I must say, I never in a million years saw this coming. I could ruminate on the circumstances that lead to this turn of events, but I prefer to look forward not backward.


We feel to reach the greatest number of households in our market area, we need to be on a local network affiliate with broadcast capabilities as well as presence on all satellite service, cable providers, and those who receive their television via the Internet.


Does it matter to a local sponsor how far we reach (around the world)? Probably not. What is important to local sponsors is local audiences. And this is what makes local television so great because It does such a good job reaching that audience.


The local food movement is sweeping the nation and in several cases turning vacant urban properties into farms and gardens. Television is a perfect means of educating the public of the virtues of locally grown food. 


At a symposium I attended in West Des Moines that was hosted by the Leopold Center, I learned that a comparatively small farm can produce a surprisingly large amount of fresh produce and even meat and poultry products that can be marketed directly to consumers at a fair and often times premium price through such outlets as food co-ops and farmers' markets.

December 15, 2013

The Setback

by Executive Producer of The Co-op Cookery, Gary Olsen


got the wind knocked out of me. We just had a meeting with all of our project stakeholders this past Friday afternoon, and the end result is the Dubuque Food Co-op is out. The organization for which the show was named no longer wants to participate citing cultural and commercial differences in how the show will be perceived by its public. It has come down to a clash of cultures. The show's producers (us), believing in the power of regional television, network affiliate participation and brand marketing, and the Dubuque Food Co-op, whose culture can be described as taking a "non-commercial" approach. Non-commercial means that to them it becomes confusing to their public if we sell advertising contracts to businesses that may not embrace the same values or business practices as the Co-op. Of course we, the producers, have to sell those contracts so we can pay for the show. The Co-op people acknowledged that they have no advertising budget until they have cash flow, and that's another reason we have to depend on sponsors to pay the broadcast bill. There was no requirement for them to pay any expenses (except for groceries used on the show), so it wasn't the money. At any rate, in one afternoon, two years worth of hard work collided with an impenetrable wall. However, I hasten to add, even though we are heartbroken, we are not a smoking wreck by the side of the road.

I must say, I never in a million years saw this coming. I could ruminate on the circumstances that lead to this turn of events for months to come, but I prefer to look forward not backward. I wish the Co-op all the luck in the world. It would have been a great project, and, in fact I believe it's still a great project because of the involvement of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office in Dubuque. They are our other production partner, and their talent, expertise and enthusiasm for the project has not waned. The local food movement and all that this represents is more important than ever. One of our options is to go on and produce the show without the Co-op. I would have to give that a lot of thought, but it could be done.

The newly installed management of the Dubuque Food Co-op, with whom we first spoke some months ago, was uncommitted to the project then, and as time went on, it became clear that Patrick Brickel, Mary Moody, and various other members of his board were not keen on the project for a variety of reasons. Since we had never dealt with the "co-op culture," assuming it was going to be a unique food store (but a food store nonetheless), we apparently overlook some very sensitive differences it has with traditional retailing and marketing.

With KCRG as our broadcast partner, we assumed that we would propel the Co-op's brand throughout Eastern Iowa and nearly half of the state's population. It turned out to be too much too soon for the Co-op folks. Perhaps we weren't sensitiive to the co-op culture, which, from my observation, had an atmosphere of counter-culture about it. Hey, I went to college in the '60's! I guess now I've become, much to my own surprise, part of the establishment. I thought I had a good brand marketing idea, but I didn't realize it didn't embrace the same views and values as the people with whom I was working. Well, as my wife, Linda, has often said to me on several occasions, "Let that be a lesson to you." Indeed.

I suppose we should have been more sensitive to these differences of vision, but I make no apologies. Our program was a solid winner, and it would have cost the Co-op little or nothing to participate.Their vision is obviously different from ours, and who am I to say it's not the correct vision? They closed the door, and so we've decided to step back and regroup. And you know what they say about closing a door. Sometimes a window opens.

Stay tuned.

P.S. I've kept the previously posted blogs as a history lesson of sorts (below).

