What You Suggested 2
The subject of rejuvenating the economy of the county has produced some interesting results.
The Dissenting Editor Liz Fisher observes this:
“You know Downieville has Downieville Downhill, 4th of July, Gold Rush Days, Labor Day, Miss Jody Dinner, Christmas Party. The theatre has movies, plays and local talent nights.... Sierra City has 4th of July, the Car Show, All Over Town Sale, St Patrick’s Day Dinners, Kentucky Mine concerts, Potlucks at the Hall Children's Christmas Party and all kinds of other stuff.. Even Forest and Alleghany have events... so Loyalton, the only city in the county, has the same infrastructure, a park, a community hall, a museum... but what else do they do to bring in tourism and money except complain about the economy and blame it on the county... All the events in DVL and SC are brought from volunteers with the Chamber, the fire departments and the Lions Club... So what's wrong with Loyalton?”
We’ll note that Loyalton does have the 4th of July picnic and parade, and the spaghetti feed for the fire department and a few other events. Still the point is well taken that the Valley might draw some tourists with more summer events.
Sierraville hosts the Tour de Manure , which certainly does bring people to the county, and provides a great time for everyone; it’s coming up in a few days on June 11th.
Michael Warner sent in some detailed thoughts:
“When I learned that quinoa was the bestselling dish at our famous Cafe Gratitude Restaurants in the Bay Area I started investigating Quinoa as a possible crop for high elevation Sierra Valley. I studied the market and how it's distributed and sold. I looked at the current growing regions- Bolivia and Canada. I looked the price of land in SV that could be cultivated. I found the normal average yield per acre and did the math. Selling the Quinoa wholesale I figured I could break even. But selling it at farmers markets at retail would be the way to make money or processing it I and packaging it for retail with a fancy label and finding a distributor might pay off if I could get a building. Quinoa has some special processing needs that might make it energy intensive. But I would need help to learn the business and I would need help getting started and I would need strong and eager helpers. I figured it was time to go to 8000 ft. in Bolivia for a vacation and learn a new language. I also figured there was more money to be made buying it wholesale and repackaging it in smaller units and selling to the natural foods stores and not worrying about the growing conditions, soil nutrients and variable weather. But, I think with the price of commodities higher and the price of wheat producing land going up in value that alternative grains with higher protien, such as quinoa, will be finding their way to the world's market. I think family farming is actually on the upswing these days.
Recently, via Facebook, I saw Sri Lankan Heirloom Organic Red Rice being marketed to the California/Amar market. $10 per kilo retail. I was able to read about the marketing effort of someone that wanted to sell specialized grains. Trade shows and sample packs and finding the first buyers and doing deals. It showed me that deals and markets could be made and that the idea was being followed by others. The transportation costs to the market have to be added to the equation. They even looked at Air Transport as a possibility. But cheap transportation is important when competing on price.
One thing I've always been impressed with is the way Hawaii celebrates nature. I think celebrating and making nature a big bright and colorful and delicious thing draws people's attention. I think every Sierra Co. City and region and locale should be given a nature symbol, or a series of nature symbols or logos that could be used to help spread the feelings and ideas of the area. Kind of like the symbols that are used in Yosemite for Wawona, Lodge, Camp Curry. Indian Valley should get a symbol. Sierra Valley should get a symbol. The Sierra County guide would be a good place to start using these symbols. And the Guide should look at visitor's guides made in Hawaii to steal ideas. I think John McWade(www.sierracity.com) would even suggest a typeface to consistently symbolize Sierra County.
My birder friends have signed up for the Golden Gate Audubon's Sierra Valley Birding trip in Early June. I asked them if they were staying at Sierra Hot Springs or at some birder-friendly motel? Birding is big business and I know a watchable wildlife festival in Loyalton or Sierra Valley would be a great idea. It would just need a building with electricity and parking. Look at the Lodi Crane Fest, Mare Island Flyway Fest, San Diego Birder Fest for ideas. I realize that it would require enormous energy to draw people in, but it could start small and grow. Your idea about Ferndale brings to mind the Arcata boat races. Something crazy and colorful. We need what Walt Disney called a weenie- like the Oscar Meyer weenie mobile or his Magic Kingdom Castle. We need a Sierra County Winnie. The heart rock below Love's falls?
I know the season is a short one at higher elevations but that gives people time in the off season to produce goods for sale in the high season. I think the Gallery in Sierra City is a smart idea. It costs $30 to make a good framed digital photo and the mark-up to $200 makes a healthy profit. A good painting might bring $400 but requires much more time. This is why arts are so important in a good education. My friend Candice Moore just opened a dress making craft shop in the old Wells Fargo Building SC. She's obviously very talented. We need to support the arts.
I have a friend that does a business out of Sonora called Y-Explore. He takes people that want a knowledgeable guide into Yosemite for special adventures. Surely there are seasonal periods where guides could offer services to show off the region's natural assets? I just wish we had more tall waterfalls. What we have in this region is enormously rich in beauty. I know there are fishing and biking guides. But what about a private guide service/private naturalist to serve the camper and lodge clients that come every summer?
I like the classes at the SFSU Sierra Campus. That is a huge asset for the Bassett's area. It helps people appreciate the area as students and I know it draws people back to the region to explore more and spend more money. After a 30 year gap it drew me back!
Owning a property is Sierra County is my special folly. I love how my neighbor, Don Phillips, created the magical Big Springs Gardens. We need to encourage rich people to come to Sierra County to spend their assets and create follies. Property owners or crazy poets have been creating Follies in England and California for many many years. We should look for ways to encourage personal follies. There's plenty of stone and cedar to create odd stone and log buildings. I suppose digging hard rock mines and creating waterworks was a form of folly. We need to celebrate the county as follie-friendly!! We need to open a folly-advice office so that visitors can see what's possible and impossible- but encourage them to do it anyway. The planning commission should encourage and approve well financed green follies!”
Michael Warner has developed the idea of participation in the 21st Century marketplace both in seeking new products and services we in the county could provide and in getting a symbol, a graphic which will fix the product in the consumer's mind.
We keep in mind that consumers currently buy soap made from Dead Sea mud, and organic doggie gluten free cookies. We should be open to local branding.
Warner's reference to Big Springs Garden is timely, since this beautiful local landmark is due to open the second Friday of June, or June 10th. We've had no word if the chilly weather is going to impact that opening. Certainly, more destinations like Big Springs Garden would benefit the county. The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart, and it isn't clear how we could encourage more such enterprises, but it's pleasant to imagine Sierra County as a center of fabulous food and unique dining opportunities.
Thanks so much to Michael Warner, who is a small businessman himself, and the proprietor of Wild Bryde Jewelry.
The Prospect will continue to receive great ideas; if you have money to invest in Sierra County, stay tuned!