Is Farming The New Best Thing?

Is Farming The New Best Thing?

I think it’s pretty damn cool

Farming is cool

Detroit used to be a city of 2 million people. As the economy collapsed, people fled. Fewer than 900,000 remain and the population continues to decrease. The only thing that continues to rise is the jobless rate which went up as recently as November, when it was reported to be over 15%, and maybe as high as 27% in the worst downtown areas. So they have that going for them. And with the loss of jobs and people has come an increase in abandoned land. In fact, over 40 square miles of a total 139, in this sprawling metropolis is now empty.

According to an article from CNNMoney:

Nothing yet tried in Detroit even begins to address the fundamental issue of emptiness — empty factories, empty office buildings, empty houses, and above all, empty lots. Rampant arson, culminating in the annual frenzy of Devil’s Night, is partly to blame. But there has also been a lot of officially sanctioned demolition in Detroit. As white residents fled to the suburbs over the decades, houses in the decaying neighborhoods they left behind were often bulldozed.

Abandonment is an infrastructure problem, when you consider the cost of maintaining far-flung roads and sewer systems; it’s a city services problem, when you think about the inefficiencies of collecting trash and fighting crime in sparsely populated neighborhoods; and it’s a real estate problem. Houses in Detroit are selling for an average of $15,000.

Former HUD secretary and current chairman of the private equity group, CityView, Henry Cisneros believes that the idea of urban agriculture is a viable solution to Detroit’s problems. Other experts agree.

Enter John Hantz, major millionaire and resident of Detroit, who remains in the city, doing business and maintaining his home, while others of his class participate in the exodus. Hantz has formed Hantz Farms and hired Mike Score, an educator and consultant with 30 years experience in agricultural production, food system economic and community development to serve as president.

Hantz’ vision is of a technologically advanced and aesthetically pleasing design that features small (300 acre) farm pods throughout areas that are now just urban blight. Hantz is willing to commit 30 million to the project.

From Hantz Farms’ website:

Phase 1 plans utilize more than 70 acres of underutilized vacant lands and abandoned properties on Detroit’s lower east side.

Hantz Farms plans to grow natural, local, fresh and safe fruits and vegetables to help meet Michigan’s increasing demand for locally grown produce. In addition to food and trees, Hantz Farms will harvest wind energy and utilize geothermal heat and biomass fuel from recycling compost.

Hantz Farms is working directly with Michigan State University to add its expertise on agricultural and soil sciences and consulting with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a national leader in community-based food systems.

“It makes great sense to utilize the blighted and abandoned land in the city to produce fresh, nutritious food for local consumers,” said Rick Foster, vice president for programs at the Kellogg Foundation. “Urban development projects like this one not only create good food and connection to nature, but serve as an economic development anchor for others in the community.”

“Urban agriculture is an opportunity to provide an effective economic development program for the Detroit community. MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been providing expert advice to Hantz Farms along with the MSU’s Michigan Agriculture Experiment Station and MSU Extension to develop a productive outreach and engagement program as part of the proposal,” said Jeffry D. Armstrong, Dean of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “This is a challenging and exciting opportunity.”

Heading up Hantz Farms LLC, will be Matt Allen, a Detroit resident and advocate for Hantz’s vision.

“The combination of land consolidation, blight removal, conservation of city services and the beautification of the city itself are just some of the byproducts that will come from our commitment to urban farming,” Allen said. “We’re very excited to be able to make strides in helping to make Detroit a progressive, world-class leader in providing fresh, locally grown food that’s safe and purely Detroit.”

Urban farming is hardly a new concept and in fact is practiced with great success in many parts of the world. For example: In Shanghai, only 20% of the land administered by the city authorities is actually built on; 80% of the land, mainly in the urban perimeter, isused for crop growing, making the city region self-sufficient in vegetables and producing much of the rice, pork, chicken, duck and carp. (source “Urban Agriculture and Sustainable Cities” by Deestra and Girardet.)

More greenspace can improve the microclimate of densely populated cities, as well as lower emissions by reducing the need to truck food in from great distances as we do for most cities in the U.S. today. Food is fresher, can be farmed sustainably and the need for packaging is even diminished, since one of the main reasons for dense packaging is protection during long range deliveries.

