Category Archives: Businesses

The lesson of a Dakota Pinnacle Birch: Why blogs, tags, and linking continue to rule for search engine results

I became a member of the Board of Minnesota Offroad Cyclists (MORC) back in January. At a meeting last weekend, a couple of board members who are avid mountain bikers told me that whenever they Google themselves, the search results return blog posts and photos from my blog, Mountain Bike Geezer

A few days later, I got an email from a Northfield area webmaster wondering what my secret was here on Locally Grown Northfield, as he noticed that search results for Northfield-related issues and people seemed to frequently link to blog posts and images here.

I told them that it’s partly because I use lots of relevant tag word and phrases in my blog posts, including first and last names. And I also take the time to label/tag photos.  But I also include a lot of links in my blog posts. Not only do Google and other search engines love links, but so do the people I link to — and they increases the likelihood that others will at some point link back to something here on LoGro. Search results are still largely dependent on having other sites link to you.  The more the better. And the higher the PageRank of those who link to you, the better. PageRank is partly why Google’s Larry Page is a billionaire.

Knecht's Nurseries and LandscapingI was explaining this to Deb Knecht this weekend, since Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping has been a longtime client and I’ve been helping them revamp their WordPress-based site to make it Responsive, something that all websites these days need to be since so much web traffic comes from a variety of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, etc).

I’m also working with Deb to spruce up (heh) their archive of nearly 1,000 blog posts dating back to Feb. of 2004. While most of their blog posts have been assigned Categories, most need the addition of Tag words and phrases. Categories help when browsing a blog; Tags help with both browsing and searching. Here on LoGro we have a few dozen Categories but over 3,000 Tag words and phrases.

wordpress permalinksWhile reading up about search engine optimization (SEO) strategies recently, I learned that permalinks (the URL of a blog post) are more search engine friendly if they use words from the title of the blog post rather than a number with a generic term like ‘post’ or ‘article.’

So I’ve been converting a few of my own blogs over to this permalink naming convention.  A blog post I authored yesterday is titled Mountain biking’s sweet spot for seniors: high impact for bone density, low impact for joints and if you hover your cursor over that link, you’ll see the permalink is a long URL: http://mountainbikegeezer.com/mountain-bikings-sweet-spot-for-seniors-high-impact-bone-density-low-impact-joints/. Previously, the URL might have been http://mountainbikegeezer.com/?p=4821 or other variation using ‘blog’ or ‘archives’ or ‘post’ with a number like I’ve been using here on LoGro for years.

Dakota Pinnacle Birch

At Knecht’s, we’ve been using permalinks with the naming convention /weblog/post/# which is an indication of how old their blog is. Back in 2004, ‘weblog’ was a commonly used term.  Not any more. So when I was revamping their site a month or so ago, I changed the permalink names to search engine friendly names, assuming the WordPress database would automatically redirect anyone who tried to link to a old permalink URL to the updated one. Doing this on my mountain bike blog worked, so full steam ahead! Wrong. It only works for the default permalink, not others.  I should have used a special plugin. Ouch.  The bounce rate has skyrocketed and search engine results for popular trees and plants have plummeted.

But rather than going back to the old permalink style, we’re sticking with the change, and updating the blog posts with tags.  So for example, back in October of 2010, Leif Knecht blogged about a popular shade tree called a Dakota Pinnacle Birch.  There’ve been other posts about the tree, too, so we’ve tagged them all, which means all the posts can be retrieved with the URL http://knechts.net/tag/dakota-pinnacle-birch/ and from there, you can click on the blog post headlines or titles of each for more.

My upcoming task for LoGro will be to convert all 4,000+ blog posts to a new permalink structure. Gulp. In the meantime, however, Google will have to live with http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29632.

