Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

MREA

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

This weekend Judy and I were CobraHead Exhibitors at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 20th annual energy fair in Custer, Wisconsin. It is the largest show of this type in the U.S. This was our third year at the show. We sell lots of garden tools. In fact it is a way better show for sales than almost any garden or flower show we do.

The reason is the audience. MREA attracts people with interest in sustainable energy. They have a very high awareness of what is really “green”. Thus there are lots of gardeners and small farmers. Overall, the people are way hipper than the average show crowd when it comes to environmental issues and a knowledge of food and gardening.

All aspects of renewable energy and sustainability are represented in vendor exhibits, workshops, and talks and keynote addresses. The three day show also has some excellent food vendors including the Wisconsin staple – beer – by a great and “green” local brewery, Central Waters Brewing Company, and good entertainment. Saturday night we saw Michelle Shocked and I immediately became a fan.

Here’s Judy trying to make a sale.

Solar is cool! Pictured are a vendor of panels, a huge solar cooker designed for villages where there is no firewood, and a solar powered water heater.

Wind power for home, farm, commercial, and community was represented.

This experimental house features locally produced inputs and is super energy efficient.

The big boys like Toyota attend the show and don’t pass up an opportunity to show off their energy efficient vehicles.

But the home enthusiast modified Mercedes that runs on vegetable oil is in many ways more interesting.

My favorite vehicle – an Allis-Chalmers “G” tractor modified to be solar powered. No gas fumes in this farmer’s organic veggies.

Madison Garden Expo

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This weekend saw three-fourths of the CobraHead Team working the Madison Garden Expo in our home city. The event is sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television and I can say with certainty, as we’ve now got over two hundred trade shows behind us, this is one of the better garden shows in the United States.

We learned early into our launch of CobraHead that trade shows can provide exceptional exposure for a small start-up company. Shows are possibly the best way to get a product known to the world when you don’t have the unlimited marketing and advertising budgets of the big corporations. The nice thing about consumer trade shows is that you have a chance to make some money while you are telling the world who you are.

If we were as well known throughout the U.S. as we are in Madison, CobraHead would be pretty famous. This is our sixth year doing this show and we have developed a following. It’s pretty easy to close a sale when someone walks by and says to the person thinking of buying, “I bought that tool last year and it is the best garden tool I’ve ever owned.” Unsolicited testimonials are indeed the best advertising. I hope Madison is a bell weather for the garden show season, because the show was crowded, as you can see in the first picture, and folks were spending money.

Here I am showing people our garden tools. We almost always have a box of soil at the shows, so people can see how the product works in the real stuff. In Wisconsin in February, people will stick their hands into the box of dirt just to re-connect with the earth, which outside is frozen and covered with snow and ice. We call it our zen box.

This is our friend Renate Favour of Etc. Designs, a Michigan lady we first met at the International Master Gardeners Conference Trade Show at Covington, Kentucky in 2004. Renate is an artist who crafts exceptional jewelry of insects and other whimsical creatures. I was actually quite jealous of Renate when I first met her. The ladies at the Master Gardener Conference were spending all their money at her booth “buying bugs” when they should have been buying my slick garden tool. Renate’s art is excellent, however, and I know now that the ladies were not wasting their money. We’ll be doing the IMGC show this year in Las Vegas.

Here is Bryant Moroder of Sustain Dane, a local non-profit whose RainReserve® Rain Barrel Program is a project which we hope to partner up with.

This is our good friend Michael Schael, a potter here in Cambridge. His business is Rock Eagle Pottery. Michael is an exceptional potter and a really nice person.

Lastly, a picture of three objets d’art acquired at the show. The turtle is a birthday present to Anneliese from Kirk at Kicking Y Creations of Ripon, Wisconsin. The dragonfly, a purchase by Judy from the same vendors, and the toad abode a purchase by me from my friend Michael.

Just Call Me Master (But Not Yet)!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I’m excited about the coming months for many reasons. We have a busy schedule exhibiting at garden shows and Green Festivals, and it’s always fun to travel and meet new people (and say hi to the folks you haven’t seen since last year). I’m excited for spring to arrive. Which it will. Eventually. I hope.

I’m also excited to turn 29 this month. Okay, not really.

