Ranchers who practice Holistic Resource Management

Some positive news about the environment.

The palette of the High Plains is subtle. From the moment the sun rises in the enormous sky until the moment it sets in the mountains, the land is flooded with sunlight. As the light hits it wrings out the reds and the greens, drains even purples and oranges into submission. There is color here, but no contrast.
The valley known as Iron Creek would be no different were it not for the fence that runs down its center. The pasture on either side is as muted as the rest of Wyoming; if you saw only one of them, it would blend into the hills without remark. But here, side-by-side, the two places are like night and day.

Undeniably better looking is the east side, Jim Gould’s land. It is thick with native grasses, and the field they make is bumpy and golden. They even wave in the breeze as if consciously trying to look idyllic.

The west side is gray. Its surface is dusty dirt checkered with dried manure and big sage, the official plant of parched lands. Jim tells me that in summer the cows there poke through the barbed wire to drink from his side, for the springs on their land have gone dry. “It’s really that bad,” he says.

Jim calls himself an environmentalist. As caretaker of this land, he values the individual plants, the wildlife, and even the predators that most locals loathe. Yet if he had to choose, he’d call himself a rancher first. His family arrived at this spot in Meeteetse, Wyoming, in the 1870s, and they have raised livestock on it every year since. His work is the same as the guy’s on the west side of the fence; what’s different is how he does it.

A new way of understanding rangelands

Jim Gould practices Holistic Resource Management (HRM). (HRM is also known simply as Holistic Management, or HM.) The first word is meant less metaphysically than literally: cattlemen like Jim think of their ranches not as commodity-producing businesses but as entire ecosystems—wholes. With HRM, cows go from being the sole focus, the raison d’etre, to being tools that serve a larger system. The land does the inverse: it goes from being merely a place to grow cattle to an end in itself. HRM practitioners often call themselves grass farmers rather than cattle ranchers, but really what they are growing is nature.

It is a slow process. The changes begin as soon as you take action, but before you can do anything you must understand the concept. This takes more than reading books; it requires learning to see the land differently. All four ranchers I visited in Wyoming this spring told me it was several years between when they began studying HRM and when they actually changed their operations.

Link GRASS FARMERS: Seeing the big picture

U.S. slaps big tariff on exporters of bedroom furniture from China

More economic news that may help my hometown of Martinsvillve, VA.

washington—The U.S. commerce department slapped tariffs of as much as 198 per cent on imported bedroom furniture from China yesterday, a decision that could cut the $1 billion (U.S.) a year of imports and raise prices for consumers.

Most of the largest exporters of furniture will pay tariffs of 24 per cent or less, with 82 of the companies paying an 11 per cent tariff, the commerce department said in a statement.

The thousands of companies not singled out will pay the 198 per cent, and they “are going to be put out of business,” Mike Veitenheimer, a vice president for furniture retailer Bombay Co., said in an interview. Still, “the duties could have been a whole lot worse,” he said.

The case is the largest trade dispute of its kind between the United States and China, and could spark a new round of complaints by manufacturers who say business has been hurt by cheap imports from China. Bassett Furniture Industries Inc., Stanley Furniture Co. and other U.S. producers support tariffs, arguing Chinese companies are selling their products at unfair discounts, and the preliminary decision backed up their claim.

…Bedroom furniture imports from China increased 121 per cent from 2000 to 2002, and another 54 per cent in the first six months of last year. Furniture makers, such as Bassett, Stanley and Hooker Furniture Corp., say that increase threatens to put them out of business.

Link TheStar.com

Virginia plans to build telecom system to boost rural economy

I hope my hometown can start recovering from the collapse of the textile industry.

DANVILLE, Va. — Virginia will build a $12 million fiber-optic network throughout its struggling manufacturing belt along the North Carolina state line to spark an economy decimated by factory layoffs.

Gov. Mark R. Warner said Friday the project will connect five cities, 20 counties and 56 industrial parks with a new communications network that will be the largest publicly funded system in the state.

“Being left off the information superhighway is just not something rural communities can afford to overcome,” Warner said.

State officials hope the project, known as Regional Backbone Initiative, will eventually create 1,500 jobs and lure $143 million in private investment to the region. It is funded with $6 million of Virginia’s share of tobacco settlement money and a $6 million federal grant.

When the network is completed in two years, a private nonprofit management agency called Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative is expected to offer Internet service to businesses at a 20 percent discount.

Service providers also will be allowed to connect with the network at a reduced price in hopes that they will pass the savings along to customers, said Mid-Atlantic’s interim general manager, Tad Deriso.

Virginia’s “Southside” manufacturing region has been ravaged by thousands of factory layoffs during the past decade.

The labor market area that includes Henry and Patrick counties and the city of Martinsville had an average unemployment rate of 14 percent in 2002 and 2003, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. It jumped as high as 16 percent in July.

Community leaders see telecommunications capability as the key to jump-starting the region’s lagging economy. They believe a massive Internet network would do as much to lure companies to the region as a major interstate or airport.

Link Virginia plans to build telecom system to boost rural economy

Micro-Business

David St Lawrence describes micro-business and how to be successful.

A micro-business is one which does less than $1 million in business per year. The majority of these business are home-based businesses (HBBs).

Let me share the most basic facts I know to be true about business:
– All legitimate business is based upon the principle of exchange
– Exchange is providing something valuable and getting appropriate value in return
– Value can be established through communication with the prospective customer
– You find out what the person wants and is willing to pay for it
– If you provide exchange in abundance, that is the most certain way to grow a business as you will have customers telling others about you.

All of the other activities of a business are only there to support the creation of an exchange of goods or services with a continuing series of customers.

Exchange is the key. It is the fundamental activity of any business, especially a micro-business where you are self-employed. Many people have it backward. It’s not about your product or service. What is important is: What do people need and want and how can I provide it?

If you concentrate on finding out what people want that you can provide, you will inevitably come to a point where your resources and the prospective customer’s needs line up and the way to proceed will become clear. It may take a lot of research to work out how to produce a uniformly acceptable product or service, but it will all be worth it if you can deliver what is needed and wanted. The next thing to do is to become more efficient so you can start making a profit.

The important thing is that you have created an exchange. If you have chosen well, you should have more exchanges coming up. If there are no more prospects, repeat the process of finding out what people need and want until you find a need that will keep you busy for a longer period of time.

Link Ripples

HealthSouth’s Saddam

Scrushy’s wealth soared along with HealthSouth’s stock, giving him an estimated net worth of $300 million in the late 1990s. And he flaunted it. He conducted business aboard his 92-foot yacht, Chez Soire鬠which he kept moored alongside his vacation home in Palm Beach. And he was just as ostentatious at work, opening the 74-acre hilltop campus in 1997 and building a fleet of 11 corporate jets.

As he assumed the trappings of wealth, Scrushy became an increasingly imperious leader, say insiders. He publicly berated financial analysts who dared to challenge his forecasts of continued growth. Staffers feared him, too. Scrushy would pop up unannounced at his rehab centers for surprise inspections. Like a drill sergeant, he would run a finger along the tops of a picture frame, then wipe it on the blazer of the center’s administrator. Any visible mark meant points deducted — and possible dismissal.

BusinessWeek, Too Good To Be True, April 14, 2003