It’s hard to find a downside to reclaiming urban blight and returning the land to agricultural production. John Hantz and the city of Detroit just may be on to something big.

Achieving Your Goals in 2018

Achieving Your Goals in 2018

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. -Goethe

Yes You Can!

Everywhere you look, experts offer the same essential words of wisdom on the importance of setting goals, and key tips to achieve them. Whether you are looking to lose weight or find the best investment in Canada, you need to stay committed to your end goal.

 

Achieving your goals

Commitment is the first important step. A commitment to a goal gives life to it’s potential for success. If you putter around too much, thinking you might like to achieve something, you probably never will, but you may always wonder what would have happened it you tried.

Is this something you really want to do?

However, before you commit to anything, be sure and ask yourself if it’s something you want to do. People set goals for all kinds of reasons. For instance, while in school, students have goals set for them by their course of study. The students statistically more likely to succeed are those that have been raised with a love of learning and believe that the completion of the class will lead somewhere they want to go. The goal is what they choose over what is expected from them. Their success is enhanced by their enjoyment of the steps to achievement.

Choosing goals based upon the expectations of others, or perceived status, or some other intangible outcome can interfere with future success. Goals have a much better potential outcome if you enjoy the steps to achieving them. It’s important to savor the journey. In fact, enjoying the journey is the point of setting the goal in the first place.

It’s all in your head!

Many an expert has cited the phenomenon of setting your mind to something and having it then come to fruition, sometimes in ways that seem almost magical. And perhaps it is. But some of the effects of the mind can be explained by design. The reticular activating system in the brain sorts and evaluates incoming data for relevance and importance to you. This is the system that allows you to hear your name spoken across a crowded room, while you are in conversation with others.

When you set your mind to a task, the RAS will sort all incoming data that works in favor of the goal and makes sure you notice it. Thus your very own brain helps create the atmosphere for success. The RAS gives you information that moves you in the direction of your goals.

In the book “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar, he describes committing to a goal by, in essence, throwing your knapsack over a brick wall. Once done, you have to climb over the wall to retrieve it. By committing your stuff to the other side of the obstacle, you have committed yourself to overcoming it. And refined your focus.

Believe in yourself, but be realistic as well

Probably the most important aspect of achieving goals is your own belief in what’s possible. When I was a kid, I was told that I couldn’t sing. In fact, all of my siblings received the same declaration. Could we sing? No one will ever know. We didn’t try once we were told it was not possible. We believed the negative.

Henreitte Ann Klauser, PH.d, wrote a book on goal setting called “ Write it down, Make It Happen.” In it, she advises giving yourself permission to dream. She cites the story of Coach Lou Holtz, who, early in his career, wrote down his wildest dreams at the urging of his wife. The list included having dinner at the White House, meeting the Pope, etc. Of the 107 dreams he wrote down, Lou Holtz achieved 81.

Richard Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute” wrote, “One of the saddest lines in the world is ‘Oh, come on, be realistic.’” He refers to letting others limit what’s possible for you.

Feel free to set goals that feel good to you. Dream as big as you want. Focus on the possible and what makes you happy. And let the power of positive thinking, the law of attraction, the secrets of success or whatever combination of ideas work for you, determine the outcome. If you enjoy the ride, the destination doesn’t matter as much, but you may not get on the bus at all if you don’t figure out where you want to go, and start mapping the route.

5 Tips For A Recovering Shopoholic

5 Tips For A Recovering Shopoholic

“If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.”

Recovering shopoholic

Do you love clothes? Are you tempted to collect pretty things that fit well with the neurotic enthusiasm of a hoarder like the one’s featured on that cable reality show? You aren’t alone. Women in particular seem to be blessed with the shopping bug and when you find a great look, that you feel good wearing, it’s painfully tempting to buy one in each color.

The good news is that it is possible to achieve great style, stay with the trends and wear quality clothes without overspending. It just takes a bit of planning. Here are 5 Downturn Living tips for tactical shopping without overspending:

1. Visit your money in your software budgeting program and determine a budget for clothing. You can start by figuring out what works within your income for a month. Then multiply it by three and plan a quarterly shopping excursion with a hard boundary for what you can spend (draw the line a bit before your actual limit just to be safe.)

