Meaning is What Matters


I challenge people for a living. I find ways to ask questions that actually matter and pursue them until I have exhausted the possibilities. Because unless I’ve pushed my clients way outside where they imagine themselves, they won’t actually be able to see their organizations in a way that is meaningful to the human beings that matter to them. And meaning is what matters in business today.

Meaning is the secret sauce that businesses need to thrive. It is the key differentiator. It’s not fluff, it is the core value. If you don’t get it right, it’s only window dressing. It’s not just for outside your company. Meaning is for every single person your company touches, employees, suppliers, competitors, government, partners….People, in general, are becoming much, much more discerning and they’re looking for authenticity in everything. Nathan Shedroff, Chair of the MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts in San Francisco taught me that “Design is the process of evoking experiences. Meaning is strategic.” Every aspect of design today is focussed on looking for and finding meaning. Meaning creates value. Meaning creates loyalty. Meaning is enduring.

You can’t make meaning up. It “is”, whether you have a handle on it or not. Anyone who knows about your organization, in any way, is out there making meaning about you right now. The most successful companies know what they mean to people and they live it — authentically.

When I recently helped a medical research organization create their brand, we started with science. That’s where they were coming from. It was about beating disease through cutting edge therapies and new methods of detection. Their function was to do three things: raise, and continue to raise funding; attract the brightest minds in their field to help them; and find the most innovative ways to outsmart the disease. The surgeons, clinicians and oncologists I met with needed to step back from science and revisit what the disease meant to the patients and their families. They needed to see what meaning their organization created for potential employees, experts, partners and funders. At a human level, what did the fight with this disease mean to these people? The process was pragmatic and thorough, but it produced a brand that was steeped in meaning that they had found. I simply helped them to do that.

Your organization could be doing, making, selling the next best thing ever, but without understanding its meaning, you’re missing your upside. Because meaning is what matters.

*Also published in The Nitty Gritty

Food Security, Food Sustainability

Asking for Expert Input

Small, local mixed-crop farmers are a dying breed. The average age of a BC farmer is 59 years. Despite the great urban farming efforts of good people like Sole Food Street Farms and Fresh Roots, making a living as a farmer is not sustainable under current conditions. Small farmers are not making enough money for the food they grow. They have second jobs, and the farm keeps losing money.

What that means is that we depend more and more on big factory farms growing massive swaths of monocultures to be our only source of food. Think about it. Living off chemically fertilized, chemically pest-protected food that is harvested under-ripe and shipped thousands of miles. Then think about that one virus — that one pest that beats the chemicals and thrives.

Our food supply is neither secure or sustainable.

My name is Casey Hrynkow. I’ve been working on a food project for the last 6 months called Dangling the Local Carrot. My ultimate goal with this project is to find a way to make local produce more accessible and affordable in Metro Vancouver.

I am at the point where I have begun to consider the idea of a Food Hub for Metro Vancouver. This would be a place for produce to be collected, sorted, washed, bundled and shipped out to customers. It would be a place with a commercial kitchen to use during the growing season and to rent in the off season. During that off season, farmers could come in, share ideas about the next seasons’ planting and get new training in technology and business.  If you are familiar with the planned New City Market, I see this concept as slightly simpler and, perhaps, a piece that fits with the Market. I have yet to speak with anyone at Local Food First, but will follow up this week.

As my project (at least within the Leading by Design Fellows Program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco) is drawing to a close, with a presentation due November 1, I am looking for expert input on some of my very rough ideas. If you are someone in finance, farming, food processing, food retail, food education, farm education, food wholesale, a restaurateur, a caterer or someone in government who knows about food distribution and/or farming, I would be so grateful for your input. You can find my 10-question survey here.


Copyright Bert Aldridge and Heyday, Wellington, NZ

What I hope to present at California College of the Arts on November 1 is a business model for further development (see framework below). I know that the regulation and consultation around a project like this often takes years, so I am under no illusion that a perfected Food Hub will magically appear, but I see value in it, and the dozens of experts I have spoken to this far also see value in it. So, I will proceed and hope that the planets align. As a partnership with project already in development or going it alone, I think this carrot has legs.

Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability


I spent all of this past weekend in my office mapping (NOT napping), thinking and reading. I am finding much more focus now. The fact is that small-scale farmers can’t afford to live on the income they make from farming alone. With that kind of carrot on the stick, there aren’t going to be a lot of people motivated to farm. Fewer local farms = less local produce = higher prices = more imported food.  And there I am, back where I started, eyes tearing with frustration at having to buy Mexican tomatoes.

Fewer local farms = less local produce = higher prices = more imported food.

