Letter to the Editor – February 5, 2010

Filed under: Letters to the Editor |

RE: Jan. 29 story “Spending in Springs keeps money here, locals say”

As the Whole Foods Market representative largely responsible for (and highly passionate about) establishing relationships with local farmers in the Rocky Mountain Region, I’d like to address the inaccurate comments made in Amy Gillentine’s January 29th article, Spending in Springs Keeps Money Here, Say Locals. In that article, Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, states absolutely incorrectly that “Some of the big box stores — Wal-Mart and Whole Foods — say they are buying local, but they pay so little for the products that farmers and ranchers can’t stay in business. The big box stores are ‘co-opting’ the buy-local marketing — but they aren’t local.” He then goes on to claim, “You can go into Wal-Mart or Whole Foods and see the signs that say this came from Colorado. But people have to know, they have to be aware, that buying local produce from there, still means the money goes out of the community, still means that farmers and ranchers are not getting paid a living wage.”

Speaking on behalf of Whole Foods Market, I can’t stress enough how completely untrue and irresponsible these statements are. Our approach to buying local is simple. We focus on quality, flavor, growing methods, tradition and ultimately, the responsible use of agricultural lands. Discussions on price are often secondary and have a strong emphasis on sustainability; meaning we negotiate prices that support the long term health of our grower community. In many cases we pay above the established national market price for a given crop because many smaller, local growers cannot offer prices competitive with those of national growers. Because we want to bring this quality, locally produced food to a broad customer base, we happily absorb the difference. This allows families to eat high quality, nutrient rich, locally grown produce at a reasonable price while also supporting the long term health of local agriculture. This has proven to be a successful model as many of our relationships within the local grower community are over 20 years old. We are also committed to using these strategies to find and develop new growers as we believe it is essential to keep food production where we live, allowing for the enjoyment of local products while encouraging and supporting responsible agricultural uses of local lands, helping to keep them from commercial development.

I hope this provides clarity to the Colorado Springs community around those inaccurate statements.

Anyone with questions can contact our stores or spend time with produce employees. They are incredibly passionate about our dedication to our local growers and eager to talk about it.

Kenny Meyer

Field Associate, Whole Foods Market

7 Responses to Letter to the Editor – February 5, 2010

  1. My wife talked to their meat procurement person in Boulder some time back with regards to beef and chicken and it is evident that the guy on the ground isn’t aware of the public policy….only operational policy….she was told what price she had to meet….chicken would of had to been at what would have been similar to a wallmart supplier!
    They had a supplier for beef and not even interested in discussing another one.
    Her image of Whole Foods instantly changed!
    What a crock!!
    Randy Stevenson

    Randy Stevenson
    February 7, 2010 at 2:26 pm

  2. I am a local family farmer who supplies produce to the Colorado Springs Whole Foods store and I am writing to confirm what Mr. Meyers is asserting. Historically, Whole Foods had consolidated buying practices that made it very difficult undesirable for local suppliers to work with them. However, this has changed in the past 6 years or so. Whole Foods Pikes Peak produce department supports local farms with fair prices and payment terms and has gone the extra mile to bring in a substantial amounts of local products when in season. They are a rock solid partner of farmers in the Arkansas Valley and should be recognized as such.

    Dan Hobbs, Avondale

    Dan Hobbs
    February 8, 2010 at 9:20 am

  3. Whole foods Says they absorb margin to offer high quality.

    Dairy roceessors increse margins when prices rise and never lower the margin.

    Fertilizer suppliers increse their margins when prices rise.

    Whole foods Policy is a crock or they are really stupid.

    When they get a chance to up the margin they do and it never comes down thats why we have inflation.

    The producers take the hit until they hit the wall and sell the farm.

    Margin takers are just that Margin TAKERS if the margin was disclosed as a FEE and the producers share of the FOOD dollar was disclosed .

    We could get the consumers on the producers side.and margins would be negotiated instead of raW PRODUCT PRICE DROPS.

    disclosure is the key PRODUCING MORE FOR LESS is economic suicide.

    In Canada the only crime punishable by death is SUICIDE. Backruptcies cause many.

    TOM CLIFF\
    Alberta Canada

    tom Cliff
    February 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

  4. I just returned from the Whole Foods store on N Academy in Colorado Springs. I found garlic, but nothing that indicated any of it was grown locally. I did find some potatoes that were from Colorado.
    I found red, orange, & yellow bell peppers that the sign said was ‘conventionally grown in California’, but when I looked at the country of origin on the individual product, it said it was a product of Mexico.
    I then moved to the frozen vegetables section. This was to follow up on a 5/21/2008 WJLA TV story about Whole Foods frozen foods coming from China. I thought that maybe in the two years since the story that Whole Food might have changed it’s policy. Not so! While there are some USA frozen vegetables, the preponderance of the frozen vegetables country of origin were labeled as ‘product of China’. Most of the Whole Food brand was from China.
    Not only is Whole Foods not buying locally, in most instances, it isn’t even buying products grown in the USA.
    Pardon my skepticism, but I don’t trust Mexico or China to accurately verify that their produce is ‘organic’
    I guess Whole Foods definition of ‘local’ is a bit different than mine. To me China is not local.
    Finally…..Let the buyer beware! Check the country of origin before you buy your products. Support the truly local farmer/producer.

    William Flentje
    February 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

  5. For those wanting to see the original story by WJLA about Whole Foods buying from China here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ31Ljd9T_Y&feature=youtu.be

    William Flentje
    February 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  6. Whole Foods puts conventional strawberries at the entrance to the stores with a sign next to them saying “We do the work for you,” falsely suggesting the strawberries are safe. Most parents coming in there think all the food there is organic and buy the strawberries, not realizing they are top of the list for the most heavily dosed with pesticides of almost any food. In the areas where there are grown, communities are ill from exposure.

    Someone in the Whole Foods store near me suggested to some mothers that they buy the organic strawberries as safer. They actually got a call from a furious manager that they were going to cost the store money and to stop pushing an “agenda.” The manager shifted between saying parents knew the difference between the two kinds of strawberries and didn’t need anyone telling them, to it was their business to find out and not Whole Foods to tell them.

    The customer stop going to the store and it was clear the store didn’t care about the well-being of those buying those strawberries, not even the small children. Yet it was not only immoral but even on a purely business level, it was wrong. A manager who does care about customers and does bring in local farmers builds a community that will back the store. Makes one wonder about the bottom line push coming from headquarters.

    Whole Foods has an essential role to play in terms of setting standards for honest labeling, for bringing in local food suppliers, for demanding certainty from its suppliers. They shouldn’t be allowed to make money on the “PR of organic and local,” These are not marketing gambits but live and death issues for consumers and farmers. If Whole Foods understood and was there with both, they would be deeply valued and have a dedicated customer base, not customers who are increasingly angry at them.

    Howard M.
    February 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm

  7. Whole Foods – Typical example of how big business tries to cash in on the Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative. They’re misleading, should be ashamed of themselves and we as consumers really need to be asking more specific questions instead of blindly following/believing the propaganda.

    Jack Carter
    February 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm