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Azure Standard specializes in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products. We deliver directly to customers, buying clubs and retailers by semi-truck and UPS.  As of July 2013, Azure is delivering to 32 states including Hawaii and Alaska. If you would like to learn more about the history of Azure, please read the letter written by David Stelzer, Azure Standard CEO, on our website under the About Us tab.

Mission Statement

Azure Standard’s mission is to help people throughout the country realize their greatest potential in abundant living by providing the products, information and services they need to make healthy and empowered choices.

Long Term Vision

At Azure Standard, we strive to inspire healthy and abundant living, endeavoring to expand our distribution range across the entire country.  At the same time, we maintain our commitment to top-notch quality, service, and educational tools, second to none.  We envision a nation-wide network of customers and like-minded people, focused on sharing healthy living recipes, nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, positive mindset, and any other health-giving practices. 

Our long term vision is one we will be developing step-by-step over the next 10-20 years, all the while continuing to work on perfecting the live, organic, agricultural practices we adhere to at Azure Farm.  We will share this   information with many of our supplying growers so their products can become certified under Azure Organics which will offer a wide range of “better than organic” items - providing superior nutrition from soil to table. We envision a transparent window between growers, processors and consumers, fostering strong and resilient relationships based on trust and mutual appreciation.

We intend our farms and processing facilities to become role models for both consumers and producers, to inspire growers to meet exacting standards and consumers to accept nothing less. The facilities will be used as a training ground for young entrepreneurs who want to learn to become our suppliers, and go through our comprehensive training programs.   For consumers, we will be offering classes in healthy food preparation, gardening and all other aspects of sustainable and abundant living.  Once they have completed a defined curriculum of courses, they will be eligible for a healthcare program with Azure’s network of health professionals who will further educate and help with preexisting conditions. 

We at Azure Standard aim to inspire our entire team and alliances to thrive in abundant living.   Welcome to our vision and stay tuned in for each new development!

 

Flash News Highlights

Flash is a weekly internal news bulletin where employees contribute thoughts, ideas, pictures, and updates at their locations. There is so much great information and insight, we thought we'd share some of the highlights each week with our larger Azure community!  

October 18, 2013

Produce World!

Here is a quick update: Apples are  coming in in HUGE numbers.  Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Empire, Honey Crisp, many more!!!! Quality is good and pricing will come down more as the season progresses. Pears are really nice also.  

Mangoes are becoming tight and the pricing is the highest I've seen it in a few years. Hopefully, once the Kents and Tommy Adkins start rolling in, the pricing will come back down into manageable levels.

We will have Pomegranates soon!  We've ordered a LOT more this year than last. The pricing is great and the quality should be as good or better than last year!!  We pick them up on October 28th.

Valencia oranges are wrapping up for the season.  Look for California navels really soon! Persimmons are just around the corner also, as are Meyer lemons.

We will have a large shipment of 10/5 Russets landing around the 1st of  November.  The price will be really cheap. Broccoli has gotten scarce. The prices are reflecting the supply.  Very expensive. 

Root vegetables are coming in also, turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets are looking great.  Sweet potatoes and yams are new crop, and we just now received them this week.  Look for local, organic cranberries coming up, as well as local celery and cauliflower.

As always, thank you for your hard work and suggestions.  Please feel free to offer any ideas or new items you think we could pass on to our customers.  Aloha!

 

Bob, Produce Buyer

 

Auto-Update!

From the automation construction team, we are excited to be out of a job! I mean, we're finished building all the physical infrastructure to make the carousels, conveyors and sortation system operate as designed. Undoubtedly we'll be called back for a few tweaks now and then to fine tune it up, but the bulk of the grinding welding and banging is over!

Benjamin will be working with the programmers for a bit longer to make all the machines do what they’re supposed to. The machines are 90 plus percent programmed and Jordan has been working hard on Beehive to make it all work from the user interface side.

Within a week or two, we will begin the gradual transition phase of using the new automation system. Here's the transition plan: First, we will batch pick only a couple orders at a time off the existing small pick shelves. Then, we’ll run those couple orders through the automated scanner and sorting lines. We’ll continue doing small batches like this until the bugs are worked out.

Slowly, we’ll increase the size of the batch until we are able to pick over 100 orders at a time! These orders will be picked in a similar way to how we are picking them now. Pickers will go from shelf to shelf picking the items for that batch onto their cart. When their carts are full, they will place the items on the round table next to the auto scanner. 

Once everything is running smoothly like this, then we will begin stocking the carousels and picking from them. This also will be a gradual process, and small pick stockers will begin stocking the carousels instead of the small pick shelves. As items run out on the small pick shelves, the items’ primary locations will be transferred from small pick shelves to the carousels. So, every day more and more items will be picked from the carousels until only the top 10% fastest movers are left on the flow rack and 

pallets on the floor and in the cooler. This process of switching items from small pick shelves to the carousels could take over a month to complete. Soon the fun will begin! 

P.S.  David B. made a cool little video of the automation system in action for those of you that haven't seen it yet. He'll do a more professional one once it’s all working.  This one’s just for fun! 

Benjamin, Über Project Meister


Behind The Scenes with Jacob!

 

What is your position, and how long have you been in it & with Azure?  I‘ve been Receiving Lead for about a month now, and have been with  Azure about 3 years.  I had some buddies who worked here, and that’s how I heard about Azure.  I started in small pick, moved into stock transfer, then onto the inventory maintenance crew, and now I’m the receiving lead.

Tell us a little about your background and interests.  I was born and raised in Goldendale– have lived there pretty much my whole life.  I grew up playing both baseball and basketball, but I’d have to say that basketball is my hobby and passion.  When I can, I play on the league in Goldendale.  I’m the oldest of three siblings, and am a very proud brother– my younger brother plays college baseball for Spokane Falls, and will be transferring to Gonzaga.  I also have a 10 year old sister.       Before getting on with Azure, I lived in Yakima for a couple years and worked at the Olive Garden. 

What are the main parts to your job– a day in the life so to speak?  Communication is the biggest part– making sure that everyone knows if there are missing pieces, or if a driver wasn't able to pick up something.  There are seven of us on the Receiving Team—Tiny, who is my second,  and then there are five in bulk receiving and one in small pick receiving.  When a load comes in, we make sure the P.O. is right, get the labels printed, and mark the product as arrived.  Then, we put the product in its primary location or into overstock.

What’s your favorite part of the job?  The leadership role.  I like people looking to me to do the right thing and make the right call.

What do you think about this “culture journey” we’re on?  We’ve had lots of culture changes since I’ve been here– each time management has changed.  But this time with Wes, it is amazing.  He is doing a great job.  I am really excited about what is happening right now.

What’s the hardest part of your job?  Dealing with the people sometimes– trying to keep everyone happy and satisfied.  That has changed a lot lately though.  It is much easier to keep the good vibe going with everyone working on it together.

How would you describe yourself?  Outside of work, I would say easy going.  At work, I would say that I am a team player and that I know what it takes to get the job done.  I’d also say that I am able to handle pressure well.

What’s free time like for you?  My free time is really family oriented.  I have a lot of family in the Goldendale area– uncles, aunts, cousins.  I like to do outdoor things like jet ski, camp, fish, and snowboard in the winter.

OK, now for the important stuff- What’s your favorite …

Azure Product? The steaks! I like the tenderloins.

Vacation Spot: Lake Chelan, WA.

Vegetable: I like them all!  But, I’d say tomato.

Sports Team: Chicago Bulls.

 

October 11, 2013

This one didn’t make last week’s Mill, Farms and Orchards News, but you definitely want to read it fresh, so ...

Packing Line!

This has been a awesome summer! There is no other way to explain it. Each day brings us new opportunities, and it has totally been a team effort here at the orchard to turn those opportunities into a reality. 

One of those opportunities that we have had is the ability to start running the fruit packing line. After being under construction for almost a year, I cannot explain the excitement that went through us when we dumped our first bin of apples. It was awesome! There is nothing like watching a four foot wide stream of apples come gliding out of the water dump tank.  

First, let me explain how this piece of machinery works. So, at the beginning, we have a large tank of  water that is big enough to put a four foot square bin of fruit in. Above this tank is a hoist system that will pick up the 700 -1000 pound bin of fruit, carry it over the water tank, and submerge it under the level of the water. Transferring the fruit out of the bin while in the water like this, substantially cuts down on bruising and damage.  Apples float, so we simply leave the bin under water until all the fruit floats out and is pushed to the exit side of the tank by the water current. The fruit is then conveyed out of the water, around a corner, across a brush table and through a dryer. This is really fun to watch, but it is just a lot of chains, belts and rollers.

Scroll down to last month's Mill Farms and Orchards News for lots more pictures!

The fruit then goes across the sorting table where we separate out the number two and bad fruit. The fruit is then transferred to a electronic sizer where multiple pictures are taken of each piece of fruit, sorting them by color, shape and size.  We have ten stations where fruit is dropped, so we can separate out the size and color any way we like....we just have to tell the computer. The boxes are filled off of 

these packing tables and are quickly weighed and stacked onto pallets, ready to head to Moro and out to our customers. 

The first day we ran we packed about 800 boxes, the second day we packed over 1200!   When I talked about that the next morning at the team focus meeting, there was a lot of enthusiasm, clapping and cheering. We have an awesome team here, and we want to make a difference in the fruit and vegetable production side of what we do here at Azure. 