2. Spend the time between the actual buying, to do your shopping. Research the latest looks, pick a few pieces to enhance your wardrobe and figure out who carries them. If you are buying on line, it can be fun to go on a “try it on” trip to make sure you know what will look good. Just make sure you curb the urge to enjoy instant gratification. Getting a grip on our impulses is a major step on the road to buying responsibly.

3. Research resources for the items you choose. Look for sites that offer free shipping: like here, and comparison shop for the best prices and search for the items you want by brand and type: like here.

4. You should try to find stores outside your home state to avoid sales tax. This is one of the great advantages to online shopping.

  1. 5. If you just don’t get any satisfaction out of shopping online, at least make sure you visit non-boutique retail stores late on Tuesdays. Rumor has it that this is when stores are most likely to make their mark downs for the week, so you will have the advantage of the greatest selection of on sale items.

Good Luck! And remember, staying within a budget takes a lot of the stress out of your life and makes the things you do buy more satisfying and fun.

My New BFF – Tracking Your Money With Mint

Keepin’ it where I can see it…

“ALERT! ALERT! YOU HAVE EXCEEDED YOUR BUDGET FOR PASTRY! PUT IT DOWN! SLOWLY PLACE YOUR WALLET BACK IN YOUR HANDBAG! NOW STEP AWAY FROM THE STORE… EASY NOW….that’s it…good job.

Sound a bit extreme? Maybe. But for some of us, it’s the little things that break our bank each month. One tiny thing leads to another and before you know it, whammo, you haven’t saved a dime. It’s been a year and half since I began my journey to conscious spending and budgeting, and there have been vast improvements. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like developing a healthy lifestyle as opposed to just dieting.

managing your money with mint

It always starts with the diet, right? You begin to count calories in the darndest places and that alone will improve your weight, but it doesn’t make you stronger, so in addition to watching what you eat, you start to exercise. Maybe at first you just start walking every night after dinner.  And as each new habit takes hold, and you feel a bit of success, you find yourself wanting more and one day you wake up trying to remember what life was like before your first Iron Man win.

This is what the financial journey has been like for me. First, I gave up credit cards. Then I tried to watch my money every day. I looked around for financial software and since I am running a MAC, there were some limitations. I tried Quicken Online, but for some reason, shortly after I joined they fired my credit union. I’m still trying to work out whether this was somehow my fault. Then, I shopped financial software. I started out using Quicken, but Intuit hasn’t updated it in a very long time. They kept threatening to release a newer version, but I think everyone is still waiting. Personally, I am done with their empty flirting. I have moved on.

I was using Moneydance for a while, but have been consistently frustrated with limited features and even though it helped me improve my financial situation…I never fell in love.

But now…giggle…blush…I have a new crush. Over the last ten days I have slowly been setting up a Mint account. Yes I know Intuit bought them, but that’s okay, I don’t care. I think it’s wonderful anyway. And here’s why:

  1. It’s a simple set up and they ask for very little personal info in the process
  2. It tracks my accounts in one step each morning, but it is read only. You can’t move money with Mint.
  3. The budgeting software is easy and automatically sets up email alerts such as: “exceeded budget for clothes” I got this one yesterday and was eternally grateful (and a little ashamed).
  4. It automatically compares your spending with the U.S average in each category. I am not sure why I think this is cool, but I do.
  5. It gave me such a clear view of my financial picture that I immediately saw where I could cut back, lowering my expenditures over $500.00 the first month.
  6. I can check it with my phone.

I guess what I really love the most is the feature that allows me to roll over my budget for certain items each month and see what I haven’t spent, which will  help  create some room for error in other areas or keep that money available for things that come up every 6 or 7 weeks (like hair and horse shoes.) I can see my monthly average earnings in a glance and keep my budgeted items well below that mark. My budget includes the money going to my emergency fund each month, also.

You may say that other programs offer all of the same features, but the difference here is that this was easy for me and I have tried other programs. So, for whatever reason, Mint has made this easier for my particular personal financial handicaps and that’s all it takes to make me happy.

The bottom line here is: I like it and feel encouraged about keeping my financial resolve as a result. I encourage others to shop around the various programs available and figure out which one works best for them. I am keeping Mint.

*Disclaimer: I wrote this because I sincerely like this product. I am not in any way affiliated with Mint. Good Luck!