Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

Gracias Madre opening in West Hollywood

Gracias Madre  is one of our biggest customers. In the growing season they even feature our company name on their menu. They prepare our cactus in a number of ways in vegan Mexican recipes in their San Francisco restaurant using organic ingredients.
Well, now my L.A. peeps, YOU can visit Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. They are opening a new restaurant at 8905 Melrose Ave in West Hollywood. This is  a prime location only a couple of blocks between Santa Monica Blvd and San Vicente Blvd.

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It looks like they’ll be opening in a month. Do stop in and meet the people, they are awesome and nice folks who run their restaurant along ethical lines. They are super-good to us, one of their suppliers. They understand when we have ‘issues’ with production, and even though we have to stop all sales to them in wintertime, for four years now they’ve always added our cactus to their menu when our production ramps up again in May.
We hope we’ll be able to sell them cactus for the Hollywood restaurant also… we should have good production come May as long as we get some rain again and have good groundwater. Yes, even our cactus requires irrigation. But the fences are holding, the gophers are minimal, the diabrotica, ants and snails are under some control and we’re current on all permits and fees. So (fingers crossed) we expect a large and abundant harvest once May comes along. We always shoot for Cinco-de-Mayo… but last year was early and lasted late… this spring I expect to be harvesting by mid April.

thanks for backup

yep… I was messing around with the site, and deleted all the files!

Looking into the server at www.bluehost.com I saw that they do daily backups….

and in ten minutes I restored the files


Wax cardboard anyone?

Waxed veggie boxes

Waxed veggie boxes

We’ve been shipping our cactus around the country to restaurants, stores and residences for about fifteen years now…. we’ve always shipped in standard cardboard boxes.. which worked well enough when using Fed Ex and USPS.

But now we’re shipping to distributors who transport the cactus in trucks with tons of other produce.

So to keep the cactus in good condition for those circumstances, we’re considering changing our ‘commercial-pack’ boxes to a waxed cardboard…. these are two ‘stock’ boxes available locally at two different packing house supply companies… which do you think looks best for our cactus? The one on the left or the one on the right?

These waxed will hold up structurally better in the cold moist environment of a cooler with forty tons of exhaling produce…. the holes in the box will allow the cactus to breath…

We’ll have to pick up a lot more volume before it will be possible to get our logo and name printed on the boxes… the minimum for such a printing is 2,000 boxes…. although I think we’ll be at that level in the next few years…. first I’ll need to build another few sheds to store the boxes before I set that up.


QR Codes and the Consumer

Study: Nearly 80 percent of college students can’t figure out QR codes

QR codes (Quick Response) is the strange black box with squiggly marks in it on some labels. This is a technology that allows users of ‘smart phones’ to scan the code which will bring them to a website…. this code is often used by food producers like us, because we want people to find our unusual and perhaps unfamiliar food in a market, and be able to find our website quickly so they can see preparation and recipe information.

Edible Cactus QR Code

Edible Cactus QR Code

   Our labels are part of a marketing campaign designed and implemented by ‘Top 10 Produce LLC’

  The QR code will take people to our website where they can pick from cactus recipes and preparation/nutritional information.

   Even though we have this QR code, I personally do not have a smart phone as we have no cellular reception at our home, and I am only out of the canyon for a few hours each week…. so even though I love technology, I can’t use the technology of cell-phones well enough to pay for a smart-phone and the added costs of data service :-(

Food-First Mention

Food-First is a web page on food safety issues (They are officially the Institute for Food and Development Policy), here they discuss the marketing group we are a member of… and way cool is the fact that they used our label to show the scan codes the group is using!
They also discuss the new laws that are set to help find and track foods from ‘point of origin’ to help with food safety.
The marketing group is called Top10 Produce. And they are a fine group that has great ideas to help the small grower and the consumer both.

