October 20, 2002 - Pioneer Planet: Burkina Faso RPCV Lawrence Diggs starts International Vinegar Museum

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 10 October 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 20, 2002 - Pioneer Planet: Burkina Faso RPCV Lawrence Diggs starts International Vinegar Museum

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, October 20, 2002 - 12:38 pm: Edit Post

Burkina Faso RPCV Lawrence Diggs starts International Vinegar Museum

Read and comment on this story from the Pioneer Planet about Burkina Faso RPCV Lawrence Diggs who decided to settle in Roslyn, South Dakota and turn the former town hall into what is believed to be the world's only International Vinegar Museum at:

Sweet and sour*

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Sweet and sour


Pioneer Press

Lawrence Diggs displays entries in this year's Mother of All Vinegars contest at the International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, S.D. The vinegars are available for tasting at the museum's vinegar bar.
Lawrence Diggs displays entries in this year's Mother of All Vinegars contest at the International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, S.D. The vinegars are available for tasting at the museum's vinegar bar.

You know those movies about Brigadoon-like towns in such places as Alaska or Ireland or Newfoundland? Towns populated by eccentric characters pursuing quirky, offbeat passions?

You think, "That only happens in Hollywood, that doesn't happen in real life, except maybe in those specials with Charles Kuralt, and he's dead now."

We think that, too, except when we stumble across a place like Roslyn, S.D., and a guy like Lawrence Diggs.

Roslyn, population 225 and dropping, is like many dinky towns in the northern Midwest: rural, Norwegian, Lutheran, high school team named the Vikings, aging, not exactly booming economically.

Which makes it hard to understand how Lawrence Diggs African-American, Zen Buddhist, former California radio journalist, paramedic and Peace Corps volunteer decided to settle there and turn the former town hall into what is believed to be the world's only International Vinegar Museum.

Mount Horeb, Wis., has the Mustard Museum. And Rochester, Minn., is famous for the Mayo Clinic. But thanks to Diggs and the townspeople who made him feel at home on the prairie, only little Roslyn has a shrine devoted to answering "all you never knew to ask about vinegar."

The tale of Diggs and the museum and Roslyn is partly a lesson in race relations, partly the story of how a crazy economic-development scheme is helping to keep a small town on the map and partly a long overdue tribute to a humble but useful and ubiquitous puckery potion.


At first glance also the second, third and 18th glance a guy like Diggs seems like the last person who would choose to live in northeastern South Dakota. Predictably, his path to Roslyn and vinegar boosterism is a convoluted one.

The 54-year-old Houston native grew up in San Francisco, where he made a name for himself as a radio journalist but also did a lot of other jobs, including driving a bus, working as a license examiner and becoming a paramedic.

He had stints traveling or living in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and Latin America, including working as a Peace Corps volunteer. Once, while training paramedics in West Africa, he taught some local kids too poor to buy ice cream how to make their own.

"That was my first exploration in food science," he said.

And that's what he decided to study when he returned to the Bay Area and started attending San Francisco State University in the early 1980s. He initially thought about specializing in cheese but didn't have the equipment to make the kind of cheese he was interested in. Almost by accident, he started doing some research on vinegar, intrigued partly because it seemed like it had been largely ignored by food scholars.

"It's a fascinating subject," he said. "It's probably the most common manmade condiment there is, yet people know almost nothing about it."

The research led to a book, "Vinegar: The User-Friendly Standard Text, Reference and Guide to Appreciating, Making and Enjoying Vinegar," and a new career: vinegar consultant.

Diggs, who calls himself "The Vinegar Man," promotes vinegar appreciation through a Web site (www.vinegarman.com), a newsletter, a couple of organizations he founded (Vinegar Connoisseurs International and the International Vinegar Research Institute) and lectures ("The Wonderful World of Vinegar," "A Toast to the Taste of Vinegar," "The Healing Power of Vinegar").

He even has a song: "Here comes the Vinegar Man."

He views his primary work as teaching people around the world how to make artisanal-quality vinegar. A recent venture is providing advice on an apple-vinegar project in Kazakhstan.


Apparently, when you make your living as a vinegar consultant and you're not married and don't have kids, you can live wherever you want. Diggs decided in 1989 to move to someplace quieter than San Francisco.

"I wanted a place with no distractions," he said. "Where there's nothing to do, you don't end up doing it."

