Part of the NWCCI’s goal for participants as they study in the United States is to observe and learn sustainable practices used in the United States. During a tour of Bellingham’s Scratch and Peck Feeds in May, NWCCI students had plenty of questions as they learned about using sustainable, local sources; valuing hard work; giving back to the community; and especially developing strong relationships with loyal clients. Seeing these values in practice was a great way for NWCCI students to connect what they learned in class with the real world of business!
Nine students studying at Whatcom Community College visited Scratch and Peck Feeds, a local Bellingham business, started in the backyard of Diana Ambauen-Meade when she could not find wholesome food for her chickens. She bought locally grown, organic, non-GMO grains and mixed them in a cement mixer! Soon her neighbors and friends wanted her healthier, non-pelletized chicken food too. Now Diana’s business has grown from a backyard project, to several warehouse stalls in central Bellingham.
Marketing manager Caroline Kinsman talked about how she gets the word out about Scratch and Peck feeds, which now include grains for other livestock as well as chickens. She is working on a presentation for Mother Earth News in Oregon next week. Kinsman explained that birds need carbs and proteins. By having healthier birds, they produce more eggs.
Islam Ali, from Egypt, noticed that when the company has “high standards”, “the healthier chickens will be healthier meat for the customer”.
He added, “They [could] buy cheaper chicken, but it is less healthy”. The underlying message that the students came away with is that you are what you eat, so choose wisely what you put into your body!
Islam Ali also had many questions about marketing. He asked Diana how she acquired her knowledge of the best food for chickens, and if Caroline gave samples to her customers for marketing purposes. Diana told the group that she had a background in business, but she learned about high quality feed by doing research, and insisting on the best quality grains for her feeds. Caroline showed the students a marketing demo product that was a set of six clear plastic eggs with samples of the grains and grit Scratch and Peck uses for their chicken feed “recipes”.
The students also got to tour the production line in the warehouse. They saw workers filling and stitching bags full of animal feed, internet orders being packaged for shipping, and the mill that cracks corn, oats and other grains for the feed mix.
The workers were friendly and they seemed happy while they worked. Latif Abdul, from Pakistan, said “I think this is a good place to work!” Islam Ali asked, “Do you need to clean (the mill) after each batch of feed is mixed?” A discussion followed about purity of the feed, and food grade for humans versus animals.
The students learned that while efforts are made to remove as much grain as possible, the animal feed standards are lower for cross mixing grains than standards for humans. In fact, one of the newest products Scratch and Peck is making are treats for chickens made of grubs!
Scratch and Peck was chosen as one of seven finalists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce annual DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year in 2016. Diana and Caroline shared with the students what practices they were using that earned them this award. They both agreed that using sustainable, local sources; valuing the people who work for them; giving back to the community; and especially developing strong relationships with their loyal clients, have made this business successful in more ways than simply monetarily. Seeing these values in practice was a great way for NWCCI students to connect what they learn in class with the real world of business!
By Shasta Pettijohn, NWCCI Advisor
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the students or bloggers.