can be your spouse or partner. My preference is professionals for these paramount tasks.

The Professionals


This is what we encountered when we were graciously nudged on Facebook to pay Weta Coffee a visit in one of Auckland, New Zealand's more established neighbourhoods: One Tree Hill (also referred to as "None" Tree Hill - there is a story there for another time). Miles and Sandra at Weta are professionals. They know what to do to start One Tree Hill's folks off on a good day, every day of the week. 

Every corner store in New Zealand boasts an espresso machine. It is the land of milk and honey (and good coffee, generally). The bar is significantly higher in this part of the world if you want to stand out as a "hole in the wall" neighbourhood coffee spot. There are a lot of good coffee places.

Weta Coffee graduates with flying colours by roasting and blending their beans to the taste preferences of their loyal, discerning, and by now, very devoted clientele. When you drink Weta Coffee, you get One Tree Hill's coffee. A little on the stronger side, a bit more acidity, rich, with a lingering chocolate note as Miles Masters (Roaster and Co-Owner) prefers it. Above all, it is fresh because they roast and blend it themselves every Sunday afternoon. 

How do you judge the quality of a coffee shop? 

For the Two Cowboys, the coffee shop must occupy the vital place of being the (morning) heart of the community. Like your local brewery or bar, the coffee shop is the place where the people of the area come together to meet the neighbours, talk about the weather, kids and politics (if you have to), and to relax.

It is encouraging to see Myles and Sandra make a move from corporate to craft. Even more encouraging to find them producing a premium quality coffee in a small corner of One Tree Hill. A trip to Weta is worth the effort. We promise. 

If you want the taste of One Tree Hill but cannot get there yourself, you can order it online for shipping in and around New Zealand: http://wetacoffee.co.nz/. If you want to see them roast, see them. It happens on Sunday afternoons.

Hendrik van Wyk
Weta Coffee Fan

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Who we are: We are a social enterprise. We are funded through donations and sponsorship
All our earnings are applied back to covering our costs of marketing and promoting Producers and inspiring local communities. Please support us to bring you more (www.forwardthefavour.com)

Photos

The Bug

The Beast

On Tap 

On the Road

For the Community


Thursday, September 8, 2016

o-CNN: Chocolate and Coffee Show in Auckland, New Zealand

Artisan Collaboration


What do you get when you put cheese and chocolate together, beer and candy, or even better: Bourbon and Honey? We are not sure what you call these creations. Individually they are amazing. Together, we discovered them to be phenomenal!


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The Two Cowboys accepted an invitation from Dale Spencer to attend the annual Auckland Chocolate and Coffee Show. It happened at The Cloud on the Auckland Waterfront, during the recent Fathers Day Weekend (The Kiwi's do Fathers day on a different day to the rest of the world. Here it is done in Spring. As part Kiwi and part Canadian, I get to have Fathers day twice in a year.)

The show made a bold promise: "You will be enticed by irresistible aromas and exotic flavours, amazed by the diversity of products, surprised by the skills displayed, informed about techniques to use at home and excited about everything on offer for two days only at The Chocolate and Coffee Show."

It sounds like poetry, doesn't it? Enticing, amazing, surprising, informing, and exciting. We had to find out more. Come with us...

Observations


We think New Zealand is an oasis in the Producer and maker universe. The sheer number of artisan businesses in this beautiful country is mind-blowing if it is compared to other similar populations, like our native Alberta, Canada. A lot of these businesses are involved in the production of high quality food products. Chocolate and Coffee is no exception.

This makes sense given the agricultural abundance and climate of the two New Zealand Islands. Add to this old-world craftsmanship, with new-world innovation from a growing and ever more energetic immigrant population, and you have a winning recipe for creative artisan enterprise. People come from Italy, France, Brazil, England, South Africa, China, and almost every other nation of the world and end up within a melting pot of reinvention and new creation.

This energy produce quality products, better processes, and all round deliciousness. New Zealand as a country is better off for it. I don't think they know just how lucky they are.

To illustrate my point: In this small market, and in one room on a Sunday morning in downtown Auckland, we've found the worlds best Limoncello, the world's second best Blue Cheese for 2015, a beer that tastes like Rocky Road Candy, Beer Jelly, Chocolate Salami, Pilsner Ganache, Gourmet Nut Butter (with maple Syrup). The list goes on and on.

It is amazing to think that this is only one tiny sliver of a food show, amongst many that take place throughout the year. True food innovation is happening in New Zealand. It is delicious.

How can this be possible?

Here is a theory on why New Zealand has flourishing artisan food businesses:

  • New Zealand Attracts Amazing Talent: People from all over the world flock to the safety and lifestyle of New Zealand, with a moderate climate and friendly tolerant people. This talent brings important and unique knowledge and skill from their home countries. They know how to produce some of the worlds best products and they have not choice but to give it a go in an environment that makes it easy to do. 
  • Ingredients: Talent is married with amazing ingredients and access to processes and equipment. New Zealand produces some of the best ingredients in the world. Its dairy products are well known. Other ingredients are imported with little effort from all over the world. Equipment is locally manufactured by equally enterprising entrepreneurial engineers, or acquired from Asia, Europe and America. Training and education is accessible, and people are encouraged to be entrepreneurial.
  • It is Easy to Do Business in New Zealand: Yes, the mandatory registrations, labour laws, safety compliance, and permitting is around as is expected (overbearing in some cases), but people tolerate the overhead in a flourishing economy. It is going well in New Zealand financially, compared to some of the other markets in the world. People have hope, stability and are encouraged to produce. 
  • Access to Customers and Markets: For small artisan food businesses there are a number of market opportunities that stand out. Farmers' markets are abundant and well supported. Food shows and festivals take place often and give exposure to up and coming and established businesses. Online retailing is easy. Shipping locally and internationally is effective and affordable. It is a small country, and people travel easily. Enterprise mobility is encouraged. (New Zealand hasn't really woken up to the mobile food/goods truck scene, but it is only a matter of time before you will find them in main centres. Towns like Nelson (I've heard) have already embraced the movement.)
  • Tourism: People from all over the world enjoy New Zealand's products and love to visit for the scenery. Tourism is now New Zealand's largest industry. Businesses serving this discerning market is encouraged, popular and does well financially. If small businesses cannot go to large markets, it is better to encourage these markets to come to you. New Zealand is doing a good job of marketing the country with visitor numbers growing year-over-year. 
As you can see. A lot is going right in New Zealand's small and medium producer business. We love to tell these successful stories. Keep an eye out for more from the Chocolate and Coffee show, and others as we discover them on our amazing journey. We promise to keep it coming.

Hendrik van Wyk
The Cowboy.

Get rewarded for supporting our local Producers:
  • Receive special offers and invitations from the Two Cowboys and our Producers when you subscribe to our email list.

Who we are: We are a social enterprise. We are funded through donations and sponsorship
All our earnings are applied back to covering our costs of marketing and promoting Producers and inspiring local communities. Please support us to bring you more (www.forwardthefavour.com)

Photos


Honeylicious

Someone said beer...

Like Mamma Used to Make

Cold One Candy

Feel It

Like Old Country

Macadamia

Macaroooon

Marbles


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