Bridge Square is Northfield’s living room. The public process for planning its future begins Oct. 23

Bridge Square Blog Site Bridge Square press release Oct 18 2013

Last week, the City of Northfield announced on its website and via an emailed press release (PDF) that the public process for creating a master planning update for Bridge Square begins this Wednesday with an open house at the Archer House, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

There’s now a Bridge Square Blog Site. Yes, you can see my fingerprints on it, as I’ve been hired as a contractor (with my Wigley and Associates hat) by the City to handle the online engagement for the project, teaming up with the lead consultant, Stantec Consulting’s John Slack.

Locally Grown - aggregated Bridge Square RSS feed

Here on LoGro, the headlines for all the recent Bridge Square project blog posts will appear in the upper right sidebar.  But like I did when I posted updates on the recently completed Downtown Parking Management Plan, comments are turned off here because the discussion happens there.

I will attach a comment to this blog post whenever there’s a significant update to the project, just as a way of drawing additional attention to it.  There are better ways to stay informed, however. See my post titled Tools for keeping updated on the Bridge Square planning process.

Northfielder Bill Steele’s first love is not EcoTrans; it’s Bolder Options

Bill Steele—one of at least three Northfielders by that name—is not just the owner of EcoTrans but has been involved with a non-profit organization in the Twin Cities called Bolder Options since its inception.

EcoTrans provides door-to-door serviceBill Steele and Amy Merritt arrive at Bolder Options HQLeft: Amy Merritt; right: Bill Steele
Bill invited me to their open house last Thursday and gave me a ride up in a new EcoTrans Prius (he’s got another that’s closing in on 400,000 miles). Former Northfield Union of Youth Executive Director Amy Merritt, now working with EcoTrans, joined us. From the Bolder Options mission/vision page:

Bolder OptionsBolder Options is an innovative organization focusing on healthy youth development.  The comprehensive mentoring program, wellness activities, and leadership opportunities coordinate family, community, school, and county resources in a united effort to support youth who are at-risk for dropping out of school or becoming involved in delinquent or unhealthy behaviors.

Darrell Thompson and Bill SteeleDarrell Thompson and Bill SteeleBill Steele and George Thompson
Bill has been so supportive of Bolder Options for such a long time that they’ve named a conference room after him in their headquarters near downtown Minneapolis.  With Bill above (left and center) is Bolder Options President Director Darrell Thompson. (For you non-football types, Darrell is University of Minnesota’s all-time rushing leader and a former Green Bay Packer—first round draft pick in 1990.)  On the right: Bill with Darrell’s dad, George Thompson.

Some photos from the open house:

Bolder Options open house 2013Bolder Options open house 2013Bill Steele (center); Bolder Options open house 2013

Bolder Options Health & Wellness Coordinator Courtney GriffinBolder Options open house 2013Bolder Options open house 2013
Health & Wellness Coordinator Courtney Griffin ran the bean bag toss game, with many winners receiving a pair of tickets to Twins games.

Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013
Darrell gave us a tour of the facility. I was particularly interested in their use of bicycles, part of their Bolder V3 program which includes youth competing in triathlons – swimming, biking, and running.

FYI, Bill Steele received the "Making a Different Award" from the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative back in December 2010.

MPR’s Molly Bloom visits Northfield for their ‘Get Out There’ segment

More than a few Northfielders got this email recently from Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst for MPR News and their Public Insight Network:

Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst, MPR NewsI’m writing today because you’re a source in our Public Insight Network and you’ve told us that you live in Northfield. We’re working on a series of stories that we think you might be able to help us with.

MPR News is been doing a series of stories called “Get Out There,” in which we profile Minnesota towns (you can see them here). We want to find the places, eateries, and activities that might be hidden gems. So we’re coming to you to see what you think people should see, do or eat when they’re in Northfield. If friends were visiting from out-of-town, where would you take them? Please tell us here.

Griff intrudes on Almanac tapingMolly heard from 35 Northfielders and graciously let me follow her around yesterday while she visited some of the recommended "hidden gems."

