Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our first Board Meeting!

Carolina Ground, L3C had its first official board meeting this past week-- a great group of folks and a very effective first meeting. Our board is made up of four bakeries (drawn from our pilot group of seven bakeries that have been working with the NC Organic Bread Flour Project for the last two years), one grower (Kenny Haines, for his years of experience growing and selling grains), one allied business (Brent Manning of the Riverbend Malt House), one allied non-profit (of course, our very own Roland McReynolds of CFSA!), one member from the community possessing skills the rest of us lack (John Dickson, formerly president on Asheville Savings Bank, and also a gifted photographer), and me, project coordinator of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project, soon to be general manager and interim miller of Carolina Ground, L3C.

We began the meeting with introductions all around and then we dove right into the details. I handed out our financial projections, which show what we expect to pay per bushel for grain and what we expect to get per pound for flour. Here we were, bakers, a farmer, and the mill, and all the cards on the table. Our farmer (Kenny) said he thought the numbers looked fair. One of the bakers chimed in, asking why we should expect growers to sell to us at these prices in a year where commodities prices keep climbing. Kenny responded that it’s about long-term relationships. He said their farm would rather know, just like the bakeries, what their costs and income is going to look like year in and year out. We all need each other and fair pricing to the grower, miller, and baker is what is going to sustain us in the long run, not simply an amazing bushel price one year and rock bottom the next.

We rolled right into the next item of business—should we be an acting Board or simply an Advisory Board? Hands down, all agreed this would be an acting Board. A sub-committee of bakeries was established to determine criteria for the hiring of a miller—all agreed that this should be up to the bakers.

I'm going to back up a bit, because what brought us to the table for this first board meeting was not just that our growers have seed in the ground so we better have a board meeting soon, but that substantial pieces for Carolina Ground. L3C have fallen into place. At the beginning of February, our pilot group of seven bakeries met to discuss how we intend to finance Carolina Ground. It was decided we would launch a kickstarter campaign to match the grant we got which covers half the cost of our equipment (please, if you have not already done so, check us out and help us make this happen! It was also decided that we would seek equity investors to (hopefully) cover our build out costs. One of our bakeries compiled a list of potential investors, and, with success, he reached out to a handful of friends and community members. One of our investors wrote this to me in an email, so touching and inspiring, that I must share:

I will invest in the project because I think it is a good idea for the local farmers and bakers, not because I expect to make money. A return on my investment would be nice, but doing a project like this makes sense and seems like a better way to do things. My friendship with Steve and Gail is a big factor in my investment, but the bigger concept of connecting the growers and end users is a larger factor. Good luck with the project.

And spring has sprung.

From the ground up,


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