He considered the Pacific Northwest, the Four Corners area of the Southwest and somewhere on the Rio Grande, but then a house in Rosyln came up on a real-estate list he was consulting.

"I was looking for a place that typically had a stable or declining population, so I could buy at intrinsic value, some people would say cheap," Diggs said.

That fits Roslyn, where it's easy to spend more on a car than a house. The most expensive house in town probably costs only $60,000, but the average price is close to about $15,000, according to Mayor Ken Walker.

But it was the reaction he got from people in the town when he went to the look at the house that persuaded Diggs to buy. The next-door neighbor wandered over to tell Diggs he could borrow his truck if he needed it.

"I had grown up feeling that I had to keep my hands in my pockets so that no one would accuse me of stealing. I was completely unprepared for his offer," Diggs later wrote in a little book about the help he has received from people of different races called "Allies: A Positive Approach to Racial Reconciliation."

When he went to lunch at the town's bar and café, a group of men beckoned him over to their table.

"They asked me if I was going to move to Roslyn. I said that I hadn't really made up my mind yet," Diggs said. "After making eye contact with the others in the group as if to confirm consensus, one of the men said, 'We've never had a black guy live in Roslyn before, but if you are willing to work at it, we are.' I will never forget those words. I made up my mind to work at it."

Walker said it did take some work for the townspeople to get used to Diggs.

"How many people in Roslyn, S.D., have actually seen a black person who you could actually come up and talk to?" Walker said. "Like, wow. What's he want? What's he doing?"

Roslyn, after all, is a town where everyone seems to be distantly related to everyone else, and you don't see many newcomers, Walker said.

"I moved to town in 1973, and we're still probably the new people in town," Walker said. "The first thought of many people was that (Diggs) was hiding out from something."

"People think it's a miracle that I live here," Diggs said.

But Diggs attended church in town, got involved in community affairs, and Roslyn residents responded with small-town friendliness.

"I'll go home and open my refrigerator, and there's like bags of food in it," Diggs said.

"He fits in just fine. He's one of us," said local banker Shelley Deutsch.

In his book, Diggs writes, "Many of my African-American friends ask me how I could bear to live in South Dakota. I don't bear it. I love it."


One of the groups Diggs got involved with was Community Advancement for Roslyn and Eden, a group started by Roslyn and the even-smaller neighboring town of Eden to create economic-development projects and stem the exodus of young people from the area. According to the latest census, the median age of Roslyn in 51. The biggest employer in town is a nursing home.

"At some point, if it keeps going, there's not going to be a town anymore," Diggs said. "Living in the Bay Area, it doesn't occur to you that a town in the 20th century is going to disappear because everyone moves out."

Experts told the group that even though Roslyn is the hometown of "Lawrence Welk Show" accordionist Myron Floren, Microsoft wasn't going to build a plant there. The area had to capitalize on something that was already there.

"We were looking for something that would be unique," said Eden Mayor Mary Dunn.

It didn't take to long to realize that the most unusual thing in town was a vinegar guru with a collection of vinegars from around the world.

"I couldn't say no," Diggs said when the museum idea was proposed. "I said, 'You know, if I had a vinegar museum, I could get all of this stuff out of my living room.' "

With the help of volunteers, the museum opened in June 1999 in what's probably the town's most imposing building, a hall built in 1936 as part of a Works Progress Administration project. By the 1990s, however, it was largely unused, and the town rented it to Diggs for $1.

Naturally, there were people who thought a vinegar museum was a crazy idea.

"Definitely," Walker said. "Especially vinegar. When I hear the word vinegar, you think, 'Eew, sour, icky.' "


Or that's what you might think until you took a tour of the museum.

There you learn that vinegar is acetic acid that can be made by natural fermentation of an astounding variety of substances, including wood, fruit, grains, grasses, roots and tree sap.

The museum has more than 300 different kinds of vinegar on display, including vinegars made from coconuts, milk, carrots, lime and honey. There are vinegars aged in oak barrels; vinegars flavored with beer, bananas or hazelnuts; vinegars that taste like smoky Chinese tea, vanilla or pecans; and vinegars that cost about $200 for a 100-milliliter bottle.

You can learn about great moments in vinegar history like the time Cleopatra won a bet with Mark Antony by dissolving a pearl in vinegar or how Louis Pasteur did a groundbreaking study of vinegar production.

"He actually made more money in vinegar than milk," Diggs said.

You also can sample and buy some exotic vinegars.