But what I’m excited about today is that I had my Master Gardener Training orientation class. I’m going to become a Master Gardener Volunteer! Over the next several months, I will take classes and spend time volunteering at various gardens and gardening events so I can earn my Master Gardener certification.

I’ve decided to go through the training because I feel I have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to gardening knowledge. I’m reasonably confident when it comes to vegetable growing, but when it comes to annuals, perennials, invasive species and plant diseases, I could stand to learn a few things. Plus, I think referring to myself as a “Master Gardener” will be a nice ego stroke. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t expect to be magically transformed into some kind of gardening expert just by completing the general training. I will, however, gain a better understanding of overall gardening concepts, and hopefully I’ll make some friends in the process.

The picture above is of the 2009 Wisconsin Garden Journal. It is produced by the Madison Area Master Gardeners Association. They describe the journal as “an invaluable resource to help Midwest gardeners in Zones 3, 4, and 5 plan, organize, and maintain their gardens.” It certainly is. The journal includes gardening articles by local experts, weekly tips and calendars, monthly chore task lists, and loads of other helpful information to keep you and your garden on track. Plus, proceeds from sales of the book help fund community gardens and non-profit programs in the area. MAMGA has been able to donate close to $25,000 since 1996, when they began producing the Wisconsin Garden Journal.

If you’d like your own copy of the 2009 Wisconsin Garden Journal, you can find a list of retailers here. The Madison Area Master Gardeners Association will also have copies available at their booth at the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo, which runs February 13-15, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. CobraHead will be there, too, so please stop by booth 904 and say hello!





Hi Anneliese, that is fantastic. The world needs more master gardeners and volunteers to do the dirty work too. Looking forward to seeing you once again in Chicago. 🙂
Frances
# Posted By Frances | 2/4/09 4:27 PM
Anneliese’s Gravatar Thanks, Frances! I have a feeling I’ll really enjoy the experience, and maybe I’ll be able to recruit more people once I’ve gone through the program. I’m looking forward to seeing you, too!
# Posted By Anneliese | 2/9/09 5:36 PM

CobraHead is Now on Twitter!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

In an effort to keep up with the times, CobraHead has set up a Twitter account. The rest of the CobraHead team has appointed me the designated Twitterer, and I’ve already started posting updates.

Feel free to follow us at http://twitter.com/CobraHead. I will post occasional tweets about gardening, events we’re attending, and the occasional link or story that I think others might be interested in. I promise not to inundate you with lots of random or pointless updates.

Going Green from Coast to Coast

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The past two weeks have been quite hectic for me and Geoff. We exhibited at Green Festivals two weekends in a row, and they were on opposite coasts. It’s a tiring schedule, to be sure, but we like being busy like that. The Green Festivals are always interesting and a lot of fun. At each festival we end up making new friends, and we often see a lot of old friends, too.

Two weeks ago the Green Festival was in Washington DC. A number of folks from the gardening world were on hand to promote better gardening practices. Some very nice folks from Purple Mountain Organics were there selling books and gear to help with organic growing, Kathy Jentz had a booth with Washington Gardener Magazine, Susan Harris from Garden Rant stopped by (see her picture of Geoff at the booth here ), as did Viveka Neveln from The American Gardener Magazine. My friend Martha Stauss of Green and Sticky, Inc. also came to the festival with her son Forrest, and our friend Joe Lamp’l gave a talk on greener gardening practices. He was kind enough to give us each a “Growing a Greener World” wristband. I was happy to wear it for the rest of the festival, but I have to admit that I’m not much of wristband wearer. The wristband is now serving a far more useful and visible purpose as a travel mug grip band. It makes my stainless steel tea mug easier to grab, and it helps to keep the slippery container from sliding out of my backpack water bottle pouch. Joe seemed to like the idea, and he even posted a picture that I sent him on his blog. Maybe I’ve started a trend!

We were only home two days before we left again for the San Francisco Green Festival. There weren’t as many gardening exhibits this time (with the exception of our friends at Rain Reserve), but there were still a lot of people interested in gardening and food growing. We were very fortunate to meet some really wonderful folks. Across the aisle from us was Anne Thibeau from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co.. They make no VOC paints using old fashioned methods. Next door was our new very cool friend Jenny. Jenny makes aromatherapy sprays for stress, relaxation and revitalization. I was also lucky enough to be visited by my friend Brad, who I know from back in my drum and bugle corps days. Brad and his girlfriend Jennifer are expecting their first child, and they were glad to learn about the dangers of Bisphenol-A and other potentially toxic compounds in baby bottles and other baby items. They were able to pick up a few safe baby items from a company called ZoLi while visiting the Green Festival.

