EDCO Pub Talk back in Sisters after four years


Last updated 8/1/2023 at 9:42am

“It’s great to be doing this again in Sisters.”

That was the widespread sentiment expressed as EDCO — Economic Development for Central Oregon — hosted one of its annual Pub Talk events in Sisters last week.

The Pub Talks are open to the public and are an opportunity for community members, entrepreneurs, and business owners to connect, network, and hear from a select few speakers. The event was hosted at the Three Creeks Brewing Co. facility off Barclay Drive, providing an outdoor space with their signature beers on tap. Representatives of EDCO and title sponsors for the Pub Talk, as well as local business owners and community members,were in attendance.

Working with business owners and communities across Central Oregon, EDCO assists in expansion or in helping a business move to the area. Eric Strobel, the new EDCO lead for Sisters, helped coordinate the event and was excited to hold a Pub Talk in Sisters.

“This is the first Pub Talk hosted in Sisters since 2019, so it’s nice to have it back here again,” said Strobel.

Strobel is new to his position but has already made connections with businesses in the area.

“I have loved every minute of my year and a half of being the area director here, and assisting with a lot of the businesses expanding in Sisters,” said Strobel.

The rest of the event focused on four main speakers: Josie’s Best CEO and founder Josette Johnson provided a company update on her flour mixes and how her business has grown in the last four years.

According to the event biography on Johnson:

“Johnson was diagnosed in her 20s with severe food allergies, and she set out to find a pancake mix that could stand up to her cravings. When she couldn’t find it on the market, she spent hours in her kitchen tinkering with ingredients and measurements until she created what she now calls ‘The Pancake.’ From there, she has grown Josie’s Best to include The Waffle, The Muffin, The Crepe, and more. Josie’s Best gluten-free flour blend is now distributed nationwide including at many local businesses. Fika Sisters Coffeehouse uses her mix for all their gluten-free pastry options.

“I’ve learned a lot about what profitability looks like for us and the best way for us to sell the product. Amazon selling the products was the most surprising thing that we acquired for the business,” she said. “My favorite thing about the business is when I get emails from parents of kids who have food allergies that say because of the product their kid is able to enjoy family breakfast again.”

Josie’s Best samples at the event were gone in less than five minutes after her update.

John Herman, owner and operator of Lazy Z Ranch, gave a company pitch for the new Lazy Z Ranch Wines. Lazy Z Ranch was recently acquired by Herman, where they are focused on regenerative agriculture as Oregon’s sole farmhouse meadery. Herman and his family acquired the Ranch in 2020 and began regenerative bee ranching and honey production.

According to his write-up: “Mead — or a honey wine — is a diverse and elegant beverage resulting from the fermentation of the sugars found in flowers, aka honey. While the Ranch dabbles in all sorts of Oregon-farmed and foraged fermentations, they are a mead-centric winery. The first offering will be an “estate” mead — one of the only commercially available meads in the world to hold that distinction – made entirely from honey produced at the Lazy Z.”

Herman strives to create more awareness about regenerative farming and the practices of ranching that leave the area better than how you found it based on soil practices and how the production of growth products happens.

“Regenerative agriculture gives back to the earth and doesn’t divorce the economic/impact aspect of growing product,” said Herman.

Herman’s vision is to have a tasting room in the big red barn at the ranch and continue regenerative farming tactics for years to come.

Milroy Thorson Custom Furniture also provided a company pitch, describing their handmade wood furniture pieces created from historic wood that they’ve restored and turned into something for a home or office.

They recently moved their business from McMinville to Sisters. According to EDCO’s write-up on the business:

“Their work is fueled by a passion and commitment paying homage to historic woodworking practices that date back as far as the 1800s. One of their key priorities is popularizing the use of locally sourced juniper wood, which is considered invasive in Central Oregon. By processing each piece of furniture, they not only create stunning works of art but contribute to the ongoing efforts to positively impact the local water table, as junipers suck a lot of water up from the water table.”

Shannon Thorson and JT Milroy share a passion for creating meaningful works of art for a home, works that also contribute to the area around them through their company practices. Their goal is to fully move operations to the area, and they’ve recently acquired a studio space. They are working with local merchants to sell their furniture pieces and want to raise more awareness about the use of juniper wood and how using it in a sustainable way can impact our water table.

The final speaker was Jody Berry, founder and formulator of Wild Carrot Herbals. Wild Carrot Herbals is one of the many businesses moving its operations to Sisters later this year. Berry studied organic farming at Evergreen State College and after learning how to farm, her love for medicinal herbs blossomed. Her formulations for the skin and body provide a connection to the origin of the herbs in her products. She started formulating products in her kitchen with a stand mixer and has now grown into a huge production facility that is only going to expand in her move to Sisters. Her products are already available in health food stores such as Whole Foods and Natural Grocers in Bend.

“I have always wanted to share my passion for plant medicine, and I am excited to be doing that in Sisters and to grow more things here,” said Berry.

She has over 60 different products, all plant-powered skin care, that she strives to produce sustainably. You can expect to see her business in Sisters by the end of the year.

“It was an incredible opportunity to share my vision of expansion to Sisters and to be part of such a heart-felt lineup of entrepreneurs,” Berry said of the event. “I met so many kind and welcoming people at the event. I left that evening feeling even more energized about this new journey and look forward to being a part of the community.”

Each one of the businesses that presented to the audience was able to answer their questions and discuss their hopes for starting out or expanding in Sisters. All the businesses at the event have their products for sale in stores around Sisters and Bend.

After an evening of networking and hearing from businesses, everyone got to enjoy music from the jazz band The Cutmen.


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