 I am super excited about the opportunity the pack line will give us to buy produce directly from smaller local farmers and be able to sort and pack it ourselves. My vision is to one day be working with many fruit and vegetable growers that are passionate about the health of their soil, the health of their customers and the sustainability of our communities for future generations. We can help these growers out by providing a market, and they will be growing the quality produce that we need to fill the demands of costumers that care about what they eat. 

 Every team plays an important role in what we do here at Azure, and the Orchard Team is excited to be part of Team Azure, providing health and abundant living to thousands of families across the country.  The possibilities are endless when we are working towards a goal of being of service to those around us. Keep up the good work!  

Zechariah Stelzer, Orchard Manager

 

Go Team Azure!

WOW! That is all I can say about what TEAM AZURE has accomplished in the past 60 days!  Changing the culture of a well-established business is one of the most difficult challenges a company can undertake. But you, TEAM AZURE, are doing it, and doing it incredibly well!

Harvard Business Review recently dedicated a whole issue to the importance, yet difficulty, of creating an exceptional company culture. The summation of the entire magazine was this:

“You can have the best business strategy, opportunity, product or service, but unless you have the engagement, heart and soul, passionate participation of your Team…Sorry, but you are never going to reach your potential as a company.”

Team Azure you are changing! You are going to reach your great potential!  And, there is a reason why. One of your Core Values is Embrace Change and Practice Flexibility… that is exactly what you are doing.  Each of you can feel it. It is exciting! There is passion, creativity, leadership, ingenuity, and work ethic that are showing up stronger and better. You are growing as individuals, taking on new challenges, “owning” your area of responsibilities, making small improvements in your thinking, work practices, and performance.

Azure, you are on fire!  Weekly Positive Focus Meetings happening every week, celebrating the continuous   improvements experienced the week prior, and laying out the crucial results for the week ahead.  Daily Team Focus Meetings occurring at the Warehouse, at the Mill, and on the Farms, making the Azure Core Values more than a slogan or just words on a wall; but instead, a living, breathing, action taking part of how Team   Azure thinks and performs.  Friday’s Flash keeping Team Azure in the know and sharing the progress and continuous improvements.

Team Azure, you are doing it! Keep it up! There is still much to be done, but you are off to a fantastic start!  You have amazed me with your passion, professionalism and performance.

You truly are showing the world how to Thrive In The Hive!

Chad Johnson, Chief Inspiration Officer, Ceramic Decorating, Company


Behind the Scenes with David Stelzer

 

My #1 question is about the Health Care Reform and the future for providing long term employees with health care. ~Elaine  Honestly, I think it stinks every which way—there’s nothing nice about it.  I want something that is helpful for everyone, and this is only helpful for the exceedingly sick.  For the plans in compliance, the deductibles are very high- $1500– and there are co-pays for everything.  It is not in line with anything we are trying to do here at Azure, AND it is expensive for both employees and Azure.  I would much rather have on staff a naturopath and a professional team dedicated to increasing health, than offer the plans that are in compliance with the new law. 

That said, I am looking at all of our options, and will have to make a decision within the next 30-60 days.  Either way, we intend to move forward the team of natural health care professionals; it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.

Where do you see us as a company and a team in the next 10 years?  ~Vanessa   Let me speak to the next 7 years  because we have defined goals there:  By 2019, we are aiming to hit “10X”. That means we intend to hit $350 million in sales that year.  It’s not simply about reaching for the dollars, but about the many goals we have laid out in front of us.  These are some of them:

  • Create Community.  Expand drops on the national level. Create tools to help drops connect.
  • Negotiate Special Products.  We want to  brand more items under our name and increase our ability to negotiate better pricing.
  • Increase our Information Base.  Become a clearinghouse for information and all things related to health– foods, practices, agriculture, etc.
  • Front Stage Visibility.  Incorporate an expert in front stage activity—someone who participates in talk shows, TV shows, Expos, etc., sharing Azure’s vision far and wide.
  • Software Improvement.  Ensure that our software ability matches and exceeds our expectations to serve our customers and Team Members.
  • Productivity Incentives.  Make our “out of stock” rates the lowest in the industry.
  • Agricultural Expertise.  We want to have an agricultural expert on board who is able to broadcast our farming practices.

I don’t see any reason why we won’t hit 10x, and every reason to believe we will!

Are there plans to open another warehouse– if yes, when and where? ~ Crissy  At this time, there are no defined plans.  Once we have more than one truck per day (7+ per week) heading to the east coast, we will start researching and making plans. Currently we have about three heading that way per week.  I would have to do a lot of research to pin down exactly where.  But, Louisville,  Kentucky, is pretty much exactly in the middle and would possibly have a good labor pool to draw the staff needed to run a warehouse.

I’d like to know if you have a system for organizing/balancing/completing the various tasks on your “platter”.  ~Linda  Not a good one :).  Actually, I have two notebooks.  One is for all of my day-to-day things… phone messages, calls to make, tasks to get done. The other one is for strategic issues– things I have to deal with and things I need to plan out and implement.

What was the most enjoyable vacation you and your family have taken? ~ Jeanette   A few years back, we drove across the country in a motor home—to Virginia and Washington, D.C.  I loved the historical aspects, being able to stop whenever we wanted, and meeting the people.  I had a preconceived idea about how east coasters were before going, and it was really changed by all of the generosity and friendliness we experienced—especially in the very south of Virginia.  We broke down in the motor home, and a guy came along and spent half his day just helping us get going again; he wouldn’t take a dime for the help either.  That spirit is what really impressed me.

What tips could you share with families who desire to work together with a generational vision? ~ Joe  #1– Share your vision.  Know why you are working, understand exactly what your core values are, and talk about them with your family ALL the time.  #2 Start children working very young so that as they grow, they are part of the vision and understand it too.

What are you plans on supporting vested employees, particularly regarding retirement? ~Vanessa   We don’t actually have vested employees, i.e. those who receive more benefits in the end because of “getting in early,” so to speak.  And, we do not plan to have a “retirement plan” that looks anything like a conventional one.  I truly feel  that there is a better way, and I hope that as people really start to understand the overarching vision of Azure, they will see where we are going.  I want  to inspire usefulness. I want to help create universal prosperity.  I want to help provide the tools people need to take responsibility for manifesting their dreams– whatever they are.  We are developing a variety of resources that will encourage and help enable people to … dream their passions and live their dreams!

 I would like to know what you think has made the course of your life different- above average, exceptional, the way it is. ~Jordan   [after long pause] First, I came from a “weird” family.  Back in the 80’s, organic farming was not normal, and definitely not what everyone else was doing.  Second, I couldn’t eat the way everyone else could, due to extreme allergies.  I do wonder sometimes how different things might have been, if I hadn’t had the challenges of those allergies.  Next, and I think this is a big one, in fifth or sixth grade, I vowed to never drink alcohol.  At that age, the people I saw who were prosperous didn’t drink—or drank very little.  Those who weren’t prosperous were alcoholics– that’s how I viewed it.

I guess I have to also say that I don’t know why, but I have always been blessed with self confidence.  Also, coming from Dufur, pretty much everyone said they were going to become a professional athlete when they grew up– I never did.  I always thought I’d become a farmer.  A couple times I varied– for a while I thought I’d become  a lawyer, and another time I wanted to do a “rebuild it” type place– was in to doing salvage projects.  But, I always came back to farming.  Also, I was always serious about life– not serious in the way of not having fun, just really believed in the importance and potentiality with living life to its fullest.

Finally, when I was about 12, my dad got really sick—maybe with a staph infection or something, and he was out of commission pretty much for a year.  During that time, I had to do/manage all of the farming as well as the mobile home park we still had up in Yakima.  I grew up very quickly with those experiences.

 

October 4, 2013

The Farm Feed!

If you remember from our last report, we had a huge list of projects to get done in a month.  We did pretty good, but the weather and other complications slowed us down a bit!

We got a nice shot of rain shortly after our last Flash news, so we moved our efforts away from the dam and to the farm.  The conditions were perfect for seeding the wheat.  The boys took turns on the tractors (one weeding and one seeding) and kept them going as long as they could until they finished up seeding the wheat on the Dufur farm.  The tractors never stopped from morning until late at night! 

Nathan kept busy cleaning enough seed wheat for the job. We got it all seeded in record time (I think!).  It was a hot week when we were planting, so the wheat came up really fast.  It’s looking beautiful!  It’s so nice to see green fields again!

As soon as we finished the wheat in Dufur, we moved equipment to Moro to start seeding wheat over there.  Nathanael and Daniel stayed the week in Moro to do the job.  One would get ahead weeding and the other would come behind and plant the wheat.  It was going good until the rain started ...  Our other son, Isaiah, stayed in Dufur and almost finished seeding the rye before the rain.  We hope to get all the seeding done once the weather permits again.

In between rains, we decided we needed to get our Jacob’s Cattle beans (GP495) harvested and  under cover, since they weren’t drying outside! 

The younger children had fun picking up the beans and throwing them  onto a tarp, which we pulled to the house, and unloaded the beans in our garage.  We built a fire in the garage stove, put fans around, and are getting the beans dry for shelling out. Just thought you’d enjoy seeing how much effort it takes sometimes with the garden seed we supply Azure!  :)

Not much progress was made on the dam.  The inspector came out and said we can’t go ahead with laying the bentonite until we get the keyway dried up. 