Best Buy, HSBC and Geek Squad Complaint

   Oh boy, Best Buy is on my ‘canned’ list. They sold me a wireless router and 6 months support at discount if I got a credit card with them. When filling it out they said they do not ship invoices to PO boxes. I told them I don’t get mail at our address, it is too remote for the Postal Service. They said put both down and it’ll go through. We never got an invoice, I went to Best Buy twice and they said I had zero bills due. Then after 3 months I finally got a call, they said they were charging us $35 late fee monthly, and 24% interest. Even though they admitted they had gotten all our invoices back as undeliverable. HSBC said that Best Buy computer system does not connect to their computer system, so Best Buy cannot be relied upon to give accurate ‘accounts due’ information.  (I paid their usury fees for the late charges just to get out from them saying we didn’t pay)

To cap it off, today the wireless network went down. I unplugged everything and reconnected; after ‘no-go’, I hit the reset button and still ‘no va’. So I called their support team, who told me that since I’d pressed the ‘reset’ button I had voided the warranty and service agreement.

Geek Squad/BestBuy will get NO money or goodwill from me unless they act right to me. So I am in their complaint log which is supposedly ‘actionable’.
The way to punish businesses who act wrongly is to spread the word, and warn others. And I’m doing that now.

A big portion of customer action is to also make sure you give the business time to rectify the mistake…. because EVERYONE makes mistakes…. give people time to make things right….. but after these two SNAFUS from Best Buy I’m very leery about their sercice, although in the past I’d always considered them a  good company with fair prices for good items. But in both cases when I had ‘issues’, it was with an auxilary company they’d retained to service the agreements (HSBC with the credit card, and Geek Squad with the router and service agreement). So it’s NOT Best Buy alone that’s to blame… but ANY company doing business with another company has to ensure their auxilary support companies are as good, honest, reliable and ethical as they themselves are…. if they are not, it WILL reflect on the main company.

I’m callin’ ya out Best Buy…. fix my router issue with this and I’ll mention that you made things right…. but until you do…. this will also remain open and ‘actionable’.

Oh Hail!

We wondered about a nice way to explain the small white spots on the cactus that the hail caused.
Then I decided to make the best of the situation and make everyone happy they got some pretty special cactus….

With each box of Grade C cactus we shipped a small note explaining the hail marks….

“First off, let me thank you all for joining with us in the nutritious and natural organically certified edible cactus!  Part of the fun we get is the fine interaction with many of our customers, and knowing that they like the cactus we send them.

  Another part of the fun is dealing with the vagaries of climate and how that affects the cactus growth.

Well, it wasn’t fun though when we got hail two days in a row last week… and although I thought of swatting the hail with my tennis racket, I knew it was pointless…

But then I realized that not many people are going to get the opportunity to get California cactus with some hail-stone pings….

But unfortunately… there was not enough hail-marked cactus to go around to everyone, so we had to split it up and give everyone just a little to make it fair. So the white pings and dings are your special bit of cactus.. but don’t tell too many people…. This is a once in a year event if that.

John and Vickie Dicus    Rivenrock Gardens”

Harvesting Cactus Again

  We had a fellow write us today asking when we’d be sending bulk edible cactus shipments….
By co-incidence we were just sending off our newsletter offering list members the first harvest of the season.   Yes, you too can get in on the VERY FIRST pickings of cactus this season… but only if you are a member of our newsletter list and get the info directing you to the ‘secret page’ with the order forms.

   We have the newsletter to keep people apprised of our sales activities, which is all dependant on the cactus growth. Whenever we have a new offering, we tend to share this on the newsletter. It makes it sure and simple for me.. we try to let the subject line give a quick bit of info on the main purpose of that letter. We are more active with the newsletter in the spring, when the offerings may change weekly due to repressed growth and high demand… but through the late summer and winter it is monthly at best.


   If you’re not a member of the newsletter, you could register from our site at www.rivenrock.com or from the field below  

Right now we can only offer five pound boxes of edible cactus, and only to list members.

   You can see a sample of our newsletter at http://www.nopalcactusblog.com/2009/05/16/sample-rivenrock-e-newsletter/

   As the weeks go by, we’ll add larger box sizes to the offerings. The leaves are growing well now, and we have good weather forecast which keeps growth active, so we may be able to offer list members an early offering of leaves in bulk within a month. Also, within two weeks I expect we’ll be offering the cactus in 16 lb lots.


