Uninvited from Church

•November 19, 2009 • 4 Comments

Earlier this month, a pastor wanted to invite me to speak at his church’s event a few days before Thanksgiving. The event was organized by his and two other churches in the area. He wanted me to share my experiences of keeping hope, faith and believing in miracles during a time that was not just a farmer’s nightmare. People across the country are dealing with foreclosures and it is an ongoing concern for many. The pastor had been following our farm foreclosure for a year and thought my story was one to share with his parish.

To discuss more details we met for lunch in St. Johns last week. The first 30 minutes I shared with him in detail what I have been going through over the past three years, the struggle and the challenges. After I was done, he mentioned that he watched all of the YouTube videos we put on the Peppermint Jim Channel and had noticed, both in the videos and during our conversation, that he hadn’t heard any hatred or grudge against our bank Greenstone Farm Credit Services. I explained that you cannot go through an ordeal this big and this long by blaming others for your mistakes. Nor can you afford the emotions of hatred and revenge because nothing good will come from that. Besides, you need all your energy that you have to just maintain yourself.

The pastor then continued explaining that the church sometimes has guest speakers and how much he wanted me there. However, to make this decision, he needed the green light from the two other pastors. One pastor was unsure of the idea of having me speak at the event at first and wanted to consult with Greenstone employees within the parish. When they came back to him a few days later, their answer was, “absolutely not”. In fact, if the pastor would still invite me, not only would they not come to the event, but every attempt would be made to relocate him from his job or even have him lose his job all together.

I could not believe my ears and the pastor had to tell me the whole story once again, because hearing it twice made it a little more believable. I was completely shocked and disappointed that I couldn’t share my story with the people of these churches. All my lectures and sharing have always been with the intent to help and inspire people. In my lifetime I have had the honor and opportunity to speak and share with thousands of people in groups of all ages and background. I always appreciated the value and contribution that each and every individual has. For me it is all about following your dreams, believing in them and keeping the faith. Each time I spoke to a group, it has allowed me to ask myself one important question: Does doing what you do make you happy? And is that something you want to do for the rest of your life? And the answer I come up with every time is, Yes!! Consequently, when I lecture, I always encourage people to not settle for less and never give up what they believe in doing. Circumstances may sometimes seem to move us in other directions, but these experiences only add to your story, making it better and more interesting. Life is short, it can change within a second. Therefore, live now, do what you love, be inspired and don’t wait for tomorrow.

Very early on, during a time when I truly believed that there had to be other options than complete liquidation of the farm, I also believed that we could work something out with the bank. Showing accountability by providing quarterly reports, we held nothing back while I held myself accountable for everything we did. I had complete faith that we could turn the foreclosure around. Looking back, I have to think how much Greenstone employees must have endured; walking through the picket lines every day for more than a week. I am sure they were constantly asked questions about what was happening and that they had to defend themselves for working for Greenstone. Yet this is what they do and it is their livelihood as much as my job is for me. The whole situation with our farm is not cut and dry. Decisions were guided and made by only four people within Greenstone who also enjoy what they do for a living. Therefore, I deeply apologize to the Greenstone employees for any distress that I, or the farm foreclosure may have caused.

Peppermint Jim.

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Preparing for a New Year

•October 15, 2009 • 2 Comments

I have struggled for a couple of months to find the words to express the waves of emotion that followed the eviction on August 28th.

The exhaustion of three years battling against and struggling with the complete darkness was starting to take its toll.  This darkness is like a black hole if you will, because once you come close to it, it begins to slowly pull you in downwards and if you let it, making it harder and harder to escape.

Now, as I and the Get Mint Trading Crew continue to right ourselves up, we continue our walk with hope and faith. In the beginning, I held myself accountable for everything to the point that it became incapacitating for a short time. Even the smallest task was challenging and stressful.  The disappointment over the lack of words to be remembered from the state and federal government apart from “It is not your fault” and “It is unfortunate” was still with me. But as we moved forwards, we began to grow and regain some of our strength and passion for what we do. After all, we are the Mint People. Hope and light came from the most expected and unexpected places. People both nearby and across the country reached out and brought light and hope even through a simple phone call. People that had lost their homes or farms, people that loved our products and encouraged us to keep going, others that had tried out new uses of the oil that we had never heard of, handwritten letters with testimonials, emails with ideas, even self-made YouTube videos; it was a flood of encouragement, love and support that seemed to have no end and the kind words were overwhelming. For a time I had felt alone on this quest, but now I found new hope through all this.