"New tastes come out as you hold it in your mouth. It's like a rose opening up," Diggs said of the flavor of an authentic high-quality balsamic.

You can learn about the multitude of uses humans have found for vinegar: preserving, flavoring and changing the texture of food; cleaning chickens, coffeemakers, clothes, windows and linoleum; treating jellyfish stings, genital warts, head lice, ear infection, foot fungus and mosquito bites. It's even believed to kill weeds and ward off the plague.

The museum also covers biblical vinegar, like the drink that Roman soldiers gave to Christ on the cross, a diluted vinegar popular among the poor and the soldiers themselves.

"It appears that the Roman soldiers gave Jesus the equivalent of a soft drink to quench his thirst," Diggs said.

In the vinegar-centric view from Roslyn, "Ketchup is just a way to make vinegar stick on french fries." And "Saying vinegar is spoiled wine is like saying wine is spoiled grape juice."

"We're trying to give an overview of how huge and exciting the world of vinegar is," Diggs said.


Perhaps the most amazing fact about the vinegar museum: People came to see it. There were 500 visitors in the first year, about 1,000 the next year and 1,500 last year. This year, about 3,000 are expected.

"We don't have a lot of competition in South Dakota," Diggs admits. "We're competing with Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug."

But getting 3,000 visitors in a town of just over 200 people, "that's like 40 million people coming through a museum in New York."

The visitors have come from all over the country, even from other countries. They've heard about the museum in articles in newspapers and food magazines. They've come in bus tours.

They spend money on vinegar T-shirts, postcards and exotic specialty vinegars. They attend the annual International Vinegar Festival, which includes the Mother of All Vinegar Contest, a vinegar parade, a vinegar queen, a pickling contest and a pet dog race.

A crew from Korean television came to do a story.

"That does a number on people's heads," Diggs said. "As one kid said, 'The only time we used to see Roslyn on the TV was when we had a tornado coming.' "

"People from quite a ways away, you'll tell them where you're from, and they'll say, 'That's where the Vinegar Museum is,' " said Mary Ellen Keintz, a member of the economic-development board. "It kind of makes you proud."

The next project Diggs and the town are working on is developing a commercial shared-use kitchen to encourage people to start specialty-food businesses.

For his efforts, Diggs got the key to the city and congratulatory letters from the state's U.S. senators. But he likes to give credit to others.

"This place is not me. This is we," he said.

Over the door to the museum, there's a sign that says: "All praise to the Almighty."

"I don't like to take credit and blame," Diggs said. "Whatever created the universe, the prime mover, that's why I'm here."

For more information about the museum, call (877) 486-0075 or click on www.vinegarman.com.
Richard Chin can be reached at rchin@pioneerpress.com or (651) 228-5560.

About the Museum

Visit the web site of the International Vinegar Museum at:

International Vinegar Museum Roslyn

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By Bill Riedler on Saturday, April 12, 2003 - 10:57 am: Edit Post