There is a spring somewhere that keeps seeping water into the keyway.  Nathanael dug in several places trying to find the source of the spring, but the water just kept seeping in. They dug another hole right before it really started raining, but then there was water coming from the sky, too, so they aren’t sure if they found the source or not!  

In the meantime, the D9 was on its way over the hill en route to the dam site, when the engine decided to give way– blew a rod right through the block!  We knew it wasn’t in very good shape, but thought it would make it through the project.  So… Nathan and the boys then went dozer shopping and the Lord provided them with a really nice D8R dozer AND an engine for the D9!  They are looking forward to finishing the project with their “new” dozer!

Pray for nice weather and no complications so we can really move on the dam this next month!  

~Michelle Stelzer

 

Movin’ @ the Mill!

It is so exciting and rewarding to see the growth of the Mill Team over the last month. We have made some drastic personnel changes, and the whole team has stepped up and worked together to keep everything flowing smoothly- even in the midst of construction projects and added responsibility.

I am especially thankful for Wanda, who is doing a great job learning to lead the Team Focus Meetings and keep the positive energy going, and Myles, who has taken responsibility of the bulk repack and milling side of the operation.

The Mill has a huge amount of potential, and we taking steps in both our team and our facility that will allow us to reach that potential and create an even more rewarding work environment. 

Thank You!

Joe, Mill Manager

 

Kimberly Farm!

With summer finishing up and fall starting, the weather here has been quite a challenge! We have had rain almost every day for the last 2 weeks, making harvesting a little bit interesting. The blessing of the rain though has made John's fall seeding sprout up nicely. 

At the beginning of the year, when we planted the Walla Walla's, some froze off with a shocking 12 degrees. So, we replanted and are now picking them.  With the damp weather, we have had to find somewhere to dry them. … John cleaned out a space in the barn, put fresh straw down , it seems to be working!

Today, Oct. 2 , we had our first hard frost which killed back the squash vines, making it easier to pick. We have 4 bins of pumpkins right now and are almost done, yea!

The children have been a help in picking them. The spaghetti squash are next on the pick up list, in the next week. Also, after the vines died back, we were able to see what was left of the paper mulch experiment– not much, and no plastic to get rid of!

That pretty much wraps up our produce for the year, now we enjoy the blessings of pressing apple juice, and eating watermelons!

~From the Kimberly Farm, Christina P.

 

Behind the Scenes with Lee, Picker & Packer

What is your job here with Azure?  I pick and pack– mostly cucumbers and tomatoes right now in the big greenhouse.  I’ve been doing it since about February last year.

Have you done other jobs with Azure? Yes, I have also packed apples and pears, and picked and cleaned strawberries too.

What is your typical day like? I pick the tomatoes and cucumbers and pack them the same day so they can be delivered to the Warehouse the next day.  I have to keep the tomatoes lowered [they grow up long strings], and that takes about four days to do the whole greenhouse.  Right now they are growing so fast! As soon as I get to one end, the other end is ready to move again already!  I also spray two days per week, and that takes about 2 hours each time.

What is your background—before coming to Azure?  Before Azure, I worked picking for the two main cherry growers in The Dalles.  Before that, I worked cleaning up parks, and before that, I was a cook at a restaurant (now gone ) in Biggs Junction.

What do you like best about working for Azure?  I like the guys– Zeph and the others are really nice.  It’s a good company and it’s growing fast.

What is the hardest part of your job?  The spraying!  It is heavy and awkward, and sometimes you have to lift up the sprayer high.

How do you spend your free time?  I ride my bicycle, and I keep my house and yard very clean.  I also like to work on my ‘68 Malibu!

What are you passionate about?  Going to Mexico.  Whenever I go visit I get very excited to go.  It is very quiet and relaxing.  I go down there for about two months each year to help take care of my mother who has Alzheimers.

Where in Mexico are you from?  Zacatecas, ZAC, Mexico– it’s not too far from El Paso, TX.  In 1968, my father heard he could make better money in the USA, so he brought us here, and I have been here ever since.  I still have a house there, and I do  enjoy visiting.  But, I have raised my six children here, and I got my citizenship papers about 10 years ago. 

Just for Fun…

What is your Favorite Food? Tamales!

Favorite Herb?  Cilantro!

Favorite Place to Vacation? Home!

Did you know that since Lee started working for Azure  in 2010, he has only “missed” 1 hour of work… because he was stuck at the airport! Thank you for your hard work, dedication and for taking the time to talk with us, Lee.


Apple Packing!!!

September 27, 2013

In the Call Center, everyone has been keeping very busy. We have been preparing for the route changes that will be happening in October 2013. Our  Covenant Ranch Team – Jeanette, Beth Joy and Tandy, have been a great help by sending us information regarding the M-Q routes. Nick & Crissy have been sending out some great communication to the customer service staff regarding the changes to the routes that will occur so we will hopefully be well prepared.

Have you met the Customer Care Team ?

Linda –is our Wholesale Specialist. She has been setting up new wholesale customers and drops, and her previous work experience is a huge plus for the wholesale accounts; she is the right person for the job!

Jaye is our Drop Specialist (A-L routes).  Jaye has been setting up new drops and handling many calls from drop coordinators. One of the most recent drops is located in the San Francisco area which is very exciting since we haven’t had an available drop in that area for quite some time. Yippee!

Rachel is our Accounts Payable Specialist. Rachel has been working on making sure our vendors get paid and that our pricing is current. She also has many of her recipes printed in the Sales Flyers, which we really enjoy!

Holly is our Accounts Receivable Specialist.  Recently, Holly has been out on vacation and returned … with a new vehicle- Congrats! Now that she’s back, customer payments are getting posted to the accounts, and our radio is back up and running (very important!).

Suzanne is our Collections Specialist who sends out statements to our past due accounts …  calling to collect. Be sure to stay off her “List”!

Vanessa is our Social Media & New Products Specialist, and she assists in customer service as needed! She  maintains our Facebook page, and she is now passing along customer feedback to our Warehouse Team too.

Rebecca is our Publisher and she is a Buyer too.  She does our catalogs and sale flyers, and distributes our delivery schedules and our contact list as well. Without these tools, where would we be?!

A big THANK YOU goes out to each of these Call Center Team members who have other jobs and duties to  complete, yet still find time to assist Customer Service with the phones when the call volumes are high.  That is especially helpful during this time when we are beginning the busy season AND training new Customer Service Representatives. We appreciate you and are very pleased to have you as a part of this team.

With that being said… Please give a warm welcome to our new Customer Service representatives – Lydia and Isaac.

Lydia became a team member on Friday, September 13th, and was the first to go through the 1-week intensive training course in the Call Center office. Lydia will be working remotely from her home in Portland, OR.

Isaac started on September 23rd and should be completed with the 1-week training by the time you’re reading this newsletter (EOD - Friday 9/27). Isaac is a remote Customer Service Representative who will be working from his home in La Grande, OR.

We are so glad to have them as part our team!

The main Customer Service Team has been glued to the phones for their entire shifts, as well as responding to email from customer. Drumroll please…. Connie, Dave, Shirley, Sadie, Stephenie & Jennie.  You ARE the glue that holds our team together. Keep up the good work!

And then there were 3…

Nick has been busy hiring the new employees so…Angee can get the new members trained while…Elaine is sending out email to our team, and picking up any of the missed pieces along the way to our grand puzzle we call TEAM!

Speaking of puzzles…below is a little Word Find for your spare time, if you have any… Good Luck!

~Angee, Call Center Lead

 

"My four year old loves playing "Azure Man."  He "unloads" food product from a toy semi-truck he has and presents us with all sorts of stuff... and he wants to be Azure Man for Halloween. My husband and I want to take this to a new level and make it like a superhero... cape and all! I want to  use your logo on the t-shirt, but I can't find a copy of your logo with a high enough resolution for me to enlarge so it looks nice. Would you be able to send me a better copy of your logo so I can make an iron on? If not, that's ok, I can just print out a huge letter "A" instead (although it makes me think of a certain book haha), I'll make sure its blue though.  Thank you very much!  Laura K. Humble, Texas

 

Behind The Scenes

with Anita Pearl, Azure Standard Buyer

 

What exactly is the job you do?  I work with roughly 350 vendors—buying from them, and coordinating their shipments to us.  Most of them are backhauls, but some come to us via common carrier as well.

Tell us a little about what you bring to the position—your flair, specialty, interest, background, etc.  I am really passionate about nutrition– always have been.  When I was about ten years old, mama got us a subscription to “Prevention” magazine.  I remember I used to love going to the mailbox to get it.

What are the main things you do during the average work day/week? #1 Ordering, #2 Truck sheets, #3 Connecting with Vendors, #4 Contracts with Vendors, #5 Email, #6 Pricing,  #7 Meeting with Brokers.

Why do we use brokers instead of buying directly from the farmers? A broker is a person who spends a lot of time cultivating relationships with farmers. It is intensive and time-consuming.  Our goal for the future is to have an in-house broker.  Until then, we have to use brokers (mainly just for commodity products).  Some farmers will ONLY sell to brokers because they say “we’re busy growing the food—we don’t have time to talk to millions of distributors, retailers, buyers” - and they only sell to one broker.  Azure has to grow to a size with the purchasing power to have an in-house broker. Oftentimes, you have to purchase ENTIRE crops– and pay 10 months in advance!