The question I get asked most and that I sometimes even ask myself is, where to next?

The Get Mint Trading Company is still operating from farm inventory and will continue developing the highest quality mint products that our customers are used to. We are working as a team with the intent to grow relationships and to continue supporting other small local producers and businesses through our own.

For myself, knowing what I know and understand about mint essential oil, and my commitment to being a contributor for the common good, I am starting over with a new chapter of my life. I will continue to share my passion and hope with others because we all must continue to find new hope when the old is gone, we must continue to have gratitude for those who have supported us and we must continue to expect miracles when they are least expected.

I truly have so much to be thankful for and with new mint products and projects in the works I will keep my dreams alive, because there is no failure until you quit.

Over time I will gather the rest of my thoughts that I am still processing, but as always, keep the faith.

Peppermint Jim.

Peppermint Jim keeps the faith

•October 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

Here is a video a friend of mine made for me. It summarizes pretty much the last 3 months; the 98th harvest, Mint Jam 09!, the foreclosure, etc.

Peppermint Jim

What the American people need to know- from Forbes.com

•September 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Market Scan

Farmer Mac’s Amber Waves Of Pain

Ruthie Ackerman, 10.01.08, 08:31 PM EDT

Farmers may have trouble getting loans, but the farm financier got a $65M infusion.

The agricultural sector swept in and bailed out its own Wednesday at a time when farmers are feeling the impact of the credit crunch.

Federal Agricultural Mortgage, the rural cousin of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a $65.0 million capital infusion from a group of banks on Wednesday.

Federal Agricultural Mortgage, which is also known as Farmer Mac and was created by the U.S. government as a secondary market for agricultural real estate and rural housing mortgage loans, saw its shares soar 65.6%, or $2.69, to $6.79, on Wednesday, but that will be cold comfort to investors who paid more than $30 for it in August. The shares held up well until last month, when the Treasury took control of Fannie Mae, in which Farmer Mac held preferred shares.

The Farm Credit System, which is a federally chartered network of borrower-owned lending institutions, purchased $60.0 million in preferred stock of Farmer Mac. In addition $5.0 million of Farmer Mac senior cumulative perpetual preferred stock has been purchased by Zions Bancorporation of Salt Lake City.

“Farmer Mac enhances the availability of agricultural mortgages, and more recently, rural utility loans, thereby assisting in the steady and dependable flow of capital to American farmers and ranchers and rural America,” said Robert B. Engel, chief executive officer of CoBank, one of the Farm Credit System institutions. He was speaking on behalf of his fellow Farm System Bank presidents.

Meanwhile, just as Farmer Mac got a bailout on Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the credit crunch may impact agricultural production next year.

Schafer warned that the costs of farming have soared and without loans it may be difficult to pay for operations. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farm expenses are expected to rise 16% to $294.8 billion this year. Engel said “agriculture is a key economic driver in our economy, providing food, thousands of jobs and biofuels that help make our nation more energy-independent,” which is why the Farm Credit System wants to ensure that U.S. agriculture has the capital it needs to survive.

As fertilizer and seed companies such as Potash, Agrium, and Mosaic continue to raise price due to soaring fuel prices, higher costs of borrowing and supply concerns, farmers feel the pain.

Last month, Farmer Mac plummeted after it filed a document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying it would incur charges due to its exposure to Fannie Mae securities. The agency owned $47.2 million of Fannie Mae preferred shares at the end of June. About $44.0 million of value has been wiped off those shares, whose dividends are being suspended as Washington opted to support Fannie and Freddie bondholders at the expense of owners of those companies’ common and preferred shares. (See “Farmer Mac Mowed Over By Fannie.”) Farmer Mac said last week it also had exposure to Lehman Brothers Holdings, which filed for bankruptcy last month, and may suffer a substantial write-down.