An Alternative To War
Should we invade Iraq? Some say yes and others say no. Interestingly enough, those of both opinions desire a similar outcome: to make the world a friendlier place. Perhaps if we focus on that similar outcome it will allow us to actualize our national motto of “United We Stand.” One of the objectives of those who think we should invade is to rid the world of the individuals who act in hateful, harmful ways. I agree that the world would be better off without people acting in that way. However, before selecting that method, let’s make sure that the use of the force of our military weapons will in fact accomplish that objective. If we use violence to solve this problem we may in fact make the situation worse. Now you may say that we are justified in using violent force because they are wrong. However, do they believe that they are wrong? I don’t think so. It is human nature that no matter what the argument, all of us always believe that WE are right. So instead of using violent force as a solution, let’s see if we can come up with a better solution that we can all agree upon. Let’s first explore how a person becomes violent and hateful and develops the desire to be harmful to others. Perhaps that will lead us to a better solution. Understanding the Cause It is a well-known Adlerian psychological fact that the desire for revenge is created in people when you do things that makes them more aware of how powerless they are. I have witnessed this phenomenon hundreds of times in the courses we teach, where by using a simple demonstration we show that hateful revengeful behavior can be created in less than three minutes simply by making the other person more aware of how powerless he is. Therefore, while using military force may be effective in disarming the current hateful individuals, going to war comes with the cost of creating thousands of new revengeful people by making them feel powerless. And, as we have seen on 9/11, it only takes a few terrorists to create large amounts of damage. If, by going to war we create more terrorists than our military force removes, have we not simply postponed and amplified the problem? Force never wins a person to your way of thinking. Every mechanic knows the wisdom of, “Don’t force it.” We Must Not Ignore the Problem If we don’t use military force does that mean we should ignore the problem. No! Here is where I recommend another solution. We must be kind AND firm, both at the same time. Is that not how Gandhi was so effective in India? Here is how to apply that method to the challenge in Iraq in order to minimize the current threat without creating more hateful individuals who may wish to retaliate with terrorism in the future. As example, Israel has repeatedly used military force, but terrorism there has not diminished, it has become a common occurrence. I don’t believe that is what we desire in the United States. Therefore, when choosing how to respond to Iraq’s hostile actions, we must make sure that we do not respond in a way that allows them to psychologically ignore the fact that they are being hostile. Perhaps an example will help make this clear. They Don’t Learn If You Are Violent Several years ago I was in the Seattle airport and observed two police officers escorting a handcuffed man out of the airport. His hands were cuffed behind his back, and the officers were on each side of him holding his arms at the elbow. As they were walking, the prisoner complained several times that his wrists were hurting. Every time he complained the officers jerked on his arms and inflicted even more pain. Now I doubt that these police officers were mean people, and I am certain that their motive was to teach the man that it was not in his best interest to commit crime. However, the officers did not realize that they were using a method that was not psychologically sound. They believed that the prisoner had to suffer in order to learn better behavior. What they did not realize was that every time they made him suffer they prevented him from learning that it was HIS behavior of crime that was causing him to lose his freedom. Each time the man was jerked around by the officers he could easily arrange to blame his current troubles on police brutality. When you attempt to teach with violence, the person does not learn. The reason it is so important to have the prisoner associate his loss of freedom with his OWN behavior is because when he does so, his CHOICE to behave more cooperatively comes from his own inner motivation. When we use force to control his behavior, he only feels more justified in being hostile! Then we are left with the task of being totally responsible for controlling him and for preventing those loyal to him from engaging in future retaliation. Do you see that no amount of defensive weapons can ever stop terrorism? With terrorism it only takes one. It is much easier to destroy than to prevent someone from destroying. We must attack this problem at its source. We can revise what we are doing to create terrorists by discovering where we are making others feel powerless. We need to apply the psychological tools that can help us remove these threats. Let’s look at how Gandhi used these tools. He did not require billions of dollars of weapons to get the British to stop occupying his country. Yet he was extremely firm. He was not a pacifist. He insisted on no violence because he realized that he must be kind and firm at the same time. That gave him tremendous power. Those who were reverting to violence to force their way were left with the painful awareness that THEY were being mean. That led the British to discover on their own that it was to their benefit to change their behavior. There was no way that the British could feel justified in thinking that the opposition deserved to be punished, but they became very aware that India would not tolerate their intrusion. We Must Not Make Our Allies Feel Powerless What would it take to apply these principles to the challenges in Iraq? First, we would have to be determined to NOT use violence. Second, we would need to impose stiffer inspections and FIRM insistence on compliance. By FIRM I mean that we only use the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve compliance, but not the slightest bit more. This needs the unified agreement of the world community, so that jointly, with all of our allies, we are firm without violence about disarmament. We must avoid making our allies feel that we will act without their agreement. That will only make them feel powerless. At first it may appear that this method will take more time than a military attack. That is only because we have not yet applied our great resources toward developing tools of PEACFUL conflict resolution. In the United States Government we only have a War Department. We do not yet have a DEPARTMENT OF PEACE because we have historically mistakenly believed that FORCE could resolve conflicts. It is awesome to see what we have all accomplished by applying our American ingenuity to the task of inventing tools to force compliance. