May 2013 ALAP Meeting Recap

MLUI provided the venue for another fine ALAP potluck gathering.  After filling up on some delicious food, we jumped right into a full slate of presenters. 

Leading off our two, 10-minute intro segments was Ellen Fred and Melissa Whitman, the dynamic duo who are now in the active planning stage of a unique entry into the “play cafe” space right here in Traverse City.  Their Elf Cafe aims to be “a civilized oasis for the tired, hungry parent and their high-energy offspring, no matter how young,” with high quality, organic food and a modern, Scandinavian aesthetic.  Ellen and Melissa are planning an information session on the concept at The Cook’s House May 20 from 6-8pm.  For those who would like to attend and learn more, please RSVP with Ellen ( or Melissa ( .

Jason Hill followed Ellen and Melissa with an introduction to his new venture, Leelanau Backyard Harvest.  Jason, who caught the gardening bug as a kid in SE Michigan and spent two years with his wife Becky helping farmers in remote Tanzania is bringing his talents, experience and passion for sustainable agriculture to Northern Michigan clients via a range of services.  These services include sustainable ag consulting and garden design, garden management, and crafting of unique garden products including custom chicken coops, garden fences and rainwater harvesting systems.    For those interested in connecting with Jason, check out his site at the link above or email him at

Our main presenter of the night was Mike Newman of WaterFire Vineyards.  Mike and his wife Chantal operate their ultra-small scale commercial vineyard just north of Elk Rapids near Torch Lake in Antrim County.  They grow under-represented varietals utilizing hand management and environmentally-sensitive biological farming practices to ensure the highest quality fruit for each vintage.   As we sampled WaterFire’s excellent and just-bottled Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner, Mike explained how WaterFire will have around 430 cases available in 2013 and that they plan to limit future annual production to just 1,000 cases.  Their wine will be sold almost exclusively to restaurants and specialty wine shops in Northwest Michigan.  Mike and Chantal are looking at a variety of innovative financing options for their future capital needs including tapping into loans from community development financial institutions, crowd-funding platforms and CSA-like pre-selling of future vintages.  For those interested in learning more, Mike and Chantal can be contacted at and

We finished the evening discussing our presenters and some of other developments related to community capital both locally and nationally.  Kate Redman updated us on her research efforts and plans underway to work with other ALAP members and engage with Michigan regulators about clarifying ground rules for our presenters so that they stay on the right side of federal and state securities laws.  We also discussed a recent meeting orchestrated by the fine folks at SEEDS and MLUI that explored ideas for energy efficiency investing.  Further meetings are planned.  Finally, we noted  an upcoming webinar hosted by Balle 5/14 which will feature two groups like ours (LION and Whatcom Investing Network). 

June 13 will be our last potluck meeting before taking July and August off (stay tuned for a possible field trip during these off months).  Speakers TBA.  Looking forward to seeing you all soon!