What’s your favorite thing about your job?  I love buying!  I love talking with the vendors and the brokers– could do that all day!  I also love researching and looking into new products.

What’s the hardest thing you have to do?  Deal with problems!  Of course that is probably what most people would say, right?  But, it can be very difficult when, for example, we are out of a product and the driver can’t get to the vendor in time to pick up– or there isn’t room on the truck.  There can be a lot of juggling.  Also, my other hardest thing—is anything to do with the computer!  ;-)

What is your Vision for product buying in the future?  I envision the day when EVERYTHING we buy and sell is non-GMO!  I want our customers and us to trust everything we have. That’s why we are looking to the goals & visions of our vendors—looking for those that match Azure’s— because we want to build partnerships not simply buy products.

Who is one of your favorite vendors?  I have so many favorites for a variety of reasons, but one I will mention is Wilt Farm—he supplies us organic blueberries and goes the extra mile beyond organic! He feeds his soil with minerals and nutrition, not required to be certified organic. This is an example of a vendor/farmer you can trust as he is 100% committed to providing the best possible nutrition to all the people purchasing his product! 

How would you describe yourself? I am the type of person who believes in learning every day and continually improving myself- I love going to conferences! I want to do better with my job, my self improvement, my personal nutritional program. I am so grateful for the many blessings in my life! I so appreciate the unique opportunity to make an impact on many lives by providing amazing food, and bringing new amazing products. I also love gardening and growing as much of our own food as possible! I have 17 grandchildren ages 15 down to 1 year old, and I love spending time with them.  I have an amazing family!

What is the key to your service to our vendors?  Good communication is an important key in every area of life—vendors appreciate it very much!

Just for fun...

Favorite Flower:  Roses

Favorite Food: Many favorites, but I think raspberries and red or orange peppers.

Favorite Thing About Azure: The mission to provide the best possible food and products for our customers

Favorite Thing to Listen to: Self improvement, lots of favorite authors! 

What is your mainstay for optimal health/immune system boosting? My smoothies! I put all kinds of amazing things in them! I make a variety of them - they are full of some fresh food, Superfoods and minerals!

 

September 20, 2013

Network Upgrade!

The ball is rolling!  I guess it has been moving for a while, but the boulder is definitely steaming down the hill now. As many of you know, a change in our phone server has been coming up. Some of you also know that there will be some network upgrades to accompany that change. Well, here is the whole scoop, in laymen terms hopefully. J

Azure’s network currently consists of over 35 miles of Azure-owned wireless network. Those of you who have been to the Call Center have certainly seen the antenna on the roof. You probably noticed that it got upgraded last weekend and a new antenna put on it.

That Antenna connects to the Farm 8 Miles up Dufur Valley Rd. where we recently built a new 100’ tower.There is a second connection that connects the Farm to a facility 25 miles away on Gordon Ridge which is two miles northwest of the  Warehouse.

Gordon Ridge (pictured at top) is an old radio site from the 60’s re-tasked. Did you know that these giant old antennas and others like them used to carry all the telephone calls across the country?

From there, it is a 2 mile wireless connection to the Warehouse. That network is currently capable of about 30 Megabits per second. When you make a call to another extension, the data passes over  that network. When you go to Beehive or customers access the website, all of that is supported by that network. Red dubbed it Fastlink 5 years ago when we put it in. Well, it is just about to get its 2nd upgrade.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be installing brand new licensed wireless radios from Dufur to the Farm. Then, we’ll be  extending our network from the Farm, to a radio tower west of The 

Dalles. From there, a third link will connect us to dedicated fiber network service in Mosier. That new wireless system from Dufur to Mosier is capable of 355 Megabits per second. To put that into perspective, you could transfer an   entire DVD worth of information in about 1 minute and 39 seconds over it. But, we won’t get to use all of it. Well, I guess between the Farm and the Call Center it will be that fast. From Mosier, we are obtaining a 100mbit/s connection to a data center in Downtown  Portland, putting us right smack dab in the middle of one of the  biggest regional internet hubs in the Northwest! 

From there, we will connect to 100mbits of dedicated internet access.  Last weekend, we updated our network structure with new routers at the Farm, Dufur and Moro as a step in that direction.

This week, we installed some new networking equipment in Moro, Dufur and the Data Center in Portland. Between now and next Tuesday, we will be extending our whole network to Portland and will begin using the internet connection there for all of our internet, rather than the current connection at the Call Center.

On Wednesday the 25th, some of you at the Call Center will receive training on how to use the new  system and on how to help everyone else through the transition. Nick will be coordinating that aspect!

On September 27th,we will be switching to a new Avaya IP Office phone system that will be located in the Portland Data Center, and will include a new server, new phones, even a new phone number.  A vision of Azure for a long time has been to hire customers throughout the country part time to provide customer service. Much of the reason we  decided to change Phone Systems, (just 2 years since the last one) was the inability of our current system to handle that type of expansion.

This has been a very exciting project and has kept me very busy. There is a lot more to do, but so far everything is on schedule!

Stephen, Network Administrator

 

Art of Continuous Improvement

In the heart of the Warehouse, we have turned our focus to the Art of Continuous Improvement. 

This last month or so, we have seen such amazing change and movement, and I want to take a moment to tell you a little about the art we are making.

First off, the team meetings are going great! They’ve really helped us communicate with each other better, and given us a way to focus our energy in a positive way.

From that shift, we have also been able to make dramatic improvement in our overall communication with the Call Center.  I believe this is a critical step in our ability to serve our customers better!

We have a ton of projects going on across the board, from a master cleaning list, to reconciling inventory, to a revamp of the pour area, … and the list goes on!  Getting all of these pieces  in top working order will go a LONG way towards increasing our efficiency and the overall atmosphere.

In addition to getting the place cleaned up and ship-shape, we are working on getting our Team Members cross-trained throughout the Warehouse.  This will not only increase our productivity, but it will help each person—and us as a whole– move forward on the Path to Progress.

One other really important aspect that we are emphasizing is a concept we’re calling Fair and Logical.  This means that no Team Member will ever be asked or expected to do something that is not safe and reasonable. We are definitely asking people to step outside of their comfort-zones in order to grow– we are ALL doing that right now.  But, safety is not something we want to compromise!

Next month, you’ll hear about the progress we are making in all of these adventures!

Wes, Warehouse Manager

 

September 13, 2013

The definition of sustainability means different things to different people, but the generalized definition of sustainability is the capacity to endure.  For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being, and has environmental, economic and social dimensions - sometimes referred to as the three pillars of sustainability. Sustainability requires the reconciliation of these three pillars as you can see in figure 1.  When the three pillars of sustainability merge, you become truly sustainable.  Figure 2 shows that both economy and society are constrained by environmental limits.

 

This is where my passion truly lies!  I believe if we can create a sustainable environment, it will set a strong foundation here at Azure Standard and the rest will follow as is currently happening with all the positive changes. There are many aspects of the environmental pillars, and waste management is one part we have a great head start on! 

Here is a brief overview of Azure’s waste management program and a formal statement.

"Azure has a long standing commitment and a proactive concern for the environment including a reverence for sustainable agriculture and a deep focus on social responsibility, stewardship of the land, and reducing our ecological footprint. Our commitment to these principles is evidenced by ongoing incorporation of environmentally sustainable practices into present and future business activities.

“The Sustainability Program at Azure Standard has a goal to work toward a zero level waste environment, helping us to become one of the top 10 Green companies in Oregon. While it is very challenging to achieve zero waste, we have the ability to reduce, reuse, recycle, or reprocess most if not all of our goods and materials.

“The definition for zero waste states, ‘Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people and businesses in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.  Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.’

“Understanding the waste stream is key in reaching our zero waste goals. Being able to adapt and work with the ever changing products and new technologies are crucial in achieving zero waste.  The facilities that have current zero waste management programs are the Moro Warehouse, Dufur Farm, Call Center, and The Mill."

The waste management program at Azure is moving right along with the outgoing bay at the warehouse being its primarily location. We can recycle, reuse, compost, and gasify.  

Recycling: These are some of the items we currently recycle: Cardboard, Paper, Plastic, Shrink-wrap, Aluminum, Glass, Steel, Foam-very very bad…Below are examples of what those things become.

Reuse:   We will be reusing our Himalayan burlap salt bags as recycling containers throughout the warehouse.  Pictures to come.  We reuse as many boxes as we can from the product we receive. We generally purchase pre-used or mislabeled boxes at a lower cost from one of our recycle brokers.  As time goes on, I will keep everyone updated on different items that can be reused. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know!

Compost:  The main compost area is at the farm (header pic). Because our compost is a lot larger than the typical family garden compost, it allows us to compost everything that has come from the ground.  Our compost heats up to 120 degrees! Being able to compost our floor sweeping is a vital part in our zero waste goal, and the rule of thumb for floor sweeping is that if the item is larger than your hand, pull it out…cardboard, paper, etc.  Otherwise, leave it.  The only thing that needs to be sorted out is plastic…. even the packing peanuts are compostable.

Gasify: The gasifier is at the farm as well  - check out the next piece by David B. that describes the ins and outs of the gasifier.

Purchasing Sustainability:  We also have to be conscious of what we bring into Azure Standard.  When we purchase supplies and products for Azure Standard, are we taking into account if they are sustainable? Where were these product made and by whom? We ask our customers to think about these questions, so as our team grows, we should be thinking about the purchases we make from within to set an example for our customers.