Geoff and I are now decompressing back in our respective home states. Traveling can be fun, but it’s always nice to come home. Starting in early 2009, we’ll be back on the road again for garden show season. Watch for us at a garden show near you!

Joe Lamp'l's Gravatar You DID start a trend with the all new “bottle band”! Interest is spreading. I should have thought of that a long time ago. Thanks for the suggestion. Hope you guys get some down time for the holidays! Cheers,
Joe Lamp’l
# Posted By Joe Lamp’l | 11/20/08 6:20 AM
Anneliese's Gravatar You’re welcome, Joe! And thanks again for the “bottle band”! My mug looks much cooler now. It’s also easier to spot and distinctively mine.

I hope we get some down time, too!

# Posted By Anneliese | 11/20/08 10:29 AM

Minnesota Garlic Festival

Monday, August 18th, 2008

That’s Irene Bender, the event coordinator for the Minnesota Garlic Festival , held last Saturday at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Howard Lake, Minnesota. Nice Hat!

The garlic festival is a little show featuring about a dozen small farmers offering over 100 varieties of garlic. Garlic was for sale, but so were other homegrown foods and locally produced goods. Garlic flavored food was in abundance including garlic brats, garlic potatoes, pickled garlic, and more, with garlic flavoring many of the food items for sale. There was even garlic ice cream and garlic chocolate chip cookies for desert.

Workshops included the topics of growing garlic, cooking with garlic, gardening in general, and growing, cooking and preserving other foods. Additionally, music by local bands, singers, and drummers kept the party mood going the entire day. The event was very family oriented with things of interest for everyone.

Lots of local chefs volunteered to help at the Great Scape Cafe, which offered up an excellent menu of mostly garlic flavored dishes that would rate four stars from the most discerning foodie.

I purchased about six different new garlic types to try in my garden this fall. I’m especially looking forward to trying a huge variety called Armenian that the grower said was his favorite.

The event was good for CobraHead. We sold well and met some very nice people who embraced both good food and sustainability as it applies to farming and gardening.

We can highly recommend this little festival as a great way to spend a day.

No Sale to the Big Boys

Friday, August 8th, 2008

In our ongoing quest to make the CobraHead Weeder famous, we occasionally try new trade show venues. Since I thought there had to be a connection between farming and gardening, we exhibited at a show in Minnesota this week called Farmfest.

The show organizers had invited us out as a “green” vendor and we were in a tent with others promoting such things as organic farming, sustainable agriculture, energy issues and land conservation.

While I found the show extremely interesting, we didn’t blow the doors off with tool sales. Most of the farmers appeared to have no interest in gardening or sustainable issues of any type and did not take the time to visit the tent. We sold almost as many tools to our “green” colleagues in our exhibit tent as we did to the whole rest of the crowd, which was very large, over 30,000.

While we knew that big farms did not need or use hand tools, we had hoped there would be interest from the home gardening aspect. Before corporate agriculture exploded, almost every farm had a very large home garden. Today, only a small fraction of farmers garden and they grow almost nothing that they can consume themselves. Home gardening is enjoying a renaissance in the US, but we didn’t see that upsurge in “grow your own” in this audience.

The show solidified my perception that big farmers are not gardeners at all, but heavy equipment operators in a chemical factory. The farms around the site in Morgan, Minnesota were a testament to that. I thought I had seen some big farms in my frequent travels though central Illinois, but these were bigger. We learned at the show that many farmers in the area were cultivating over 10,000 acres. The fields were huge monolithic expanses of either corn or soybeans and almost nothing else. The gently rolling terrain of southwestern Minnesota lends itself perfectly to the big equipment of corporate agriculture. I kept thinking, “what an ecological disaster!” Nothing for miles around but two crops of genetically engineered mutants fed and kept weed and pest free on a diet of chemical concoctions.

