Friday, September 21, 2007

Whole Foods Does It Again

I've written before about how much I believe in the power of Whole Foods as a champion for local, organic food. Well, they've come through again, riding a white horse, carrying a banner, blaring a trumpet. Wisconsin had a rough summer. In our own backyard we spent the first half of the summer watering daily to keep up our market garden. In the last half we picked madly to try to keep ahead of the torrential rains that were bursting our tomatoes and carrots, stagnating our cucumber production, and drowning seedlings. What we saw in our gardens was mirrored horrifyingly in the big organic family run farms in the state. Beo and I didn't even bother holding back tears when we read about the damage to our favorite Farmer's Market vendor's farm. Harmony Valley lost acres of topsoil and tens of thousands of dollars worth of profit. Their story was repeated over and again at numerous farms throughout our area. Avalanche Organic, Driftless Organics--the losses were devastating.

That Saturday Beo and I went to the Farmer's Market and got our normal produce from Harmony Valley, then paid double for it. We've done the same whenever we could make it since then. Today, I found out that Whole Foods Market is doing much more. I was greeted today by a television set showing a video about the horrible damage our farmer's have experienced in these past months. Nearby, a sign explained that Whole Foods had committed $25,000 to farm relief, and had pledged $10,000 to match customer donations. That in and of itself is an incredible support of our local farmers. The story goes on though. When I took my donation coupons to the register, two employees told me that they've already raised $6,000 in their store alone. One gentleman explained that not only does Whole Foods in Madison buy from these local farmers as they go into the market each week, they have the buying power to buy up the leftovers of what the farmers don't sell at market. (He added that these days that's not an issue--there's just not enough produce to go around.) Whole Foods has also been assisting local farmers even before this crisis by trucking their produce out of state, in Whole Foods Market trucks that would be headed to those stores anyway, providing distribution that these small farmers could never afford. This employee told me with pride that the hard squash displayed for sale in the front of the store that day had been picked by Whole Foods employees. Avalanche Organic, washed out and strapped for cash, couldn't afford a harvest crew, but a crew of volunteers came to do their harvest last weekend, including a large group of volunteers from Whole Foods.

If anyone having read my former posts had any doubts, I hope they stop here. Whole foods is walking the walk--they're leading the walk. They're not just getting local organic produce to more consumers, they're standing up and giving those farmers the support they need--formerly to thrive, now to survive. Eat your heart out, Michael Pollan.

Please consider giving what you can to the cause. For More Info:
Press Release on Whole Foods' Recent Action
Harmony Valley Farm
Sow the Seeds Fund