Julie, Environmental Services Coordinator

Gasify!

What is Fire? Well, without getting too nerdy, fire is a combination of Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat.  Without any one of these three, you have no fire.  Oxygen we of course get from the air, a readily available ingredient.  Heat is often acquired by friction, say striking a match.  That ignites the fuel source and sustains the heat.

Wood doesn’t actually “burn.” When heated, wood emits the gases contained inside, and when there is flame present, the gasses ignite. (If you put a piece of wood in your oven and cook it you will have just a piece of charcoal left, and a house full of nasty smoke.)

We’ve all seen fire– it’s so Beautiful!  Well, the gasifier is a controlled burn- like a stove, but we control the oxygen factor.  By reducing the amount of oxygen the burn chamber receives, we release all the gases in the wood, but only burn 1/3 of the gas to do so. Why?  Well, wood gas is a lot like propane, you can run an engine on it! Make power! Yes, in fact during World War II, England had a petrol shortage and had tractors and buses running on wood gas.

Ok, from the top, we dump the wood into the wood box conveyer, and it is auto-fed into the gasifier as it needs it.  The gasifier is actually under vacuum, and the flames are pulled downward, so the wood on top has a chance to dry out and cook a bit before it is burned. Then, as the wood below is burned away to charcoal and ash, the wood above falls into the burn zone.  Sixteen inlet ports allow oxygen in at a restricted rate, producing enough heat to release all the gases.  Below that is a “neck down” zone.  Here, a Venturi effect is applied by necking down the  area in which the hot gases travel; the heat is compounded producing a 3000 degree zone. This is important because many fuel chains are long and smell nasty even after you try to burn them.  But, if you heat them sufficiently, you break down the carbon chains and get a much cleaner burn (This is why they throw the annoying catalytic converter in your cars, instead of just giving us decent fuel...).

After the super hot spot, the gases need to be cooled before they hit the suction fan and burn it up.  So, they go through three heat exchangers (merely Pipes running through a water tank that gases pass through). Then, the gas goes through the suction fan and into the boiler. Now, this is just an ordinary boiler anyone could have laying around, and we converted it to run on the wood gas. More oxygen is introduced inside the boiler along with an igniter and we burn the wood gas here. For our current purposes, we circulate water through the heat exchangers, the boiler, the 18000 gallon storage tank and then the year round greenhouse.

We heat 18,000 gallons of water, so what? Well the greenhouse has 3500 feet of 2” steel pipes running about in it.  Those act as heat radiators when we pump the hot water through them, providing nice even heat throughout the greenhouse.

Sounds complicated you say?  Why not just run on propane in the first place? Well,…. that would be the easy way!  But, here is the potential of the gasifier:  Because of its ability to break down the long carbon chains, it is possible to turn all sorts of undesirables-  foam, plastics, wax boar d, and tires, into fuel, and burn completely clean producing only CO2.   AND, we also have the potential to incorporate an ICE (Internal combustion engine) to produce up 50KW.  That’s enough electricity to power 6-7 houses, and... And … AND still heat the greenhouse!  Did I mention that Plus we are not using petroleum?

Well that about does it....... I got nerdy didn’t I?

David B., The Gaseous Guru

 

September 6, 2013

Mill Makeover

Change is in the air!  Joe Isitt here, and along with the changes happening throughout Azure, they are taking place at the Mill too!  I am now the Mill Manager, and the changes at the Mill are taking on a physical appearance.  We decided the Mill was the place to start with real physical change because for one it was overdue, and second because we want to make it a flagship marker in our overall culture shift.  We want the Mill to exemplify all that we are aiming for in our development of Azure.  

So… last weekend, we took a huge first step forward toward making the buildings and grounds neat and tidy.  In the very near future, we have plans to repair and finish all the siding, paint inside and out, pour concrete, and spread fresh gravel!  It is our goal to bring the Mill up to "Azure Standard" in both performance AND beauty, moving on with continuous improvement from there.  Personally, I am excited for all the changes that are taking place, and look forward to the Mill’s continuing transformation into a facility that takes pride in its work and appearance. We will keep you posted with updates, and feel free to come by for a visit and a tour!

Joe, Mill Manager

 

The Farm Feed~

Lots of exciting things going on now at the farm!  Busy is not even an appropriate word for this time of the year!  We have hay down and soon to be baled, fields that are being weeded in preparation for seeding soon, major work going on building the dam reservoir, wheat being cleaned for planting, and never-ending mechanic work to keep it all going!

Nathan has hopes to begin planting this fall’s crops, which is mainly soft white wheat, in the next week or two.  The moisture is actually holding really nicely for planting, so he is happy about that.  We look forward to seeing how it comes up and pray for Yahweh’s blessing on it.

The cattle are happy to be moved to a slightly greener pasture.  The dry weather hasn’t been very favorable for them to have much green grass to eat, but those couple rains helped a little.  We did just purchase 12 organic, young steers from Double Diamond Ranch in Baker City, OR.  That will help keep up our supply of beef.  We will be out of beef for some time yet.  We are waiting for our steers to grow up!  We hope to get more butchered later this fall.

The dam reservoir is coming along! We've had plenty of breakdowns, so Nathan and the boys have been constantly doing mechanic work to keep the project rolling.  The first job to get done was diverting any water out of the canyon, leveling the

ground and building roads for the equipment to get in and out, and scraping off all the sod where the keyway is  going to be.  Huge rocks needed to get moved, too.  Then the fun began with digging the keyway!   The keyway is the trench that will seal the dam and keep any water from going underneath it.  It needs to be 12 feet wide and dug down to rock. Then it will be filled with a layer of dirt, then a layer of bentonite clay, and then more dirt, etc.  This will be mixed together, packed firmly, and 

continued until the dam is about 30 feet tall or more!  The keyway is all dug out right now and waiting to be inspected.  Once we get the okay on it, we can lay the 440 feet of pipe for the drain and the irrigation.  The pipe then all needs to be concreted in.  The keyway can be filled in after that.

Wow!  That’s a lot of work to be done in the next month!  Lord willing, we will get ‘er done!  We’ll let you know next month how we do!

~Michelle Stelzer

 

Kimberly Orchard!

We are into full swing of harvest. One more day of peach picking left to go and then into the apples! Last week we harvested Red Bartlett pears, Akane apples, Z-Lady peaches and Fantasia/Washington Pride Nectarines. This week we finished the Fantasia nectarines and today (Thursday) are picking Gala apples. Tomorrow we start the O’Henry peaches which are our last ones. I hope to include some photos when this thunderstorm passes.

Irrigation will continue on until  October 1st or longer if it is too dry. We will be putting on one or two more codling moth (green apple worm) sprays and next we will start a fall nutrient spray on the cherries and peaches. This spray will include several gallons of liquid fish, boron, sulfur, potassium sulfate, Micro 5000, yucca extract and fish oil. This high nutrient spray will be absorbed into the over wintering fruit buds and make them much hardier—protecting them from the spring freezes and frosts. We will start our soil amendment  program as soon as harvest is over so that it will break down and be available to the trees when they start growing again in the spring, and available to the fruit buds also for growth energy.

Next week we be harvesting additional Gala apples, and in 2 weeks, the Red D’anjou pears and Asian pears along with maybe some golden and red delicious. After that will come the Jonagold and Empire  apples. The Cameo apples get ready somewhere in that time period and the last apples will be the Fiji, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Melrose, Piñata and Granny Smith apples.

Peach season is not over with quite yet because the Dufur orchard is in commercial production this year and it puts out more peaches in a day then we get here in Kimberly in a week!  Dufur is also 2 or 3 weeks later and has some later  varieties too like Alberta and Hale peaches. Until next time!

Eddie,

Azure Orchard Master

 

August 30, 2013

Type, Set, Print!

The publishing department is always in full motion.  Did you know that we work at least three months in advance to make sure that publications are printed and ready for delivery on time?  So, for example, when everyone is beginning to enjoy the bounty of the late summer harvest (like right now), we in publishing are headlong into winter– snow, holidays and all. Sometimes we’re even slipping into the new growth of spring!

Something else you might not know is that vendors are the ones that pick the promotional items for our sale flyers.  Many customers and maybe even staff think that we (Azure) choose all of the item and the discounts for each sales flyer, but it’s actually the vendors that tell us what items that they want to offer—and at what discount!!

Rebecca, Publishing

 

The Inspiring Knights of the Round Table

Okay, so it’s not a round table.  But it is oval, made of clear glass.  It was topped with two large bowls of organic strawberries, fresh out of the field, prime for eating, along with sparkling clean plates, and a beautiful, clear drinking glass full of the freshest water this side of the Mississippi.  All this was awaiting each member of Azure’s leadership team, first thing Monday morning.  I’m talking about the oval table in the conference room at Azure’s Headquarters, where I had the honor – along with the 11 others, to participate with the kick off the next great era of Azure Standard.  What a blessing to be a part of it

If my recollection serves me right, this meeting took place 11 days after my 12th anniversary with Azure.  So, with a content, beaming smile on my face, I want to ask each one of you - right now - the same question I asked myself when I took the helm of the Call Center in July of 2006… Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

As I reflect on those early days being new to management, I recall envisioning myself engaging in purpose-driven meetings at a conference table with senior management, solving the major problems of the Azure world.  I envisioned a great, far-reaching company blessing each of those who joined us, inside and out. By 2011, we found ourselves getting close with  senior management, at a temporary table in the newly, barely hospitable,  second level of the Moro warehouse - with 

fresh drywall, Ethernet cables sticking out of the wall, and electricians buzzing about.   It wasn’t visually perfect, but the vision was there—it was tangible.  We were indeed taking on the challenges, knowing that the end result would put us ever closer to where we want to be, as a whole. 