So my target is distribution, with my “customers” being small-scale local farmers as primary and “retailers” as secondary (retailers in quotes as these can be anyone from the farmers themselves to smaller grocery stores). The distribution element has come up over and over again as one of the three biggest barriers to accessibility of local food, the others being education (farmers and the public for different reasons) and business acumen.

I will facilitate a workshop with some of the wonderful people I have interviewed over the course of the last few months. They are experts. They know the problem space. I will also include design students whose wide-open thinking can help pull people who are too deep in the problem out of their comfort zone. I will invite a couple of people with food logistics expertise to help inform things from a larger scale…and well see what we can come up with! I plan to work with the many research and facilitation skills I have acquired through the Leading by Design Program and the goal will be to generate as many possible business models as possible.

I’m looking forward to this. I want to see small-scale mixed farming grow the thrive in and around Metro Vancouver. I’m hoping I can be part of the solution.

Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

I think I saw a goalpost

It wasn’t there for long, and it might have been at the wrong end of the field, but I think I saw a goalpost through the fog of my overwhelmed mind this weekend. My third residency at California College of the Arts netted me some phenomenal tools for analyzing what I know now, thinking what that might create, and then moving on to new and more provocative questions. Innovation is a messy, messy business and I’m up to my armpits in slime right now. Bert Aldridge from HeyDey in New Zealand lead us through a set of constructs for ideation that allowed us to see some possibilities.

Here are some photos of my work and process so far.

IMG_3624 IMG_3640 IMG_3650

Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

This is Water

I am dazzled by the folks that are making local produce more available in the Metro Vancouver region. But here are some interesting things I have learned this past week:

From a 19-year-old girl helping at a farm stand at Trout Lake Farmers Market this past Saturday, “Local produce would be more available and more affordable if people knew more about local food and why it’s important”. Hmmm. The education element — I hadn’t really factored that in to my possible toolkit, but it could be a huge driver for making it viable for farmers to grow locally.

From Allan Surette at Urban Edibles, a 2-acre shared farm on Steveston Highway in Richmond, “if we want more availability and lower costs for local produce, we need more local farms and farmers. More supply = lower costs.”

More education. More supply. Fabulous insights to kick off my face-to-face research. It reminds me that Susan Worthman, Director of the Leading by Design Fellows Program at California College of the Arts asked us to constantly be in the “beginner’s mind”.

It is important to see what is right in front of me. David Foster Wallace, in his commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005, said,

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”


I thought it might be helpful for you to meet me and hear what I’m doing. I should add that I have nothing in particular against importing food if it’s something we don’t grow here. But why do we: put trucks on the road; using fossil fuels we’re running out of; that are eroding the ozone layer and changing the climate on the planet, when we can grow those things right HERE?

I want collaboration with anyone who cares about local food and I invite you to contact me at mhrynkow@cca.edu.

Local Food availability

The Mexican Tomatoes Made Me Do It


I was in a chain grocery store about 3 months ago…that would make it April, I guess. I wanted tomatoes. I went to the organic section first — always my first choice if it’s local and organic. No deal, they were from Mexico. That’s too many miles away, harvested too early, grown with I don’t know what kind of organic growing standards. So I went to the regular section, and those were also from Mexico. There they may have been sprayed and fertilized with things I wouldn’t want in my body, let alone my childrens’. And again, harvested too early, and shipped thousands of miles in a vehicle spewing carbon fuel byproducts.

I actually teared up, right there in the produce section.

I could practically throw a rock at the commercial greenhouses growing tomatoes right here in Richmond and yet they couldn’t get them that far in a truck. Those same greenhouses also grow cucumbers, peppers and lettuces and yet, in this store, I found nothing grown even in this province. I was instantly inspired to do something about it.

Enter California College of the Arts’ unique Leading by Design Fellows Program in San Francisco.

“The Leading by Design Fellows Program at California College of the Art (CCA) provides executives and senior professionals the insights, skills, and confidence to lead change that creates lasting, sustainable business and social value.”

I had already been looking for a Design Thinking program that focussed on innovation, and one I could attend with low residency. CCA’s program is unique in this regard. The only other school of its kind is Stanford’s d.school, which would require me to abandon my 30-year-old business to attend, which I’m not willing to do.

So here I am. My goal is to find a way to scale up local produce availability so that local food is available to more people for less money. Seems logical, but I’m certain it will be a challenge. There are all kinds of reasons why it can’t be done. I’m looking for ways that it can. I ask for your follows, your feedback (positive or negative) as I work on this. The end of October this year is my deadline to make a proposal. After that, I hope to make it work in real life.

Thanks for reading!