Farmer Mac also announced Michael A. Gerber will now serve as acting president and chief executive, replacing Henry D. Edelman, who was the only president and CEO that Farmer Mac had ever had.

Farmer Mac said Gerber will continue as CEO of Farm Credit of Western New York, an association in the Farm Credit System.

To read the article on forbes.com go to http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/01/farmer-mac-closer-markets-equity-cx_ra_1001markets43.html

As it is in Heaven, it is on Earth.

•September 4, 2009 • 4 Comments

On a late August afternoon, I looked out over the fields. Breathing deeply, the scent of mint, faintly floating in the soft breeze filled my entire being…Everything was quiet, on a perfect summer day when time doesn’t seem to matter.

Quite a girly start of this week’s blog, eh?  Jim asked me, “Lilian the Mintaloompa”, to write this week’s post. Actually, he asked me last week, but hey, I was busy. Just to get the beginning right has taken me some time and I am still working on it. “Write what is in your heart,” Jim said, but putting into words what my heart says, isn’t all that easy. In the mean time, I have started over at least half a dozen times and in between computer crashes, eviction notices, lectures, evacuating, trying to come up with $550.000, radio shows and moving, I got caught up.

But I am here now, this time looking out over the rooftops of Saint Johns from my very own desk in the Get Mint Trading Company downtown office. The smell of coffee and vanilla wafers fill the air and the sound of an occasional car driving by reminds me of the world outside the window. “Write something about your experiences here on the farm,” Jim added, that one evening last week as we were standing by the barn, “write what you are feeling, what you saw and heard over the past month.” So, I came up with this:

For those of you out there, that have been lucky enough to ever visit the farm will understand this: When you come here, you will never leave. You may physically leave, but there will be a part of you left behind and it will call you, ask your soul to come back to the farm to reclaim it. You feel complete, at ease and connected when you take off your shoes and watch the black dirt between your toes. You feel the love, the prayers that were send out over the fields and resonate in the air, as your nose tingles with the scent of earth, and fresh mint. You feel the swirling, cool sensation rising up through your feet, up your legs and into your heart as you close your eyes and become one with your Self. The cottonwoods whisper, the crickets chirp, and you know All is good.

For those of you out there, that have been fortunate enough to spend some time at the farm and understand that it is hard to leave once you have experienced the above, may find it easy to believe that this is exactly what happened to me. I met Peppermint Jim and Linette last July through a mutual friend. I came back to the farm a few more times that month and then, before I knew it, I never left. Jim asked me to work with him, manage his schedule, emails, promote the farm, and some projects here and there to the side. We would be doing most of the work over the phone and through emails. That was on a Friday afternoon. I worked on the farm that evening, the weekend, Monday, and by Monday night, I had my own room, upstairs in the farmhouse.

Now, five weeks later, my life has turned upside down, made a complete 360 turn around, flipped over again and is good to go, moving forward. I have witnessed the start of the 98th harvest at the Crosby Mint Farm, and mourned its abrupt ending because of bureaucratic scandals, came to deeply love the sounds and the smell of the farm, experienced the miracles, and cried as it touched my very own soul. I have seen how it brings people together, how it builds a community around itself and how it heals hearts and minds. I helped move an entire farm plus house, documented the eviction process, walked the picket line, wore a giant mint green bear costume, wrote many emails and letters, spent long hours deep into the night working, brainstorming, and talking to Jim. Through all this I met many, many awake and beautiful people, laughed, shared and cried with them as they were all attracted by the same thing: the farm. I have gained more than I can embrace. I have found a direction, a purpose. I know I am making a difference just as these past five weeks have changed my life in nothing but a positive way.

One day, I hope you will be lucky enough to walk the fields yourself, smell the fresh mint, feel the dirt under your feet and you will smile. You will know that these fields are not just fields. You will feel the cool sensation working its way up your legs and understand that time is but an illusion, because you may think you only spent an hour, where the clock will tell you, you spent half of the afternoon. And it won’t matter, because it will be time well spent. And you will come back because a piece of you will always be there.