Now in 2013, it is a real life conference room, where new employee orientation takes place, amongst other important things, like these meetings I illustrated.  I think Wes wants to rename this room The Strategy Room.  I can’t think of a better name.  I firmly held on to that vision back in 2006, and still do to this day.  The fruition of that vision is taking place now. 

The power of Vision is truly immense; and those I humbly shared the table with on Monday are indeed great visionaries.   We will not be a mindless, soulless corporation that rules from the top down; we are the leadership of Azure that will support each other and each one of the azure Team Members – encouraging both professional and personal and growth.  I truly envision this message to inspire all of us (including myself) to look to our leaders and share our own visions with them.   Each one of you has expressed great and valuable ideas, changes in process, and likely even great execution strategies.  I encourage you to continue to share them with your immediate supervisor as time allows. 

Today, as a part of a newly inspired and rocketing team, I find myself asking again:  Where do I see myself in 5 years?  I think the answer is--the sky  really is the limit.  I even foresee that we just might be capable of shattering that boundary--together.

Nick, Call Center Manager

 

August 23, 2013

Produce world!

Hello! Here is a produce update for the coming week or two: Apple season is here, expect to see many different varieties to start off with, including Gingergolds, Gala, Akane, Empires, Sansa, to name a few.  Once pink lady’s and Fuji’s start, we will pretty much just be carrying those.

We are adding a new grape line for the coming couple of weeks, Organic Heirloom grapes.  They could be Jupiter, Muscat, Concord, and a few others.  Look for these starting Monday.

We are getting mangoes at a very nice price.  Sales are going well on those.  They will be Keitt's for a while, then Kents or Tommy Adkins.

I am going to be adding dragon fruit, grown organically by a grower we have done business with for years, Stehly Farms.  They also have organic guava, which we may carry also.

Peaches and nectarines should be in good supply until mid-September or so.  Prices are higher than last year, and I am trying to buy all of the #2 product I can find to help keep the pricing at a semi-reasonable level.  Two layer product (two layers of product instead of volume-filled boxes) is available, but the price is much higher and the boxes weigh less.  So, I am trying to juggle to keep the price down as much as possible.

We have a GREAT deal on seeded Local watermelons right now.  Hurry to buy some ASAP, as the special price goes away very soon.

Winter squashes are going to be in very soon - butternut, spaghetti, delicata, acorn, to name a few.  

Pears will be in house next week.  Starting with Bartlett, red Bartlett, Starkrimson, and Asian.

Thank you for all of your input Have a great week!!

Bob, Produce Buyer

 

Auto Update-

A quick little update on the automation:  We have been test running product through the most complex side of the system for the past week. We are excited about how it’s looking! We are seeing good  accuracy on diverting product down the different conveyors and into the correct bins. The big fancy scanner is also proving itself; it is getting very high read rates!

We have put the 8000 tote bins into the carousels and are in the middle of labeling them. David B. has been tying all the conveyors together so product will flow smoothly from the top of the carousels all the way to the sortation system.

Kevin took some time off from the automation to help out the bulk warehouse, outgoing area, and coolers by putting up a bunch of new pallet racks.  This relieved a lot of cramps felt by everyone working in those areas, giving them hundreds of new locations to put pallets! Then, Kevin took a deserved week off to go camping and "do nothing but sit on his b - - -, and watch the campfire." (as he put it!  J)

Benjamin, Project Manager

 

Bits & Pieces

We have a new Green Team and some exciting stuff going on with the recycling program and keeping the warehouse clean!


The Green Team consists of Jacob (Inventory) - who is the Green Team leader, Kyle (Inventory), Carmen (Returns), Karlee (Small Pick Receiving), Cory (Produce), and John (Small Pick Lead), as well as Josh, Angie, Mathew, and I who are all part of the Environmental Services crew. We are hoping to add someone from night crew to the Green Team very soon.

In the next few weeks, you will be noticing several cleaning stations popping up around the warehouse. Most of them will look similar to this picture (coming next time!) but some may have a dust or push broom depending on where it is located. These stations and supplies will be numbered so if they accidently get left out we will all know where their home is.  Having the accessibility of the proper cleaning tools will make it easier for all of us to help maintain a better environment throughout the warehouse.

The outgoing bay is the central recycling station and an integral part of the recycling program; it has gone through several remodels so to speak on figuring out the most efficient use of space. With the help of Kevin and Josh I believe we have our final design.  In the next warehouse news I’m looking forward to providing pictures of the finished outgoing bay and information on our recycling and zero waste program!

Julie, Environmental Services Coordinator

 

Ready, Set, ...

Azure is a rocket of opportunity ready to launch!

Next week we will kick off our shift in culture with our first focused meetings –starting at the Warehouse and Mill.   Each week, Azure leadership will participate in Positive Focus meetings first thing Monday mornings, to collaborate and create the enthusiasm for the week. 

Team Focus meetings will be for everyone, and will be held at each shift.  The goal is to make sure that every day, everyone is on the same page– knowing what is happening in their own departments and around the company.

You will also be seeing Chad Johnson on the floor of the Warehouse– please give him a warm Azure welcome!  He is providing us with very valuable input on how to navigate our shift and to move forward—rocket forward– with purpose and positivity!

We are all going to see some pretty dramatic—really awesome—changes very quickly.  I am so excited about this adventure we are taking, and I want to thank you, truly thank you, for coming along and engaging in it!

...Let’s Go!

In Abundant Living, 

David

 

August 16, 2013

Transformations

Last month, I talked with you about creating an environment and a culture at Azure that is truly awesome, and we’re on our way!  We are centering our intention around the Core Values we established– you should all be able to clearly see a Core Values’ banner or sign in the area where you work. 

Managers and supervisors are working on developing both job descriptions AND Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for each position and each department.  That’s not something that can happen overnight, but they are vital for us to be able to reach our goals.

Another encouraging thing is that we are going to be getting specialized and customized support in our culture development from some people who have done this kind of thing before– tried and true!  Chad Johnson is a  personal friend of mine who is also going through the Strategic Coach entrepreneur coaching program (he’s actually in the masters program—couple years ahead of me).  He owns a company in Los Angeles called Ceramic Decorating Co., and he successfully took it through the very same type of growth and development we are approaching at Azure. 

A few months back, I went to get a look at his operation in L.A., and was really impressed with what they are doing.  This week we took it a step further and sent Wes, Warehouse Floor Manager & Lead, down to see what he could learn and bring back to share from his perspective on the floor.

Chad Johnson and his Chief Operations Officer, Rick ,  will be working closely with us over the next few months.  Of course, our culture development will be ongoing after that, but the goal for this period of time is to set the tone and get us traveling down this new path we have chosen.  It is exciting, and I hope everyone is beginning to feel the excitement percolating.

We will do our absolute best to let everyone know what is happening each step of the way.  Be sure to talk with your manager or supervisor if you have questions or input!

In Abundant Health,

David Stelzer, CEO

Route Changes-

Route changes are underway!  We are testing out our new “process” for doing them, using a basic template that will help us know who is doing what when.  We’re hoping this will keep work duplication and miscommunications to a bare minimum, ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and that the customers are informed in time.  You can see an example of one of the upcoming route change templates here.

Currently, the routes slated for changes in September/October are the C’s and D’s which will allow for a dedicated dock day for Alaska orders, and make room for more, planned Mid-west growth.  There will be significant changes and additions to the L’s (just one), M’s, N’s, O’s (SIX new O’s), P’s and Q’s.  And, guess what… with these changes, we will have reached our first eastern seaboard states—the Carolina’s and Georgia.  Way to work it Joe, Jeanette and the Wood family!!  We will also run all the way through Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Over the next couple weeks, logistics will be dialed in, maps will be prepared, and then we will begin communicating the plans to everyone at Azure and  our customers—around the beginning of September.

Leanne, Communications

 

Bits & Pieces

One of the most frequent questions I get is if these types of materials are plastic or aluminum— especially the tops of yogurt containers.

They are actually both plastic and aluminum, but are recycled as a plastic material. The common name for this material is called Mylar and most notably in the form of Mylar balloons.

The material starts out as plastic and has a very thin layer of aluminum or other type metal heated on to it. One way to tell if the material is Mylar is to slowly tear the material and you will notice a web of plastic and small strands of the plastic stretching as you tear. The scientific name for this material is BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate), but most of us just call it Mylar.

Stay tuned for more Environmental Services info in our next segment of Bits & Pieces!

Julie, Environmental Services Coordinator

 

August 9, 2013

Take a Minute – to Learn and to Educate

David had to stop by the Call Center this week, and it opened the opportunity for one of those teachable moments. The question was posed by a customer, “Do you use heirloom wheat seed for your crops?”  David then took the time to sit with customer service and explain about “heirloom” and “GMO”. He went on to add a lesson about feeding the soil, putting nutrition back into it, so in turn it is able to produce a nutritious crop.