I promised that A) I wouldn’t make any suggestions on where she should go; and B) that I’d try not to get in the way like I did the last time a public media journalist visited.

Chip DeMann, Molly BloomChip DeMann, Molly BloomMolly Bloom, Hayes Scriven, Brad Ness
Her first stop was the Northfield Historical Society where Chip DeMann, Hayes Scriven and Brad Ness tried to impress her with, what else, lots of old stuff.

Molly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at CakeWalkMolly Bloom at CakeWalk
After a quick couple of photos at the NAG, she bought a cupcake at CakeWalk and forced me to eat half of it.

Catherine Dominguez and Molly BloomMolly Bloom and Nathan NelsonMolly Bloom at the Weitz CenterMolly Bloom at Chapati
She chatted with Catherine Dominguez at GBM and took a photo of Nathan Nelson reading newspapers there, a quaint activity that they probably don’t see much of any more in the public media empire. After a visit to the Weitz Center (alas, closed for the summer), she had lunch at Chapati, and then ventured–no further stalking by me–to the Brick Oven Bakery and the Northfield Farmer’s Market in Riverside Park.

Molly Bloom, Victor Summa, Paul HagerShe also was witness to how much I get abused by the citizenry on a daily basis, courtesy of Victor Summa and Paul Hager.

Her story should appear on the Get Out There blog on Thursday, at which point, I invite y’all to chime in here with your suggestions on the other places/hidden gems of Northfield that she should also have profiled.

Seeds Farm CSA now offering shares, optional add-ons, and an experiential partnership with the Northfield Y

Becca Carlson, Seeds Farm

I blogged about the SEEDS Project (Social Entrepreneurship Environmental Design and Stewardship) back in July of 2010 so I was glad to get an update about it a couple weeks ago from Seeds Farm Manager Becca Carlson when she stopped by my corner office at GBM.

I asked her to send me a write-up about the recent changes and I’ve included it below.

The biggest developments under the SEEDS umbrella are the Seeds Farm ("A sustainable vegetable farm community project in Northfield Minnesota"), the Seeds Farm CSA, and its experiential partnership with the Northfield Area Family YMCA.

Seeds Farm  Northfield Area Family YMCA 

They released a new video yesterday:

httpv://youtu.be/43nqqiBCb5Y

Here’s Becca’s summary of the latest on the Seeds Farm:

There’s more to eating locally than just the vegetables…

To thrive and survive, humans need to eat every day. For those of us that eat three meals a day, that means each week we have 21 opportunities to make a decision on how we are going to fuel our bodies, what type of agricultural system we are going to support, and what we want our communities and the landscape of America to look like.

Because of this, we have the ability to make a huge impact solely with how we chose to buy and consume food. Here are some reasons why I think it’s important to use our purchasing power to support local and sustainably grown produce:

Excellent taste and freshness

Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from far away. Produce picked and eaten at the height of freshness tastes better.

Celebrate a healthy lifestyle!

You are what you eat-so fill your body with healthy, nutritious and wholesome.

Support our farming neighbors, local economy, & community

Buying locally helps ensure that our local farms keep in business so they can provide you with delicious and nutritious produce, keeps your dollars circulating in our community, and is an investment in healthy communities.

Help preserve the environment

One of the biggest ways we interact with our environment is through agriculture; i.e. how our food was grown. Support farmers that help nurture our resources so they are not depleted for future generations.

Pass on the environmental ethic

Practice what you preach and encourage others to do so as well! When you buy locally produced organic food you cannot help but raise the consciousness of your friends and family about how food buying decisions can make a difference in your life and the life of your community; and about how the basic act of eating is connected to larger issues.

