Craft Beer, Flour Mills, Mobile Phone Networks and Microcredit - Linked together by Community

Traveling around rural and suburban counties in the Northwest, I see people that need community.  I see that our community - the fabric of relationships, interdependencies, local markets, families and neighbors - as desperately frayed. I see that our common community is being squandered or appropriated. As community thins, social, health and economic disease rise.


I am helping Kevin Morse build a flour mill in Skagit County. He naturally cultivates community everywhere he goes. His true north and greatest experience is in building community. I think he has probably always been a community builder. Now he is building around and through the mill. Linking together farmers, millers, bakers and the wider community that cares about healthy food and preserving open farmlands.

Kevin's skill and commitment to community building is why I have supported him and freely shared everything I know about entrepreneurial strategy, design and innovation.

The mill is a part of an emerging nationwide ecosystem of local, open and independent mills and millers. I envision dozens of independent Mill companies operating many hundreds of local mill lines. I expect that Cairnspring will be one of the largest and most prosperous of these milling companies.


This networked ecosystem is very similar to the architecture of Cellular One which I learned about from McCaw Cellular. Cellular One was a network of local, independent cell phone operators cooperatively competing against the huge Bell companies. Cellular One, the name of the federation, ensured standards amongst the independent operators; mainly around quality of service, pricing, roaming and interconnection. I see that it is inevitable that a similar federation, or fabric, will knit together around local milling. It is this local federation composed of many independent operators that will ultimately brings us a new, healthy, regionally scaled food system.


This federated concept of service providers rooted in local community is exactly what I helped catalyze with microcredit in India. Rather than create proprietary conglomerates to control the market, dozens of community service providers embraced open source methods - typically Grameen or ASA practices - and then independently grew and provided their own services on a common framework. This was very effective for the served communities. And, the success of microcredit in India is directly rooted in the fact that no one owned the basic operating system. It was open. This is why today there are dozens of microcredit providers and not the typical 1-5 competitors in a more proprietary system.


Again, we can see more examples of the phenomenal success of the  local, open and independent organization. Craft brewing is a remarkable story of community openness succeeding. There is literally nothing proprietary about brewing beer. In a few short decades, by being community oriented and local, craft brew represents 22% of all beer revenue in America. This is no fluke. Perhaps the leader of this industry is Sierra Nevada in Chico, CA. Sierra Nevada, as recently told to me by Robert Rock who teaches brewing at Skagit College, got to its position by just being the most open, helpful and cool microbrewery in the country. They helped everybody, and now they are one of the largest. Sierra Nevada brews over a million barrels annually and with over 1000 employees.

I think that Cairnspring and other companies that we are assisting will become like Sierra Nevada in their own industries. And, that Salish|Growth will remain a partner to these open industries as they grow. I share my personal ideas openly.

For more on local, open and Independent, see local blog

For the Nautilus, see Nautilus Process

For more on Salish|Growth, see Salish|Growth

For more on Cairnspring Mills, see Cairnspring



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