Our customers ask. They ask about product origin. They ask how things are produced.  They ask if it is bagged in a dedicated facility. They ask how it is grown. They want to know about their food and the products they buy!  We have an inquisitive and cautious customer base. We are so fortunate to interact in the lives of people who care about what goes into their bodies- customers who take a moment to consider how to treat the earth.  It is such a privilege and such a great opportunity to be part of providing pertinent information and quality products to people who care.

With great privilege comes great responsibility. Our customers trust us. They trust our team. They trust us to care for their orders from placement to delivery. They trust our new products committee to make educated choices of the products we carry. They trust us to care about their concerns. 

So, how does that relate to David stopping by the Call Center for a teachable moment?  Educating ourselves - about our products, about the Azure Standard Core Values!

David set the example:  Take a minute.  Answer a question if you can, find the information if you can’t. Care, because our customers do, and we have a wealth of information at our fingertips that is free for the inquiring minds– for our customers and ourselves!

Jaye, Drop Point Specialist

 

KIMBERLY FARM!

Greetings from the Kimberly Farm! The past few weeks we have been harvesting, in one form or another. Our irrigation pump needed repair so we chose to harvest our cover crop of hay while the water was down. It turned out to be a very good cutting, thankful for 2 strong boys to move the hay! The bales were tight and heavy; looking forward to feeding our animals good, organic hay this winter. The pump is repaired, water is turned back on, fish fertilizer is injected into the water and spraying, and the cover crop is greening up!!

The pea harvest went well, with plenty enough to save the seed for next year’s crop. We spent quality time giving children rides in the combine as I worked, and had an enjoyable time. Rye combining went well and we are thankful for the seed to plant again to hold back the weeds for another year.

Squash is continuing to set and grow healthy fruit; we look forward to harvesting that in the next few weeks. The onions are getting to be a nice size too- the few we have used in the house do taste Good.

 During the heat of the afternoon, (100 + deg.) we do enjoy swimming in the river. A few weeks ago we put up the tripod swing. It had been put up by the family before us, but had been washed away in the flood two years ago. We tied a rope swing on it and do enjoy it a lot. We put up an old conveyor for a diving dock, and the children are learning to dive and swim! 

Our garlic harvest did reveal a few things to us, that if you do indeed plant a small clove, you definitely will get … a small bulb.  So, if you want big ones, plant Big Cloves, and keep the tiny guys for eating!! The scapes need to be cut for the bulbs to reach their full potential. We cut them up and use them just like chives, only with the garlic flavor, very tasty. Timely cutting of the scapes is important for optimal bulb growth!

This being most of the news from the river, we hope you all have a blessed and prosperous day!!

Christina, John & Family, Azure Kimberly Farm Managers

 

KIMBERLY ORCHARD!

The picking part of the year is here at the Kimberly Orchard. We have picked a few of the early peaches and nectarines, and the early apples will be coming on in the next couple of weeks as well. It is so fun and inspiring to be at the orchard every week and see the fruit going through every stage from bloom to harvest.

Some of the main activities that have kept us busy through the summer are irrigation and sprinkler maintenance, foliar spraying and insect control, mowing, and trying to keep the deer and beavers out of the orchard!

The orchard irrigation system consists of two pumping stations, each with a floating river screen and a total of 6 electric motors mounted to pumps. These aren't just little sump pumps either—the combined horse power of those six pumps is around 265!  Also, maintaining our 1300 sprinklers from gophers, mowers and just wear and tear is almost a full time job in itself.

This summer we bought a 500 gal blue line sprayer which is a great improvement over our old sprayer. We have been doing a nutrient / insect control spray on all the apples and pears every week since the first part of May, and I would say that the trees look nicer this year than they have since we bought the place three years ago.

The last two springs we put in about four acres of young apricot trees which are growing well, so we should be picking more apricots in a couple of years.

I love growing fruit. Seeing the miracle of nature from the first buds of spring to the vibrant colors of the fall is truly amazing. When I hear about (or see) a family get a box of our fruit, and see the children smile as they bite into a juicy peach or a crisp apple, it makes all of the all-night spraying, hours of priming pumps and days of mowing when it's over a hundred degrees so totally worth it!  I do love growing fruit, but even more than that, I love serving our customers and communities with quality. No matter what job we’re in, let’s remember that we are helping someone out with what we are doing, just like they’re helping someone else out in their job. So, we are all making life better for each other in this awesome world we get to live in.

Zechariah Stelzer, Orchard Manager

 

August 2, 2013

CORE VALUES

A healthy, successful company is ever-expanding, ever-growing, ever-evolving, and that is not just to do with sales.  For a company to be successful—truly successful, it has to develop an environment that is so positive, inviting and encouraging that people simply want to be part of it.  That environment starts with a vision and a mission.  For the last 25 years, we have endeavored to live and work our vision for Azure, and a couple years ago we wrote down exactly where we hoped to go with it.

The next step in creating the environment that will continue us on the path of success is to cultivate our culture—one that is passionate and inspired.   With intention and commitment, we are starting on that by first identifying and communicating the values we feel are at the heart of Azure.  We have named them our Core Values, and they will be the points by which we move Azure forward.  Please read them over and begin to really understand what they mean:

We want to create a culture that is so awesome that the whole Azure Team will feel inspired to give more than simply a consistent, outstanding customer experience, but a truly phenomenal one.   Focusing on our vision, and using our Core Values to guide us will not always be easy, but we sure hope it will be inspiring and help us make Azure into one of the most amazing companies –ever!

In Abundant Living,

David Stelzer, CEO

 

Out My Window

My first year in Dufur comes full circle......Out my window

The wheat fields are covered with a white blanket of silence and snow. Nothing is moving. Not even a breeze. SO peaceful and beautiful.

They slowly turn to a soft brown, totally lacking of plant life.

The ranchers plow and make their lines and circles in the soil.

I count 11 different shades of brown; from the lightest fawn to a deep rich chocolate.

They are so green and fuzzy now. You want to run your hand over the little plants that are slowly showing their tops. Soft. New life.

Tall and strong the new wheat reaches for the bright blue sky.

Today… My fields have turned to a light yellow with the summer sun.  Small spots of green still remain, but will soon turn into the RICH GOLDEN WAVES that cover these hills for miles.  As far as my eyes can see.  The ranchers with their families will be very busy……..soon.  

I love it here.  

Jennie, Customer Service Representative

 

July 26, 2013

AUTO-UPDATE

We are making great headway on the warehouse automation! The physical infrastructure is about 85% done- the carousels are turning, the sortation system is in place, and the conveyors are nearly all finished.

We installed the scan tunnel into its final home today, and Jordan was able to build enough code to communicate with it this week!

Toward the end of next week we are scheduled to begin the first phase of testing the system. This will include running product through the scan tunnel, reading product barcode, position and length of the item, and tracking it down the belt. The electricians and programmers are all busy building and programming the machine computers that run the system. 

David B. is up to lots of little details like building slide plates between all the conveyors,     squaring and shoring everything up, mounting the high speed diverters, etc.

It is all starting to come together- time to get excited!

Benjamin, Project Manager

 

SUPER STARS!!

A couple weeks ago, I saw another employee really going above and beyond at work– taking the initiative to clean up a big mess that was in another department’s area.  It really struck me, and I wanted to do something that made the person know I noticed and truly appreciated it - so started the Wall of Super Stars.

Since then, it has completely taken on a life of its own.  As you can see in the picture, the wall is almost completely full.  When an employee notices another employee doing something really awesome and over the top, they let me know and I make up a certificate for the wall. So, guess what– we’re making the wall bigger!  It is just so important that people actually get feedback when they are trying really hard to do a good job, and it seems like the Wall of Super Stars is offering that!  Maybe down the road we can keep tally of the accolades and give something special to those who continually strive to give that Azure Standard service we believe in.

Let me know if you see a super star at work!

Andrea, Office Manager/Admin Assistant

 

THE FARM FEED…

On first pass, I thought, “We’re not doing anything new or very interesting on the farms at the moment– just weeding and repairing.”   But, then I had some encouragement to see it a little differently.  For us here on the farm, it’s “old hat” to handle the task of weeding, but have you ever actually thought about what it means to keep 2000 acres weeded- WITHOUT using nasty herbicides?  It’s not something you can do on your hands and knees for sure!

We use a machine called a Cultiweeder to run over the fields. The one in the picture is used on the Dufur farm and is 30 feet across.  The one used on the Moro farmlands is 70 feet!

We do half of the fields each year, meaning we weed the ones that are fallowed that year so that the ground is prepared for planting.  It is important to get the weeds out because they take up the moisture (and nutrients) in the ground– that is especially important out in Moro where there is no irrigation water and it does not rain much at all. 

Speaking of water, even in Dufur we have to be mindful of water usage.   When the weather gets hot and dry, the regional water master sets limits on how much water we can use at a time.  All of the fields in Dufur are irrigated from pond water which is ultimately snowpack runoff.  As the snow pack recedes, we have to moderate our watering.  So, like right now, water has begun to be rationed.  Instead of watering many fields at once, we have to alternate.

As for repairs, it’s everything from cylinders (big enough to need a tractor to remove!), to starters, to wheels and seals.

Looks like there was something to talk about after all!  If you have thoughts on what you would like to learn more about when it comes to our farming practices– let me know.  I’d be happy to write about it in the next “Farm Feed”! 

See you soon! Michelle Stelzer

 

DUFUR ORCHARD

We’ve been invited on a virtual stroll through the Dufur Orchards with Kimberly and David Stelzer.  It’s Saturday– late afternoon, and we look out across the hills and valleys covered in maturing trees.

