Article originally for The Warehouse Magazine. To be published soon.

Today, anybody that is anybody recognizes the Apple brand. But explaining what makes it so special and whimsical to someone that isn’t an owner of a product it’s like trying to explain an Acid trip in all its mind-bending detail to a person who’s only ever drank beer: they will hear the words you are saying, perhaps conjure images of what you describe, but they’ll never know what you felt. Apple isn’t the Acid – it is the feeling you are left with when you’ve come down, when all the hallucinations are gone but your entire world and consciousness remain forever altered.

The company has been in perpetual motion since its humble beginnings in 1976, when a young Steve Jobs – still in the throes of the Acid Counter-culture – his friend, Steve Wozniak and a significantly older business partner, Ronald Wayne, founded the company. Over the years, Apple has become widely recognized all over the world for virtually everything it does: from its technological milestones to its colourful past and present history, including legal battles involving anything from patent-laws to labour rights, the company essentially doesn’t fart without causing hurricanes.

Which isn’t always bad. Currently it is one of the wealthiest publicly traded corporations in the world, valuing at about 500 billion USD; and it employs nearly 73,000 fulltime and 3,300 “fulltime equivalent” temporary employees in 390 stores in 14 countries. Put simply, the company is everywhere…including in the hearts and minds of those it conquers.

Apple seems to be one of the only product-brands out there that gathers in congregation as excited, wild and loyal a crowd as rock-concerts, political protests or perhaps religious events do. The word “cult” can almost be heard in the same breath as “Apple” or “Mac”. The customer-fans are notorious for screeching like crazed speed freaks at a thrash-metal concert in the midst of line-ups that have reportedly extended up to 10 city-blocks in anticipation of the new store-opening, despite being structurally identical to every other one and often not even offering special deals.

But why? What makes it so special? And why do fans hold Steve Jobs – a mere innovator – in an almost religious light, weeping for the death of a supposed “Saviour”?

Many people believe that it was solely Steve Jobs that revived and rejuvenated Apple when he was rehired in 1996, after 10 or so years pursuing a “solo career” at Next. By 1998, under his tutelage, the company had managed to turn from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability. Upon his return, the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad were introduced, as well as the Apple Retail Stores, the iTunes Stores and the App Stores.

One of the theories relies on Jobs’ ability to rally people behind him as he pursues practically any idea he can conjure, no matter how incredibly wild and farfetched.  His almost trademark way of discourse – a mixture of pure hyperbole, keen marketing and sheer charisma – is what has been described among some circles as a Reality Distortion Field.

But what the consensus is among practically anyone with an opinion, whether critical of the brand or hopelessly addicted to it, is that the company’s forte, as it were, is its marketing: its bloodline into society, which regularly supplements the senses through simple yet hypnotizing commercials. Its commitment to the perfect commercial, in fact, is readily evidenced by the many legal battles or settlements it’s involved itself in over the years.

The 1984-inspired commercial alone, featured in that same year’s Superbowl third quarter telecast and never again, is one of the most successful stories in the marketing world. It is widely lauded and regarded as a masterpiece among the big-shots in the business. It was also considered a copyright infringement by Orwell’s Estate, which consequently sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter in April that same year.

Nevertheless, the 80s and 90s were glorious years that revived the brand. A top marketing executive from Pepsi had come aboard, raising the marketing budget from 15 to 100 million USD as he “marketed Apple like crazy,” according to an article on Wired Magazine. Of course this was peanuts compared to the 100 million Jobs had used for iMac marketing alone.

Apple is simply the brand. It launches musicians into superstardom; it hooks its customers almost faster than drugs; it reinvents entire industries. The Apple-holic could care less if a new product is out, just like a girl at a club on Saturday-night could care less what song is playing: they both just want to dance.

The brand is why people like Gary Allen, 56, and his son Devin, 16, make trips from California to Tokyo just to be the first in line for the new store opening, damn the pouring rain, and then fly back the next day with no new finds; why 2000 others have reportedly waited for more than 28 hours in the same stark conditions for the same cheap thrills. Or why an Apple fan shows the same kind of brain stimulation talking about Apple as religious people do when they speak of religion or drug-addicts do when doing cocaine.

So what makes Apple so special? Why are so many people hooked? We may never know with certainty. The theories are rampant. Perhaps there are some things – like Acid, for instance – you just have to try for yourself to really know.

THE CARBON FARMER (Arbitrage Magazine article)


How many times has your future stared at you outside an elevator door? Well, it happened to Brad and Rebecca Rabiey, who met outside an elevator at the University of Alberta some 10 years ago as they went to check their grades for a criminology class. She was arriving; he was just about to leave.

“It was one of the best examples of serendipity,” says Rebecca. “We just kind of small-talked and it just went on from there.”

It’s a cute story, that’s for sure; but this isn’t a love story … at least not all of it. Today, Brad and Rebecca are so much more than just another couple with a cute story—they are the founders and leading forces behind The Carbon Farmer, one of the newest businesses to have entered and slayed their way through the CBC’s theDragons’ Den earlier this year.

“It was the right time to really grow the business,” said Brad of the whole Dragon experience, who is only 29 years old, same as Rebecca. “And it was a great way to do that both from a publicity standpoint, as well as from an investment and strategic perspective.”

Like many other Canadians, this whimsical couple from Northern Alberta became big fans of the show, but they took it a step further, seeing the opportunity there was for eco-friendly businesses to really take off. They grew their business till the right point—taking in “as much experience and expertise as you can have in [the] industry,” said Rebecca, before finally attending the show earlier in 2012, after mock-rounds staged within their community. The couple went in front of the five Dragons intent on slaying the beasts. And indeed they did.