Our whole tent was mostly ignored by the crowd. While I had good conversations with several farmers, I had a feeling that a lot who walked by us looked at the tent with some disdain. I don’t mean toward us as garden tool vendors, but more of a kind of smugness (or denial) that there is anything they need to know about the sustainable and organic movement in agriculture other than it is bad for their business. I think some know they are trapped in a system controlled by the big chemical, genetic engineering and equipment producers, and that making any changes could be extremely perilous financially, while others just didn’t care. Hey, corn is $7 a bushel with futures over $8, what’s to worry?

So our foray into the land of the big boys did not yield the return on investment we had hoped for. For now, when we try to sell to farmers, it will be mostly to the little CSA and market growers who understand the connectedness of it all and wouldn’t dream of killing their weeds on top of a high-wheeled sprayer with boom wands reaching out 45 feet on either side of the cab.

John Strother's Gravatar My wife and I are originally from Wisconsin but now live in La Conner, Skagit County, Washington. We have a growing number of organic farmers in this area and local farm stands and farmers markets offer organic vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, organic dairy, etc. We have an active and growing Slow Food chapter. Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.) Check it out at www.slowfood.com.

Now I’m going outside to try out my new Cobrahead!

# Posted By John Strother | 9/9/08 8:49 PM
Noel's Gravatar John, thanks for the comment. We’re quite familiar with Slow Food. Our son, Geoff, attended the Slow Food Conference in Turin, Italy two years ago. We know that the best food is grown locally, and that there’s no food like slow food.
# Posted By Noel | 9/9/08 9:45 PM

Kickapoo Country Fair

Monday, July 28th, 2008

This weekend, Judy and I were vendors at the Kickapoo Country Fair in La Farge, Wisconsin: Kickapoo Country Fair. The fair is in its fifth year and is hosted on the grounds of Organic Valley’s headquarters. Organic Valley is the farmer’s cooperative that has been at the forefront of the organic movement in the United States.

This part of Wisconsin, The Kickapoo River Valley, is part of a large portion of southwestern Wisconsin knows as the driftless area. It’s called that because the last glaciers that scoured the land in the Midwest into a relatively flat topography did not scrub off hilltops here. For several reasons the huge glacial flow split and went around the area. While most of the land in all directions is flat or rolling, the driftless area is extremely hilly, and filled with picturesque little valleys. The scenery is spectacular. It could remind one of West Virginia or the hills of California, but unlike the California hills, the area gets plenty of rain and they are always green (except winter when they are mostly white).

It’s an excellent area for dairy farming and cattle raising, but for the last two years, rain has been in too much abundance, and the valley was particularly hard hit by flooding. Evidence of the water damage is everywhere as you drive around. One sees fields still with standing water, roads temporarily repaired with gravel where the asphalt had washed out, and scrubby crops or bare fields in places the farmers have either tried to plant a second crop or just left the fields to dry out until next year.

What was very disheartening about this year’s flooding is that it hit a lot of the small farmers, the ones doing the market growing using organic methods, for a second year in a row. The Kickapoo Valley has been a magnet for small farmers. Two years in a row of having the land inundated has put quite a few small growers out of business and made the economics very precarious for others.

This was very evident at the fair, where several of the tents were promoting assistance to small farmers and even FEMA chose to be an exhibitor, with a tent and a large staff of blue shirted representatives explaining the government programs available to those in need of assistance. The mood at the fair was hardly gloom and doom, however. This is Wisconsin where the people love to party. So music, food, and of course, beer, was available to make the fair a very festive event.

We were happy with our presence at the fair and we met many people who were already users of our tools. It was a very easy and relaxed show to do, and the message of the show is very consistent with our philosophy, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be back next year.

Chicago Green Festival 2008

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Hello all! Just wanted to write a quick post to remind everyone that the Chicago Green Festival is this weekend at Navy Pier. CobraHead will be exhibiting in booth 1621.

The Green Festivals are organized by Co-op America and Global Exchange. They emphasize not just “green” trends, but also social and economic justice and fairly traded goods. The Green Fest will feature live music, renowned speakers, green films, a kid zone, organic food (and beer and wine!), and, of course, a variety of innovative green products (like the CobraHead!).

Bring the whole family, and join us for a fun-filled weekend!

