Pollan had obviously never been to my Whole Foods. If he had, he might have been impressed. Generally there are at least a few dozen varieties of local organic produce being offered. The number of local selections is advertised daily, and it's often more--I've seen it as high as the 70s. When we worked on a small organic farm southwest of Milwaukee, we learned that the CSA sold excess produce to the Whole Foods. We were very impressed, since they are a relatively small operation. Our Whole Foods carries a number of items from Tipi Produce, a farm just about 20 miles away, and I've seen one of the farm owners at the WFM dock, unloading their truck himself. Apparently not all Whole Foods are this good about stocking local produce, and I suppose it depends on the availability in their area. My personal feeling is that every local item they stock is a huge boon to that local organic farm, and rather than blighting Whole Foods for not having more, we should praise them for what they do have. To me, even the Iowa zucchini or Washington pear is better than the conventional alternative at Pick n' Save--and do we think Pick 'n' Save is going to have local choices? I can assure you, they do not.
Today was a shining example in favor of Whole Foods. Our Farmer's Market goes indoors for the winter. While there's still an impressive selection of veggies available, most of the booths are now crafts or meats. Even my favorite feta artisan was missing today--a sad day indeed. Our favorite booth still had a great variety of root crops, but no cabbage. I have a cabbage dish planned, and so searched thrrough all of the booths, and finally came back to the only one I had found. The box of cabbages was labeled: "$1 each". I asked the farmer if they used sprays. "Sprays? Yeah I use sprays. 'Course these have been in storage for a long time, and I haven't sprayed since September." I'm not sure what that was supposed to mean. Had he harvested before he sprayed? I don't think so. Did he think the pesticides had worn off with time? I grimaced, then handed him a dollar and selected a cabbage (see the cabbage on the right above). I still hadn't decided if I'd actually use it. Next we went to Whole Foods for our remaining groceries. I selected a locally grown organic pumpkin, passed up some local organic white mushrooms for crimini, and picked up a pound of organic Wisconsin cranberries. As I searched for (and found) local organic leeks, I spotted some gorgeous cabbages. I searched for their sign above, and lo and behold, they were local and organic (see cabbage on the left). Understand, I found a better choice at Whole Foods Market than I did at our incredible Farmer's Market. Besides the produce, I found locally (in-town) produced veggie burgers and baba ghanouj, milk (Organic Valley, but still-produced within an hour or two drive) and local yogurt, whose maker was handing out samples right there at WFM. Upon returning home, I saw that our favorite farm stand at the Farmer's Market sells to WFM too. (In fact, click the link to see the guy who sold Beo his 25# of sunchokes this Spring!) I think I had a better local haul at Whole Foods then at our farmer's market, which I consider one of the best in the world. Perhaps my Whole Foods is one of the best in the world too, and I've simply lucked out. Either way, it's part of the Whole Foods company, and it deserves to be recognized for the wonderful role it is playing in making small organic farms sustainable in Wisconsin.