At Seeds Farm, a four-acre diverse vegetable farm just one mile south of Northfield, we help make it possible to embody these ideas by providing a unique, experiential CSA in partnership the Northfield YMCA and Bon Appétit. This includes:

  • 16-18 weeks of a box full of local and sustainable fruits and vegetables grown by Seeds Farmers.  Full-shares & Half-shares are available
  • Weekly recipes included written by Bon Appétit chefs
  • Weekly newsletter will include stories from St. Olaf students involved at Seeds Farm.
  • A media component all about “Life on the Farm”!
  • “Food on the Farm” dinner at Seeds, prepared by Bon Appétit chefs with Seeds Farm ingredients.
  • Free admission to other Seeds Farm events, this includes our Spring/Summer Celebration, Children’s Garden Days, cooking demonstration by Bon Appetit Chefs, workshops, and more!
  • A discounted rate for the Budding Farmers program
  • …and so much more!

Cost for a Full-Share is $500 (~$30/wk) and Half-Share is $275 (~$16/wk)

  • Full-share is perfect for a family or group of four or more!. You will receive a large box full of seasonal fruits and vegetables each week.
  • Half-share is great for an individual or couple.

You also have the option to sign up for additional CSA “add-ons.” These include:

  • Flower share add-on: every other week you will receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers grown at Seeds Farm by Brad and Toni Easterson $70
  • Egg share add-on: a dozen eggs weekly from Seeds Farm chicken $95 (opportunity to start receiving eggs before CSA can be discussed)
  • A children’s educational program add-on: Budding Farmers, $50.  *Note, this is a discounted rate only available for Seeds Farm CSA members! (regular cost is $68)

And you can purchase pasture-raised Seeds Farm hogs and naturally raised Main Street Project chickens from us too! 

At Seeds Farm, we care about the health and well being of you, our community and the environment.

For more information, check out our website at seedsfarmproject.com, follow @seedsfarm on Twitter, like the Seeds Farm Facebook page, and watch our video: 

httpv://youtu.be/1EhDfUup_Oo,

Forza! is hosting an ‘Original Strength’ workshop on June 22-23

I’ve been using kettlebells ever since Gretchen Falck opened her Forza! studio here in Northfield back in 2008. And my wife Robbie has been a regular at her classes for 3+ years. So when Gretchen is excited about something new, we pay attention.  What’s new?  See her blog post titled Resiliency! Excerpt:

Gretchen Falck - Original Strength workshopForza! is hosting an “Original Strength” workshop on June 22 & 23, 2013 with “Original Strength:  Regaining the Body You Were Meant to Have” authors Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert.  Their passion is helping people like you regain your original strength through a simple, and unique way to “reset” your body and overcome movement compensations, dysfunctions, and injuries.

I’m so excited to have these two amazing men come to Forza! and share what they’ve learned about being resilient and regaining our original strength.  During this one and a half day workshop, you will learn all of the resets they’ve discovered (rediscovered?) plus determine which resets work for you.  While at the “Becoming Bulletproof” workshop I attended last fall, the resets I learned that work for me helped me go from having a difficult time staying in a squat position without falling over to being able to drop into a squat with ease.  I found out it had nothing to do with my ankles being tight (which is what if felt like to me), and everything to do with reflexive core stability, which is what these resets will help you get back.

(continued)

Benjamin Percy book release party, May 20

redmoon_finalAuthor Ben Percy will read from his new novel, Red Moon, Monday, May 20, 7:30 pm at the Rueb ‘N’ Stein.
The Counterfactuals will play a set prior to the reading. Refreshments will be served.

This is certain to be one of the coolest events in which I’ve been involved.

In addition to the Red Moon, Ben is the author of two short story collections, The Language of Elk and Refresh, Refresh, a graphic novel based on the short story Refresh, Refresh, as well as the novel, The Wilding.

httpv://youtu.be/Gxw1U9lJpwQ

httpv://youtu.be/oIoE-WNz82k

Chess tournament at the Cow, Sat. May 11

20130419_182648

A week ago or more I was having a beer at the Contented Cow when Norman Butler told me that these enterprising college students were organizing a chess tournament.