I thank Jim for all the respect, love and opportunities he has given me and for sharing the farm, his heart and soul with me. We are moving forward, planning, dreaming and we are unstoppable. Jim has mint oil flowing through his veins and nothing can take that away from him, not even the loss of his farm. It may be temporary, it may be forever, but mint grows in the most unexpected places and gardeners (and bankers!)  know this: you can try to weed it, but it will always come back.

With love,

Lilian.

Video Diary-Peppermint Jim’s Story.

•August 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

http://www.youtube.com/user/peppermintjim

Life after August 14th 2009

•August 19, 2009 • 11 Comments

And so the foreclosure deadline passed… 5:00 pm came and went just like any hour of the hectic days we have had over the past few weeks.  But August 14th 2009 was the date that had weighed heavily on everybody’s minds and although we kept telling each other that it was just a date, the air was tingling with nervousness and worry. Late in the afternoon, after phone conferences, meetings, emails, more phonecalls and costumers in the store, I looked at my watch. It was already 5:18. I guess I had expected some bells and whistles to go off at 5:00 but none of that happened. So we simply kept going  to push forwards.

Several people asked me why I was putting up a stage, mowing the lawn, decorating the farm for a big festival, and inviting artists  and food vendors to come celebrate our first anual Mint Jam, while we were in the middle of a foreclosure. They said: Why aren’t you rolling over on your back, surrender, and walk away? Instead, you are throwing a party? My answer is simple; nobody is taking this farm away, nobody can stop us, and we are saving this farm. The Mint Jam turned out to be a huge success and if nothing else, we had people coming to our farm and experiencing what it is what the farm does, how much we love it and how it affects everybody’s life in nothing but a positive manner.

And so, today, I still stand firm to save our farm. The 98th harvest is still here, the distillery still blows the whistle,  costumers are coming to the store, the phones are ringing off the hook and we are working diligently to follow up on new business opportunities and creating new relationships.

One of our main concerns and top priorities at this point in time is the website. The Get Mint Trading Company has lost thousands and thousands of dollars during the website attacks and harassments on www.getmint.com  since last October. This is an ongoing process, a struggle, a fight, but on a non-level playing field. We do not know where the attacks came and are coming from, but they incapacitated us severely and lost us many costumers.

One can come across many struggles when building a business under foreclosure. The website attacks, however, were something we hadn’t taken into account. Or better; it goes beyond each and all of our wildest imagination. Hadn’t this happened we would have been able to pay our bills and pay off our loans. Three out of four of our loans are in good standing, and our campaign to save the farm is intended to raise money to pay off this last $300.000. I have been on several nationwide radio broadcasts and received phone calls from all over the country from people showing their support. The majority of those people, were not able to order products from the website I had promoted, because of viruses, alarms, warnings and even porn showing up on their computer screens. Imagine what that does to a business…

Now that both August 14th  and Mint Jam 09 have passed, and the crowds are gone, some of the peace has seemingly returned to the farm. But looks can be deceiving; behind the scenes we are working hard to get a new website up and running, reach out to our costumers, friends and relations to keep them informed, talking to the media, harvesting, running the store, processing orders and answering that phone  right there that has been ringing all day… We are trying to talk to the governor, and even the President if we must, as long as we can get the message out there that this liquidation does not need to happen. We have a successful business, that can be even more successful if it wasn’t for these dark forces that are working against us. And what about the bank, you ask?  Nothing but silence…

But, in this process and the road we traveled, we have been blessed to experience a lot of goodness and warmth. An endless stream of  people have stepped forward, reached out to us and showed their support. And we know that more will, and are coming. A simple phone call, an email, or somebody stopping by can and does make all the difference and that person has the power to turn a moment of despair and panic around to pure blissfulness.  These are the things we need to hold onto, because if anything, we are all here to help each other and this is our very own intent. And so we are all keeping the faith and are grateful for all the help, support and friendships that we have experienced all around us during this foreclosure. We are expecting miracles.

Peppermint Jim.