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we applied the same funds and intelligence toward developing an ATTITUDE DISARMAMENT PROGRAM! Although we are already the most powerful nation on earth, all of that military power was not able to prevent the events of 9/11. And a policy of using force will create even more people who hate America. Attempting to solve the terrorism problem at the level of violent action will only result in the need to surrender more and more of our personal freedoms. We need to stop terrorism at its roots. We must stop people’s desire for revenge by applying more programs using the latest psychological tools. The Improvement Starts With Each of Us Stopping violent acts of terrorism requires that each and every one of us take steps to improve our own character. We need to decrease our need to have someone to blame for our difficulties. If we use violence to solve this problem, are we not also ourselves acting in hateful, harmful ways? We all need to develop self-acceptance so that we are willing to see what mistakes we have made to inadvertently cause others to hate us. And most importantly, we all need to make sure that we allow those opposing and blaming the United States to feel heard. A New Form Of Conflict Resolution Here is how we can begin. Allow me to describe a tool that we teach our students for how to dissipate a conflict. We call it the Empathy Exercise. Before I describe how to apply this strategy, let me tell you how powerfully it works in real life situations. Here are two examples: One day I received a nine-page fax of complaints from one of our customers. He was extremely angry. His letter was filled with curse words, threats about taking out a pound of flesh, detailed explanations of how much he was going to sue us for, and a long list of all of the organizations he was going to report us to. I phoned him and asked to set up an appointment to talk with him. He said that he was going to be in our city in a few days to meet with one of the attorneys he had hired to sue us. He agreed to meet with me after seeing the attorney. When he arrived for the appointment, his face was red and it was clear that he was still angry and blaming. I escorted him to my office and said that I wanted to hear all of his complaints. In a very angry voice he told me the first of his long list of complaints. Then I used the technique I will soon describe to you. His response was, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I can see that it is all just my stuff. But I understand you are teaching a class this weekend. Would it be okay if I sat in on the class?” That was it. End of complaint. No lawsuit. No violence. He didn’t even mention any of his other complaints. If our country used tools like that to solve the Iraq conflict, wouldn’t you be more proud than if we bombed them into reluctant submission? Before I disclose the tool I want to give one more example. In one of our courses we ask the students to make a list of ten complaints they have about someone in their life. Then we help them see that their complaints about the other person are NOT the cause of any of THEIR difficulties, and assist them so that they no longer need to pressure that other person to change. In the process they lessen their need to manipulate other people, and this results in more intimacy in their relationship. One time one of the students left his workbook in his wife’s car. The next morning his wife phoned him from her place of employment shouting that she was going to divorce him. “How dare you tell all those people at your workshop all those complaints about me?!!” (She had found the workbook.) He told her he was going to come to her office at lunchtime to talk. When he arrived she suggested they go out into his car because she did not want the people in her office to hear them fighting. Once seated in the car, he listened to her first complaint and applied the technique. She began crying and the conflict melted. That evening she told him that she had never felt closer. Hopefully by now you are curious. Here is the technique and how to use it to peacefully resolve conflicts.: The Power Of Empathy Ask the other person to describe their complaint about you. While the other person explains their complaint, listen intently, and then say, “When I do that (give a brief but accurate description of their complaint using their words, followed by an example of when you did what they are complaining about.) I must make you feel…” (Feel the feelings while you are saying this. Deeply empathize.) Do not explain why you did what they accused you of doing. Do not justify doing it. Do not say you are sorry. Do not apologize. Do not promise to never do it again. Just empathize as much as possible. Make sure the complaining person feels heard, understood, and feels like his complaint is a valid complaint. Now I am aware that this sounds overly simplistic. But it really works! It will take a lot of practice to develop the ability to sincerely empathize. And it will be difficult to avoid defending and to stifle the urge to blame the other party. But if we make the investment in practicing and learning this method, it will melt the majority of conflicts. Why It Is Effective Here is why it is so effective. First of all, the complainer desperately needs someone to blame. When you give him what he wants, there is no longer a need on his part to explain that you are the cause of his problem. Additionally, by empathizing, you model what it is like to have self-acceptance. This makes it easier for the complainer to comfortably recognize his own shortcomings. And, once the person with the complaint recognizes his own shortcomings, he is much more likely to change his own behavior . . . without force of any kind! These are just a few of the new psychological tools that already exist, and they CAN be applied on an international basis. So, the CHOICE is up to us. Use force, or use kind but firm alternatives. I suggest we refuse to use military force and instead apply these new methods. We are already teaching these tools to individuals at twenty-five Centers in the United States and at twenty-eight Centers in Russia. We have already started disarming attitudes in both countries. 53,000 people in Russia have taken these programs and lessened their need to blame the USA for their difficulties. Can you imagine the powerful effect it would have if we applied our great National resources toward developing and enhancing non-violent conflict resolution methods? Perhaps it is time to establish a Department of Peace. Let’s make it happen. Bill Riedler, President, Global Relationship Centers, Inc. Web site E-mail Global@GRC333.com

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