They sent me this info:

11am-6pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

arrive at 10:45am to enter

The Contented Cow, 302B Division Street South, Northfield, MN 55057

Who can play? You! Everyone, of any age, with any level of experience from novice to master, is welcome. You don’t need to be a member of any chess organization to play or win.

Come to compete with students and teachers from Carleton, St. Olaf, and Northfield High School, as well as other members of the Northfield community! Enjoy chess in a casual tournament setting — with prizes! Arrive by 11am to enter. This is not a rated tournament.

Entry fee is $10 cash (no checks or credit cards), with cash prizes and Chapati gift certificates for winners. Swiss pairing, 4 rounds, 30-minute games. First place winner’s name will be displayed on a trophy in the Cow!

If you have a tournament set and clock, please bring them (if you don’t, no worries!). For complete details and to let us know you’re coming (preferred but not necessary), check out the tournament website or contact David McNeil (mcneild@carleton.edu).

Neil Young Tribute show at the Contented Cow, Sat. May 11

Rich-LarsonDown By The River PosterThe management of the Contented Cow in Northfield, MN announced today that they will host Down By the River: A Tribute to Neil Young on Saturday, May 11th, beginning at 4:00 in the afternoon. More than two dozen artists from Southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities will gather to perform the music of one of the most beloved and eclectic musicians of the past 50 years. Performers will play short 3-5 song sets that will span Young’s entire career.

Continuing a string of tribute events hosted by the Cow in recent years, the bill is stocked with talent.

“We have so many great musicians around here that we need to do something every now and then to showcase them,” said show producer Rich Larson of Left-Handed Entertainment. “When you pair that talent with a catalogue of songs that are as diverse as Neil Young’s, you’re bound to get an incredible evening.”

Larson says even Young’s non-fans should enjoy the event.

“Every now and then someone says they don’t like Neil Young because of his nasally voice. Well then, this is an opportunity for people to hear these incredible songs, performed by different voices. In fact, in some cases, you’ll hear them from some people who are incredible singers. Last year the Knightengales, the all-women a cappella group from Carleton College, stole the show when they performed at our Bob Dylan event. They’ll be back again this year, and I cannot wait to hear what they’ve come up with.”

And indeed, the bill does offer a diverse group of performers. Northfield folk/country singer “The Norwegian Cowboy” Jon Larson will be joined by venerable folk stalwart Bill McGrath, garage rockers Martin Anderson & The Goods, upstart punk rock group Some Kid’s Dad, and a host of others.

“It’s one of the things I love most about these shows,” said Larson. “We’ll have performers who are in their 60’s playing alongside college kids. And all of them are stunningly good.”

The show will also serve as the unofficial kickoff of the outdoor performance season.

“It’s been a long, long winter,” said Larson. “Nobody around here needs me to tell them that. But I’ve always said May is the month to be in this state. Everything is in bloom, the humidity is low, the bugs aren’t really out yet. The outdoor stage at the Cow sits just in front of the Cannon river. It’s a really beautiful setting, and their patio is so accommodating.  We expect that we’ll have one of those spectacular May days where the weather is perfect, the music will be fantastic, and everybody will have an unforgettable time.”

Neil Young is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who is known for his eclectic, diverse songwriting. He’s best known for alternately playing soft, folk based songs like After the Gold Rush and Harvest Moon, and ear rattling hard rock like Cinnamon Girl and Rockin’ in the Free World. He has influenced countless artists, including Elvis Costello, Dave Matthews, Sonic Youth, and Pearl Jam. His work with his backing band Crazy Horse earned him the nickname “The Godfather of Grunge.”

Down By the River: A Tribute to Neil Young will be Saturday, May 11th, beginning at 4 p.m., and running deep into the evening. The Contented Cow is located at 302B Division Street in downtown Northfield. For further information, contact the Contented Cow at (507) 663-1351 or Rich Larson at (612) 756-0490.