Walking On Air

   One of the odd things with video is the big music companies trying to shut off display and sharing of their music videos, or the music they own rights to being used in personal videos and shared over the Internet through services such as YouTube.

   I don’t know much about digital music…. but it seems to me that most folks aren’t going to know how to take the songs from the videos in a manner that will allow them to be kept on a player so they can listen whenever they want. So it’s not like they’re likely to lose a lot of business from potential customers.  On the other hand, it could well be that many people will find out about an artists music through the Internet and listening a few times might be compelled to look the artist up and purchase the music online for their own collection.

   I was happy to find one of my favorite current artists label has done such a thing with her music. Kerli’s tunes are now on VEVO through YouTube, and they give the code out so people can embed them legally into their web posts and share the music with others.

   Now, I’m not ‘hip’. .. So I’m not often current on anything happening…. but I was asked to audition once for a music video for a young Estonian girl named Kerli. They wanted a ‘Creepy Guy’ for a song about a Creepy World.  I didn’t get the role… maybe I wasn’t creepy enough… sometimes not getting what you want is good. But at any rate I became familiar with a young girl with loads of talent, a good heart and as Lancelot mused “She has a pretty face”.

   Kerli…. Walking On Air

California Climate Change Policy Leaves Out Agriculture

An article I came upon… California Climate Change Policy Leaves Out Agriculture

   It is this kind of issue the Regional Water Quality control board wishes to address with the newly-required ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ classes for all commercial produce growers in California. But they go about it the wrong way. The classes should be given for free to licensed growers… not enforced onto us at our own travel and expense.  The water testing is another thing that should be shared across the board. If this is for the good of the planet, whey are we the ones to bear the cost?  And there is little (seems to me nothing) to help the very small scale grower, nor any consideration given to those who are already doing some or many of the actions they desire…. Instead, like nearly any governmental program, all are lumped together, and all herded through the same door into the same classes. So we who have run on a deficit for the last few years are paying nearly the same as the super huge corporations.


   If I’m upset about this, imagine the commercial growers who would see this all as ‘Tree-Hugger BS’. At least I believe in and support the basic premise of the classes.


   Here’s an excerpt from the article….


Hamerschlag’s report finds that careful studies have shown that several underused farm management practices, such as cover cropping, conservation tillage and organic fertilization, have the potential to deliver significant carbon sequestration benefits while helping farmers conserve water, maintain yields and resist weeds and pests in the face of climate change.

The report makes ten specific recommendations for addressing the inertia that has prevented California from taking effective action on agriculture and climate change and calls on policy makers to develop programs of targeted research, outreach, technical assistance and financial incentives for farmers.

“As a first step towards swifter action,” Hamerschlag said, key state agencies “should establish an inter-agency working group on agriculture and climate change. Federal agencies, NGOs and farm groups all have critical roles to play and should also be actively involved.”

Go here for the full report: http://www.ewg.org/Agriculture-Missing-from-Californias-Climate-Change-Strategy


   The last is the reason I am reluctant to make a decision to close shop and stop producing.  I believe that in time, the officials will realize they have destroyed the most productive farms on a ‘per-acre’ basis.. the small family and organic farms with their growers more interested in producing good foods and taking care of the land than just making a buck this quarter.


  We’ve been operating at a loss the last couple of years…. most of that is due to advertising costs that have not borne fruit. I’ve decided we’ll stop with advertising in the conventional sense… it seems to gain us very little for the cost.  This will allow us to at least operate without having to post a loss. Perhaps in a couple of years the government will come up with a plan to let farmers be able to take the classes through the internet and not have to travel 200 miles for them. Perhaps the government will decide that if it requires a thousand dollars worth of water testing yearly, they will reimburse the growers for some of that cost, since the reason is to help the entire country out. Instead as it stands now, they will push out all the large gardens (small farms) that make some of the best produce. Actually, they won’t, those folks will mostly just operate ‘under the table’, selling their produce to stores that are willing to take food from unlicensed growers without paperwork and receipts. But that will defeat the entire purpose of the testing.  Governmental actions generally have unintended consequences that often are more horrendous than initial inaction by the government.