Garden Bloggers Spring Fling 2008

Monday, April 7th, 2008

This past Saturday, Geoff and I were fortunate enough to attend the first ever Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, which took place in Austin. I had an incredibly fun time meeting other bloggers and touring gardens. Unfortunately, I neglected to make sure my camera battery was charged, so I was unable to take any pictures. On the other hand, I was free to simply enjoy the gardens.
We started off the day with a tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I don’t think I can eloquently put into words what a great place this is. Perhaps repeating their mission statement will give you an idea of why I feel strongly about the center: “The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. It was just beautiful. Please visit if you have the chance.

After lunch, we stopped by The Natural Gardener, an Austin garden center and nursery that promotes organic gardening practices. I have visited The Natural Gardener on a few occasions, but I never fully realized how big the grounds actually are. Unlike the display gardens of the majority of garden centers I’ve visited, The Natural Gardener grows food! They also have chickens, goats, and miniature donkeys.

Later that afternoon, we visited the private garden of James David and Gary Peese. Again, absolutely lovely. Here’s a picture of me and Geoff, as well as Karen from Savannah Garden Diary courtesy of Julie from Human Flower Project.

Over on the right hand side of the page, I added links to many of the bloggers who attended . Many of them have posted pictures from the event, and they are far better pictures than I would have taken, anyway. You can also find several links and pictures here

Annie in Austin's Gravatar Hi Anneliese,
You and Geoff were so much fun to meet and talk to at the Spring Fling – it was one lovely day, wasn’t it! My camera went wonky on me, too – guess we’ll both have to enjoy the photos of the other garden bloggers.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

# Posted By Annie in Austin | 4/8/08 6:46 AM
Anneliese's Gravatar Annie,
It was great to meet you, too. It was an absolutely beautiful day! Even when the sun got a little warm, all of the gardens had plenty of shady spots to keep cool.
# Posted By Anneliese | 4/8/08 11:04 AM
Mr. McGregor's Daughter's Gravatar Anneliese – It was great to meet & talk with you & Geoff. Don’t feel bad about your camera – mine was working fine, yet I forgot to take photos of things I wanted. It sounds like you had fun anyway.
# Posted By Mr. McGregor’s Daughter | 4/8/08 2:54 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Mr. McGregor’s Daughter,
It looks like you got some pretty decent pictures! I really enjoyed meeting you, too, and I hope you had a great time in Austin. I also liked your post on Skunk Cabbage. 🙂
# Posted By Anneliese | 4/8/08 3:59 PM
Pam/Digging's Gravatar It was so nice to meet you both, Anneliese. Thank you so much for joining the Fling—and for presenting me with my very own CobraHead tool. My kids are really interested in it (don’t worry, the plastic coating is still on the business end), and I look forward to trying it out.
# Posted By Pam/Digging | 4/8/08 11:47 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Pam,
Thank you so much for all of the work you did. The event came together really well, and we were all truly impressed. Your house and gardens were fantastic (so were the Mexican Martinis!).

I hope you get lots of use out of your CobraHead!

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/9/08 1:12 AM
Dawn's Gravatar Anneliese,

It was a pleasure to meet both of you & Geoff on Saturday.
I’m glad we had a chance to talk. You are a lot of fun!
Getting a Cobrahead Tool is on my list of ‘Things to Do’. 🙂
Thanks for the link. Your site is on my blog as well.

Cheers!
Dawn

# Posted By Dawn | 4/9/08 9:12 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Thanks Dawn! It was a real pleasure to meet you, too.

Geoff is frequently attending gardening events in Austin. Keep an eye out for him!

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/9/08 9:26 PM
Linda MacPhee-Cobb's Gravatar Hello,

It was great to meet you and chat over dinner.

# Posted By Linda MacPhee-Cobb | 4/12/08 12:32 PM
Dee/reddirtramblings's Gravatar Hi Annaliese,

I just wanted you know I featured the short Cobrahead in a blog post.

I wrote about my battle with the horrid Bermuda Grass: http://reddirtramblings.com/?p=312 BTW, I can’t get your comments section to take my url. Says it isn’t valid.~~Dee

# Posted By Dee/reddirtramblings | 4/29/08 1:25 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Linda, very nice to meet you, too. I liked hearing about your experience of moving from New England to Houston. What a gardening change!

Dee, thanks for sending the link and for featuring your experience with your CobraHead! As for your URL not working, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know why our comment field would not accept it! I’ll keep an eye out for anything like that in the future, and see if we can figure it out.

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/29/08 2:06 PM