One of my favorite times is July/August when I escape the Texas heat and head northwest to Oregon's Willamette Valley. Had you told me when I was 11 that I would look forward to returning every year I would have told you that you were crazy. Growing up there I did not appreciate or much enjoy this region, I had moved from a home and neighborhood I loved on a cul de sac full of kids, a park around the corner and lots of friends to 62 acres of hell from my perspective. I wasn't one for farming or dirt, darling I love you but give me Park Ave. Talking to cows and horses was not my idea of a good time. Things were a bit different back then..... or were they?
What is now one of the hottest wine and hazelnut regions in North America was quite different... this was poor farm land where farmers struggled to make a living, filberts were those things that the bad kids had to pick and you tossed out of your nut mix, and the only wine we knew of being made was by the 80 year old Italian neighbor across the highway ( this stuff was rumored to be as strong as whiskey). Now we know that there were a couple of private wineries popping up then but this was hardly the crowd for it in the Yamhill, Newberg, Carlton communities.
This didn't seem like real happy place, the mood seemed to reflect the weather , a bit dreary, it was the late 70s and over all a tough time for farmers, folks sat in long lines for gas etc. These little towns were definitely not destinations, they were towns you drove through to get somewhere else like the coast. Now people (myself included) travel from all over to enjoy this marvelous land-it's wine-it's hazelnuts and it's stunning views.. So what happened????
Being a business junkie, I like to say it went through a re-branding but the Real reason is that they realized there was real value in them there hills! Thanks to California, American wines were getting their due, and being that the soil and weather is quite similar to France the growing of pinot grapes took off. The Filbert realized that it was the same as the european delicacy the hazelnut and boom- you had something worthwhile as chocolate truffles became an american staple and hazelnut coffee was all the rage.
My point is simply this; the soil, the weather and even the filbert tree have not really changed...the perception of the value of these things however has. In a time when you can't go fifteen minutes with out hearing about the importance of words, positive thinking and the law of attraction, rebranding etc... it is easy to toss these things aside as pixie dust. But I have witnessed how perception of value transformed a region, multiple communities and therefore touched the lives of residents and those who travel to enjoy the beautiful countryside and the marvelous flavors of the Willamette Valley-a little bit of heaven. I can't wait to go every summer and it is never long enough.
So Consider the Valley... what value do you possess that is going unnoticed, un-utilized, unappreciated and/or unused? Time to re-brand! Turn your filberts into hazelnuts and your poor farmland into stunning wineries.