Bruce Croxon and Arlene Dickinson both were immediately engaged by the product, and they even got down and nasty in a tree-planting demonstration. At the end of battle, the couple ended up receiving $40,000 for 40 percent of their business.


The Carbon Farmer benefits its clients, which includes virtually anyone and any company, in two different ways.

“One is through our Create Your Forest Website,” says Brad, “which enables people to have a tree planted and cared for in their behalf to restore habitat in the Boreal region or other areas of Canada.” Their pilot project back in 2007 resulted in 3,000 species planted personally by Rebecca and Brad in a matter of two days.

“We were total newbies at it,” says Rebecca, unable to contain her laughter. “We did so much research including watching Youtube foresting clips of how you actually plant a tree and talked to nurseries and things like that.” By the end of this summer, they gained some major clients who are requesting 120,000 trees planted for the fall. “But there’s no way Brad and I could do that on our own. So we have acquired crews that help us do that and now we have sort of become project managers.”

This aspect of their business focuses on the importance of bringing back a beautifully unique but vital habitat in the Canadian landscape, which has been affected by conventional farming practices and industrial development over the years.

Braid explained that their efforts were aimed at “restoring the places for wildlife to live and to grow healthy, and do things like filter the water,” praising the “purifying effects which forests are so good at doing in a natural way.” People have the option of buying a personalized tree for $1.99 each, and they can visit that tree in the virtual forest through The Carbon Farmer website. They are also continuing to grow food-crops on the best of their family’s land-base (an effort dubbed the Grain Perspective), which is born out of the realization that not all land should only be filled with trees. “We realize that we need food production,” he said. So the “rest of the land in our family farm is being transitioned to organic grain production.”

The second benefit offered by The Carbon Farmer is found in the carbon that those trees offset.

“We work with individual businesses and special events to ensure that they can offset their carbon footprint from things like driving or flying or heating their homes and offices,” Brad said. “Some businesses are regulated by the government to reduce their footprint or offset the remainder. And then there are people that just do it for corporate social responsibility.”

“It’s actually been really reaffirming,” said Rebecca, speaking about the surging pattern among Canadians (individuals and companies) eager to contribute to their vision. “There are a lot of people out there that are ecologically minded. And there’s also the small business uptake that we’ve had since being on the Den.”

Brad agreed, happily pointing out that many companies are also doing it voluntarily. “Our client-base at this point is made up of people who aren’t being told by the government to do it, but just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s definitely been a sign of how progressive Canadians are.”

This part of the business works by taking advantage of the carbon credits created by the trees planted. “We plant trees, which create habitat,” says Brad. “And in comparison to the life cycle of tilling the land, we are creating carbon storage as well, which we can sell as carbon credits.”


The first land the couple began to work on was the third generation family farm Brad had tilled. “I think I probably dragged Rebecca in a little bit, being as how it was mainly a family farm,” Brad chuckled. “We also had land that probably should have never been cleared right along the river and wetlands, and maybe some poorer quality land as well. So we kind of looked at solutions to problems that we were facing on the farm so as to ensure that it stays in the family for future generations.”

Since then, their project has gotten bigger, featuring such major clients like Edmonton’s Wheaton Honda (formerly Millwoods Honda) who at one point came out to plant trees themselves. The couple has moved on to working with “landowners, conservation groups, land trusts, and municipalities that hold land that they acquire to protect but don’t necessarily have the resources to restore in terms of their former grandeur or ecosystem.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the business is its very own profit model. “We came at this from the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit,” Rebecca explained. “Brad with his sciencebackground and me with my social background, has allowed the business to be very holistic because we are not just considering the dollars and cents but the wild-life behind it; the environmental impact behind it; as well as the community and people that are impacted.” Rebecca is a social worker by profession, and says that “these things … are of value in our business.”

And indeed they are. In the past, Brad told me, they’ve done “various things in terms of educational outreach events.” Right now they are donating $2551 out of their Community Fund, which receives a dollar of every carbon credit (tonne) they sell, to anyone that has a community project that will reduce their carbon footprint.

The Carbon Farmer certainly seems like it’s on its way to success. But the road hasn’t been all smooth, particularly because they’ve rattled the cages of conventional farming and introduced a revolutionary shift.

Rebecca explained one of the hurdles. “[Brad’s] dad had spent his early days helping his dad clear the land. So to have us begging him to plant it all back in the very field that he cleared has been, as you can imagine, a huge paradigm shift for all of us. It’s now at a point where we have much more understanding and work together. But at the beginning, it was really hard to get the full support and understanding from Brad’s dad that this is indeed a business and a concept that can go somewhere.”

“I think with my dad, at the end of the day, it was the belief in what we’re doing,” Brad added. “And we saw that from the Dragons and from most of the people that we’ve talked to—that they see a genuine care for the land and the environment and a genuine belief in what we’re doing. And I think that definitely engages.” Not farming conventionally also means that there won’t be any use of pesticides or herbicides, allowing them to be certified organic.

Currently, The Carbon Farmer is selling internationally, with clients in the US, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. By 2013, they hope to have projects in four different provinces in Canada, ultimately aiming, down the road, to have boots on the ground in Africa and Australia.

If everything goes right, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t, this couple will grow together, waking up side by side in the glory of a third generation family farm, doing what they love. “As long as that spark remains,” said Brad, “I hope we keep planting till we’re old and gray for sure.”