November 6, 2013

The KCRG Deal


'm cautious to add that the deal is not done, but I'll talk about it anyway. In fact, we really don't have an agreement with the management of the Dubuque Food Co-op yet to broadcast, but I'm equally confident that this will happen. The advantages of such a project and its marketing value are just to compelling to refuse to do this. Since this is a highly collaborative enterprise, we need to make sure everyone is on the same page, and this book is not a quick read. The project is quite complex involving a lot of people all of whom are critical to the success of this show and the Dubuque Food Co-op as well.

We have had woncerfully productive meetings so far, and the most encouraging sit-down was with KCRG's Jane Schlegel, a strategic account executive. She was most encouraging and a real problem solver for us, especially in the realm of promoting our show. Now many people, including advertisers, have said to us, "Why do you need a network affiliate to carry the show in this day and age? Isn't the Internet good enough? It's certainly trending." To this I say, "Legitimacy." Yes, we could save ourselves a lot of money and stay on the Internet. It certainly seems to be working with Netflix and "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black." But those shows are popular because people knew to see them who weren't even subscribers of Netflix, and where did they find out about those shows? Television! DUH!

And it's no secret that the political campaigns that stormed Iowa spent most of their advertising cash on TV and network affiliates in particular. That's because stations like KCRG, KWWL and KGAN are available on every television in every household in the state. Every television receives signals via cable or satellite or over the air. Only one kind of broadcaster is available on all three platforms. The network affiliate.

I know, we all thought their fortunes were declining and that everyone would be receiving their news from the World Wide Web, but that is not entirely true. Local network affiliate television viewership has leveled off and is actually on the increase. The affiliates have learned how to use social media and the Web themselves to a very effective level of audience participation. No time in history has the audience been so close to the broadcasters, the newsroom, the show hosts, the advertisers, the weather reporter, sports editor, and the morning news anchor. The world is the affiliate's oyster filled with news sources with cellphones and video cameras. It's an exciting new age for television people because citizens still want to be on TV more than they want to be on YouTube. Television gives legitimacy much the same way as newspapers once did (remember the term "news of record?").

What network television provides is affirmation and a huge regional audience. It's the best advertising dollar you can spend today.

It's the network affiliate! That's where we want our show to be. And the Internet. We have that covered, too. --Gary Olsen

We Meet with Iowa State's Jason Neises and Brittany Bethel

by Executive Producer of The Co-op Cookery, Gary Olsen


Brittany Bethel

couldn't be more delighted with the extraordinary support from our production partners Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The Dubuque office is headquarters for Jason Neises and Brittany Behtel. Brittany, as you may well know, is our co-host on the show, and she perfomred admirably over the course of our first six episodes filmed at Farmers' Market this past July. The purpose of our meeting was to begin laying plans for the first season projected to be in production by spring of 2014. This is not that far off. Attending the meeting was myself, Teri Fairchild, our Business Coach, Jeremy and Brittany.

Jason is the manager of the Dubuque office of ISUE&O, and he's very enthused about the possibilities such access to a large television audience can afford. He's totally on board with the concept, and there was much discussion of how ISU's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture could step up their support of our program.

We talked about content development for the show and what that will look like on an ongoing basis. Jason and Brittany Here's are some of the topics I wrote down that we discussed:

Farmer Interviews... Local suppiers of the Co-op. Do the interviews on location.

In cooking segment emphasis on ingredients, their origin and techniques in preparing.

A trip to Seed Savers (Decorah, IA) and learn about Heirloom varieties of seeds they maintain

Seasonal Foods: Whenever possible match the recipies with items that are in season

Do periodic segments on food preservation and food safety involving ISUE&O staff

The over-arching goal of our show's content is "Are we driving people to shop local and shop the market"

What about a Master Gardener segment? (see next suggesion)

Rescue Mission Garden location for Master Gardener segment is right downtown (near Canfield Hotel). It would make an ideal setting for a portion of the show.  Contact person at the Dubuque Rescue Mission is Patricia Kemner.

Finally, we discussed the importance of scheduling farm and garden interviews as soon as possiblke so we can bank gthe segments for the coming season's shows.

