Sunday, March 06, 2005

Whole Foods' local potential

Brian Halwell of the WorldWatch Institute wrote in the Sunday NYTimes about Whole Foods' move into Union Square. He argues that the chain is harmless because they can't compete with the allure of the Greenmarket. They also have the potential to increase availability and educate the public about the importance of eating local, although he concedes they have a long way to go.

Some cynical thoughts: Maybe they can start by paying local farmers a decent amounts for their produce? Given the chain's considerable markups, many farmers have been left less than thrilled by past transactions and now refuse to sell to Whole Foods. It's even been the case with at least one national health food brand. That's not to say that I don't shop at Whole Foods; among other reasons, they're the only place I've found to have origin labels on (most) veggies and tomatoes. But there's a whole bushel of improvements that we should be challenging them to.

6 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer Maiser said...

Thanks for this heads up - I hadn't read this article.

Interesting what you say about local farmers and Whole Foods. In talking to farmers here in the SF Bay Area, the ones who I have talked to have been pretty happy with Whole Foods - especially noting their loyalty to the farmer, as opposed to Trader Joe's (every farmer that I have spoken to has terrible things to say about Trader Joe's).

That said, I will take the local market over WF any day of the week. When you purchase items direct from the farmer they get such a larger cut than if you buy from any market.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Noah said...

Very interesting. Maybe it's a difference between the way they do business in different parts of the country or for different types of veggies?

So much of the produce in the Whole Foods in the Northeast comes from California year-round. Perhaps unless farmers really make it worth their while (money-wise and otherwise), the supermarket just sticks to the Cal-Organic distributor. I have heard from a bunch of small farmers here who won't do business with Whole Foods due to past experiences. But, then again, there are others who do...

11:00 AM  
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