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Souderton / Telford : Innovation + Job News

3 Souderton / Telford Articles | Page:

From trading bonds to raising chickens, sustainably of course

Agriculture wasn't in Dean Carlson's original plan. "I was a bond trader working in derivatives," says the owner of Wyebrook Farm, a 355-acre spread in Chester County. Carlson is now offering sustainably raised chicken and eggs, with beef and pork on offer this fall. "We have two full time employees, three summer employees and two chef interns," says Carlson of the Honey Brook operation.

Carlson left Susquehanna International Group in 2009, hoping to take time off in a bear market. "I came across the idea of sustainable agriculture and became captivated by it," says Carlson, who explains that conventional agriculture, with its dependence on cheap oil, cannot last forever. "Five to 10 years years from now, it will be obvious. Food will become higher priced and more scarce. You see it already."

Carlson purchased the foreclosed 200 year-old farm from a bank for $4.25 million, and has invested over $750,000 in improvements, which include solar power and renovations to three existing 18th century stone buildings. "The previous owner was going to develop the land into a 100 house tract," says Carlson.

"I looked at the business of conventional farming and didn't like it," explains Carlson, who refers to standard practices as the definition of a bad business -- capital intensive and fraught with variables. "With sustainable agriculture, you are minimizing your input cost. Instead of machinery and hay in a barn, animals are out in the field, harvesting the grass themselves. Our input costs are sunshine and rain."

Wyebrook Farm's first product, Freedom Rangers Chicken, is now available for $4 a pound direct from the farm. Carlson is transforming the old stone barn into a store where customers will be able to purchase chemical-free grass fed meat and poultry directly. It's just a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and not much farther from New York.

Carlson draws inspiration from billionaire financier Jim Rogers, who, when asked by a room full of MBA finance students for advice, replied "Quit school and go work on a farm."

Source: Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm
Writer: Sue Spolan

Bucks County Joomla developer Sitecats expands into Doylestown, hiring

You know a company understands customer service when its phone number is right at the top of the site. Sitecats Web Design must be on the right track, since it has grown out of its former office and set its sights on a larger market. The company, according to founder and owner John Ralston, was originally structured as a traditional freelance web design company, but with the advent of user friendly content management programs such as Joomla and Wordpress, he saw a business model that would allow customers to have the freedom to edit and create their own content.

"We're very proud that we have stuck with Joomla, and have become the area's authority on this CMS, based on our many hours of creating great sites with it. No other CMS has over 7000 powerful modules and components for just about anything a customer needs to do."

Formerly based in Souderton, Sitecats recently expanded to offices in Doylestown, where it counts among its clients Alderfer Meats,  Landis Supermarket, and the Heritage Foundation. The company is now centrally located by the Bucks County Courthouse with 9-to-5 hours "and a landline," adds John, who runs the company with his son Jeremy Ralston. Right now, Sitecats employs five, soon to be six.

"If our projections are right, we'll need to hire a new employee every quarter in 2012, after we're dug into the fiber of the Doylestown scene, according to Ralston.

Some marketing wisdom from Sitecats: when you're out networking, always sit at the table where you know the fewest people. Get heavily involved in the local scene.

'I started with the Main Streets group in Souderton, joined chamber committees, and even co-founded a brand new and very successful business networking group," says John. "We also advertise on local radio WNPV, where I have my own show Mondays at 11 a.m., that focuses on non-profits like Keystone Opportunity Center and Manna on Main Street."

Sitecats clients can sign up for training classes in Joomla along with the company's traditional offerings of site hosting and development.

Source: John Ralston, Sitecats
Writer: Sue Spolan

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele

3 Souderton / Telford Articles | Page:
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