I'm extremely grateful for the enthusiastic support of our team, the talents of Brittany Bethel and the committment to our success by our business coach, Teri Fairchild. --G.O.

August 14, 2013

Let's look at where we are and what we are doing, but more importantly, where we are going.

Teri Fairchild

'm so excited about this extraordinary project I've been working on for these past several months. It's life affirming when we discuss the Co-op Cookery television series with growers, consumers, and, perhaps most importantly, prospective sponsors. We are always met with enthusiasm. People actually get what this show is all about. One of those people is Teri Fairchild. She's a certified business coach who has been helping me set business goals, develop effective marketing materials, and she's provided us with invaluable media sales experience. Teri was a highly successful retail advertising sales manager for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Teri now runs Fairchild Business Coaching. We knew each other before we became each other's clients. I helped Teri with some videos for her Web site, www.fairchildbusinesscoaching.com, and she helped me develop our business plan and sales pitch that launched the Co-op Cookery. In this business partnership, I bring some creative design and materials to her enterprise and she brings business acumen and experience to mine. She was highly instrumental in arranging the financing for our first six episodes that took place in Dubuque's Farmers' Market. Our relationship continues as we have just completed our marketing materials for the upcoming season of the show. Now that we have momentum from our first six episodes that are available to view on our Web site, it will make our sales efforts so much easier since we are no longer selling an abstract idea but a proven formula.

We have proven to our audience, our local broadcasters and our sponsors that we can produce a quality professional show that is both entertaining and educational. However, to reach the greatest number of households in our market area, we need to be on a local network affiliate.

This strategy covers those households who receive television via cable, satellite, over-the-air broadcast and online. The fact is local network affiliates are available to every household both city and rural. Running our show on a network affiliate represents a nominal investment. The common practice in these arrangements is for an independent TV producer (that would be us) to pay a fee to the carrier (network affiliate), in which case all advertising and sponsor revenue must be raised by the producer.

Hosts Chrissy Hogue and Brittany Bethel had a blast shopping and cooking in Farmers' Market.

The good news is, we keep the revenue we raise less the fee paid to the carrier. This revenue becomes our operating capital. Yes this puts the burden of selling the show on us, but it also provides us with an opportunity to make more revenue from our show. There are product placement sales as well as spot advertising contracts. This is the easiest and best way to conduct a relationship with a local affiliate. We, in essence, become a syndicator of our own show. We are free to sell it to whomever we choose.

While on this subject, I want to thank Brian Zeman and Jim Barefoot of MC-22 and Mediacom's On-Media cable advertising division. They actually approached us about doing our Farmers' Market show on their cable network. Of course we sold our advertising contracts and paid On-Media a nominal fee for the privilege of running our show on MC-22. The show was picked up by Mediacom outlets in seven states. Though this represented an awesome opportunity, we still didn't reach large segments of our potential audience in Eastern Iowa for the simple fact that Mediacom doesn't provide service to all of Eastern Iowa. But this opportunity represented an excellent chance to work out the kinks in our production formula. I hasten to add that just because we intend to run our show on a local network affiliate doesn't mean we are leaving MC-22. Our aim, if we can afford it, is to do both. I can't make promises, but it is do-able if we believe it's a worthwhile investment.

Next topic: Sponsors and Partners

Download the prospective Sponsor Pitch Sheet now! As we approach sponsors for the coming season, we need to be confident that we are providing our advertisers with a great opportunity to attach their brand to our rising star. We are planning a first season of 10 episodes over 10 consecutive weeks. One of the best "value adds" to our deal is that we have a tremendous Web site; www.coopcookery.org is a comprehensive site that supports all things related to the show. In addition to providing videos of each episode on demand, there are recipes, gardening tips, links to our sponsors and special offers from our sponsors only available on our site. Perhaps not at he forefront of everyone's mind when thinking about the Web site component to this project is the online audience is potentially vast when compared to the over-the-air broadcast audience. The audience for our show is worldwide.

Well, does it matter to a local sponsor how far we reach (around the world). Probably not. What is important to local sponsors is local audiences. And this is what makes local television so great because It does such a great job reaching that audience.

