The Power of the 99%

March 13th 2018

by Justin Freeman, Owner, Bagel Sphere

Five months have passed since many of us convened at last year’s Provender Conference in Hood River, Oregon. For those three days, retailers, processors, farmers, wholesalers, distributors, activists and downright fun and funky natural foods people all gathered to mutually inspire, educate, and connect. Over the years, I have come to treasure that time with all of you. My calendar has a Provender placeholder each October, a time when I leave the daily grind and travel to Hood River and invest 1% of my year in concentrated growth and personal development along with the broader Pacific Northwest natural foods community. Each year I leave changed for the better, as you all challenge me to think differently, act more effectively, and advocate more intentionally.

Inevitably, though, not all of the inspired change sticks as well as it should. Honestly, almost immediately after I turn the car onto I-84 and head out of Hood River, the business and busyness of life start to creep in and occupy my brain. Intellectual battles fought and won at the conference tend to be passively lost as “the routine” takes hold again. Certainly, I have made major changes in my company, public service and personal life due to lessons learned at Provender, but I recognize that each year, I leave something undone, some earned knowledge unapplied.

This phenomenon is not unique to Provender, nor is it unique to me. Many of us struggle to harvest value and implement change after an educational and inspiring conference. While we cherish the privilege of spending 1% of our year together, that 1% holds little value unless we use it to empower the other 99% of our year. That is where the real power is, those 362 days spent in our workplaces, communities, and homes. Those places are where true transformation and impact occur.

Sometimes, we manage to do this well. I have heard from many of you over the years, and I have seen how lessons learned at Provender have changed your businesses, your managerial practices, and your own approach to professional and personal development. How can we build on this and maximize the value from our time together?

This year, I am developing a conference workshop to lead us in a period of knowledge sharing, intentional goal setting, and accountability. Vicki and I are still working out many of the details, so I’d like to solicit your input. Our workshop, tentatively entitled “The Power of the 99%,” will take place during the final workshop session on Friday afternoon. During this time, we will create a space for sharing key insights, developing goals, and establishing a mechanism for sharing progress throughout the year. Teams are encouraged to attend together, so that you may set organizational goals alongside and with one another. If this proves effective, we potentially envision this being a workshop that could occur every year, with prior year participants helping to coordinate and lead the session the following year.

I am excited about this workshop, and frankly, I am nervous about it, too. Its success will depend largely on your active participation. Given the very active participation I see at Provender every year during Karaoke from Hell, I know you all have it in you. I look forward to capturing that energy and passion (probably not the singing, though) in our session together this October. Between now and then, I invite your feedback. What might make this workshop most valuable for your company or organization? How have you personally applied learning at Provender to empower the other 99% of your life? Email me at with your thoughts and ideas. I’ll see you in Hood River in a few short months!

Justin Freeman is the owner of Bagelsphere, a kettle-boiled and stone-hearth baked bagel company with two locations in Eugene, Oregon.  He brings a diverse professional and educational background to the sustainable food industry, having previously worked as the general manager of Hummingbird Wholesale, in academic biological research, and in corporate and non-profit settings.