Looking down the hill, we see the grapes finally starting to get some size, and there are a lot of them! As we meander, we noticed that there is pretty much just one thing going on here in the orchards—things are GROWING!  From the beautiful apples, to the plumping pears, to the vibrant cherries to the truly glorious peaches!


As we saunter ever so leisurely, the day gracefully beckons dusk, so we take one last look through the boughs and leaves, down the hills and back up again.  Blessed be!  Thank you Kimberly and David for taking us along.  Let’s do it again sometime– maybe even in person!

photo credits: Kimberly Stelzer

 

June 28, 2013

THE CALL CENTER LUNCHBOX!

What a wonderful idea it was this year to have a community office garden!  I so enjoy eating our produce right out the office door. The radishes are so yummy.  Wrapping some radishes with fresh lettuce and cilantro is my highlight for the day...The parsley is nice to munch on during the break in the afternoon too.

Jaye and Stephanie are taking home some of the lettuce tonight so they can have a fresh salad for dinner.  I don't know if someone is just getting to the strawberries before me, but the couple I had where delightful.

Our pole beans are in full bloom, and the honey bees are buzzing around them and the Bee's Friend flower... Watch out that you don't back into those purple flowers or you might just get a surprise!

We have received lots of compliments from the Dufur citizens that walk by the office every day...  Thank you, Joe, for this great idea. I hope this becomes a tradition. Best Regards,

Elaine, Customer Service Lead

 

June 7, 2013

GRAND-DADDY GREENHOUSE

Lee is picking lots of tomatoes right now! The plants are loaded—especially the colored varieties of cherry tomatoes.

The cukes are slowing down, so not as many of them for a while.  BUT, this coming week Madeline will be planting a row—over 100 plants—of 5 different varieties of hot peppers. We have experimented with hot peppers over the past year and they have done well! So, we will be growing enough to sell a hot pepper mixed variety clam. 

Some fun FAQ’s:

  • We're going for a world record on the tallest sunflower; it is currently at 14 foot and still growing!
  • We have harvested around 50 papayas over the last couple months!
  • Looks like a good crop of Brown Turkey figs coming on.
  • After a year and a 1/2, our avocado has hit the roof!
  • Oh, and I just noticed our Star Fruit has begun blooming!

Don’t miss out on the next edition of …. Grand-Daddy Greenhouse!

Benjamin, Project Manager

 

WHAT’S MILLIN’ AT THE MILL!

Hello All! Val here, and I am part of the hardworking team at the Flour Mill.  I want to take this opportunity to introduce the staff at the Mill—there have been a lot of changes in the past year.  I came up here last July to become part of the Management staff, after seven years at the Call Center.  Wanda has been with the company for fourteen plus years and is one of the cornerstones of the Mill.  Myles took over as the Miller and has done an outstanding job, plus the fact that he can drive anything with wheels and a motor! Dakota and Lucas came on board last fall and are great additions to the Team.  Our newest addition is Randy, who has made much needed repairs and improvements to the Mill.

We now have two loads going to the Warehouse in Moro each week which has helped out tremendously, now that we have produce and plants starts.  There is never a dull moment here at the Flour Mill. We have Employees who work long and hard hours, and we are trying to make improvements as we go.  We will have updates on the goings on at the Mill in future issues– stay tuned! 

Thank You, Val

 

May 31, 2013

SOCIAL MEDIA & NEW PRODUCTS!

Have you liked us on Facebook yet?  Followed us on Twitter? Or, looked at our Blog

Social media is a great way to share with customers, see what interests them, and build relationships while at the same time we can market our brand and products. I will be posting information on new products, health, fun facts and a giveaway from time to time, so come on over and join the Azure Community! 

Have you ever wondered exactly how new products are selected? We have a committee that is comprised of 6-10 employees and family members, and we meet every other month to decide what products would make a good fit for Azure. Where do these products come from? We look at customer requests, broker suggestions and we sift through endless emails, phone calls and samples sent from new vendors.

New products can be a fun yet tedious chore, but I know our customers appreciate everything we do to make it happen. Have anything you want to suggest? Let me know- I would be more than happy to look into it for you.  Hope to see you online!

Vanessa, Social Media/New Products Specialist

 

WELCOME TO AZURE!

We are making great strides towards improving the overall customer experience with Azure, starting right here in the Call Center.  We have three new Customer Service Representatives, and each one came to us primed with life-long passion for organic and natural foods.  Prior to Azure, Linda worked as a product representative in the natural food industry, Stephanie is the daughter of our very own Jaye (Drop Point Specialist), and Angee worked in a call center for a local bank.  They are very skilled in their customer service abilities, and in peak season will be answering as many as 100 calls per day each– right along with the rest of the customer service team.


Another aspect of customer service that we are currently focusing on is drop development. Jaye recently stepped fully into the position as Drop Specialist, and is working closely with each Drop     Coordinator to ensure that all of their needs are being met and exceeded, AND that they have the tools to grow their drops—if that is their desire.

Nick, Call Center Manager

 

GARDENING WITH JOE!

Spring is starting to show here at the Call Center! We have planted 5 raised bed gardens with a variety of vegetables—green beans, tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, pumpkins, lettuce, cucumbers, and even some strawberries. Some of the greens and herbs are already growing enough to be enjoyed as a fresh addition to lunch-break meals and snacks.

The garden project is a prime example of modern urban agriculture. Following an easy model, we have started growing all kinds of food crops in an area that was just a "flower bed." Hopefully this summer and fall we will be harvesting an abundance of organic veggies grown right here at our very own Call Center garden!

So what about you? If you are interested in learning simple, practical gardening techniques and growing your very own veggies, I would love to help you get started! There is plenty of information about raised bed gardening, and anyone who wants to become more self-sufficient is sure to succeed at doing so, and even have fun and save some money at the same time!

Joe Isitt, Entrepreneurial Apprentice

 

May 24, 2013

PRODUCE WORLD!

Bob here - your Azure Produce Buyer. I thought I’d give you a little insight into what goes on in the produce department, as well as some of the new items we’ll be looking forward to in the near future.

The two things first and foremost when I am considering produce are value and quality.  Those are the two qualities we don’t skimp on at all.  Next, I concentrate on buying locally as much as possible.  When I say “local,” that is primarily Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and a little of Western Montana, and I can get a lot of our products from here between end of May through October/early November.  Of course, there is also a large percentage that comes from California– in the winter/spring, but all year round, as well. 

One of the main considerations I have on the whole is how well produce items will ship. Currently, our delivery network ranges from 1 day up to 7 days, and that can make a huge difference with certain items. Potatoes- no problem. Strawberries - not so good after 7 days.  In addition, all of our trucks use refer (refrigeration) units, and some produce items have difficulty being too cold—avocados and mangoes as examples.  So, we are continually coming up with new ways to pack better so that produce arrives to our customers in the best possible condition.

Now, for some produce items we’re working on…  Earthbound Salad Mixes:  We tried selling them some last year, and they didn’t move very well.  But, we’ve had a lot of requests, so we are going to try again!  New Zealand pears– because they taste great and are available now.   Dragonfruit: They are really cool looking, great tasting, and Stehly Farms Organics out of Southern California really knows how to grow them. Finally, bananas.  We have been trying for a long time to be able to carry bananas, but they truly do not like the cold of the trailers; they turn black or gray. They are still edible, but look horrible.  That said, we have been doing some testing, and believe we can package them in such a way that they will maintain their quality—at least on the shorter routes.  In the next month or so, we hope to start offering them on the NW routes, and we’ll see where we go from there!

In the upcoming editions, I will keep you posted on the status of produce– coming in or going out of season.  Until then! Bob

 

NETWORK UPDATES

The Azure IT department is moving forward rapidly with far reaching changes and upgrades to many aspects of the IT Infrastructure. A complete upgrade of the Call  Center computers was recently completed. Construction has begun on the first phase of a major network upgrade that will see a huge improvement in the quality and capacity of the internet to the Call Center and by extension the rest of Azure's Network. This paves the way for much improved phone service at the Call Center and expanding our horizons for future growth. 

Stephen, Network Administrator

 

May 17, 2013

AUTOMATION – PART ONE

Microscopically, you might think of the new automation under development as something that is just happening at the warehouse, not so. Because it is such a big deal, and will make such a huge difference in our overall efficiency—companywide, we are going to talk about the upcoming automation from the vantage point of where we sit here at HQ, as well as from the Warehouse and the Call Center. 

The genesis of the automation project is here at the farm.  Benjamin, Uber Project Manager, is conceptualizing and designing the entire structure.  Next there are Guru Welder, David B., and his right hand in this, Loren.  They are literally creating the tables, conveyors, sorters and sorting tables, as well as the framing and steps to ascend the carousel.  They do not call that shiny silver building up here “research and development” for nothing!

Equally important are the brains of the structures… that’s where Jordan, Azure’s Software Developer, and a private consultant, Bill, come in.  Bill is programming the PLC (programmable logic control) which will be what tells the various hardware components how much an item weighs, how fast the conveyors need to go, what the temperature is, etc.  

Jordan is modifying Beehive to make it work with the PLC.  Beehive needs to be able to tell the PLC what   products to pick, where to ship them, etc.  Next week we’ll talk about what’s happening at the warehouse to prepare for the automation!