So when do we start?

I would like to point out that we don't have a specific opening date for the Dubuque Food Co-op. We met with the newly appointed manager, Patrick Brickel, in July. For good reasons, Patrick was not going to set a date with us. Fortunately, we can wait. Our fortunes are inexorably linked, and when the opening date is set, we will be there ready to launch our first season. When I say we are ready, I mean we could start tomorrow. We have all of the necessary equipment and talent. However, it takes more than that to launch a TV series. We've got to nail down a carrier agreement which I believe to be straight forward.

Among our Immediate Plans

Among our immediate plans include meeting with our current sponsors and particularly our strategic partner, Iowa State University and their staff at the ISU Extension and Outreach Office Dubuque County. Jason Neisis and Brittany Bethel are participating in the show. Brittany is our on-air chef and we are looking to expand the opportunities for ISU to get involved in content development for the series. One of the ISU Extension Program's most ambitious goals is to promote and support local food growers and processors.

Why this and why now?

People ask me why I have become so excited about producing a regional television show about growing, shopping for and preparing fresh, local food. My simple answer is, "I love to eat good food, and I like to know my farmer!"

In case you haven't noticed, the local food movement is sweeping the nation and in several cases turning vacant urban properties into farms and gardens. High transportation costs are contributing to higher food costs. One way to deal is to grow more food locally. There are places in our nation that are "food deserts" where all food must be shipped in from great distances. Chances are the food that is available is processed food. Before World War II, many Americans had gardens, and most of us knew how to grow and preserve food. Over the 20th Century, Iowa's agriculture profile has evolved from family farms into megafarms, huge acreages of row crops, ostensibly corn and soybeans, and much of it exported. These crops are not directly consumed by humans. They are "refined" into several products that keep Iowa's economy humming along.

Corn, for example, is used for fuel (alcohol), livestock feed, starches, corn gluten, a variety of chemicals for such diverse industries as cosmetics and hair care products, corn flour, corn oil, molasses, and corn sweetener for the processed food industry. Mechanization, hybridized disease and pest resistant strains of plants have contributed enormous wealth to Iowa while we feed the world. Ironically, there is comparatively little real fresh produce grown in Iowa. Many years ago, Andy Roony, of 60 Minutes fame, did a documentary on CBS about food in America. He said of Iowa, "In a state known for food production, a gourmet tour of Iowa is a non-stop trip."

Television is a perfect means of educating the public of the virtues of locally grown food. It has the power to create market demand and the Dubuque Food Co-op project, for example is an exciting proposition that could contribute greatly to improve the health profile of our citizens.

It fits right in Iowa State University's tractor cab. Iowa State University's Extension and Outreach Dubuque County office was first to get involved in the Co-op Cookery through their contact with organizers of the Dubuque Food Co-op. It should be noted that ISU, back in 1987 as part of the Iowa's Ground water Protection Act, started the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture which, among other things, is heavily involved policy research, environmental impact of agricultural practices, and (most important to us) the Regional Food Systems Working Group. This group is comprised of geographically-based practitioners and community leaders with a goal to increase the investment in and support for local and regional food businesses in Iowa. There are 15 local groups that participate and jointly manage this group. The group was convened in 2003 by the Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative.

At a symposium I attended in West Des Moines that was hosted by the Leopold Center, I learned that a comparatively small farm can produce a surprisingly large amount of fresh produce and even meat and poultry products that can be marketed directly to consumers at a fair and often times premium price through such outlets as food co-ops and farmers' markets. However there are also laws on the books that don't allow farmers to market some products (poultry for example) directly to consumers. Most have to do with food safety issues, but most only serve to favor large food processors that in all probability had something to do with getting the legislation passed in the first place.

Another trend in agriculture that is sweeping across the plains is the organic food movement. But more on that phenomenon in a future blog.

Like I said, I love to eat good food and I like to know my farmer. I'm betting a lot of other folks do too, and they'll be watching our television show.

That should serve as a sufficient update for now. Email me if you have any questions.

Gary Olsen


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