Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Aug 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Love Them or Hate Them…

news-wholeWhole Foods faces criticism from advocates of buying local
My hometown is approximately the same size as Santa Cruz, but oh so different. Upper-middle class suburbia stretched over the land at an ominous, steady rate, altering the face of the town I grew up in to an almost unfamiliar landscape. McMansions were built over the canyons, the flower fields gave way to haughty strip malls, and the mom-and-pop shops were replaced with chain stores. My favorite coffee shop, an eccentric hangout called Miracles, is gone, but no need to worry—there are seven Starbucks!

Needless to say, Santa Cruz has done a remarkable—if not unparalleled—job at keeping the chains at bay. Raising fists at big box stores and national chains is practically the official Cruzan pastime, and definitely a stronghold in traditional local values. But some have inevitably sneaked past enemy lines over time, and there is no more interesting place to watch the ensuing controversy play out than in the grocery industry. Locally, the arrival of two new Whole Foods has split natural and organic shoppers into two groups: those who absolutely love the store, and those who will never set foot in it.

On Sept. 15, the Santa Cruz chapter of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held their monthly meeting on the matter. It was organized by their corporation committee, which is bent on curbing corporate power and banning corporate personhood. Advertised as an opportunity to “learn how the David and Goliath legend plays out in Santa Cruz as local grocery stores function in the shadow of mega-chains,” it teetered on the edge of becoming a Whole Foods-bashing session, but was also an opportunity to revere the benefits of supporting local stores.

“The money we make stays in the community,” says Gary Bascou, co-owner of Staff of Life (SOL) and a panelist for the evening. “We aren’t sending it off to headquarters somewhere.” Bascou is a charter member of Think Local First, the organization that is spearheading Santa Cruz’s “go local” movement. He says that SOL buys local whenever possible, and “keeps the high majority of products local and organic.”

“Community is our middle name,” agrees Scott Roseman, founder of New Leaf Community Markets and another of the event’s panelists. He says that New Leaf donates 10 percent of its profits to the community, actively contributes to local nonprofits and arts, and supports local food producers and farms. While New Leaf considers “local” to mean anything within the county, Whole Foods says it is anything within a seven hour drive, according to their website.

“Whole Foods is saying they’re buying local,” says Bascou, “but we—Staff of Life, New Leaf, etc—have been doing local since the beginning, and don’t feel the need to hang a bunch of banners to make a big deal about it. It’s just the way we do business.”

At a sit-down breakfast with local community members and press back in March, Dan Wolfe, team leader for the Santa Cruz Whole Foods, said that the store “purchases $100,000 a day from this community” between the procurement center in Watsonville and a slew of local producers. He said the store even has its own “local forager,” an employee whose job it is to seek out “new, cool local products.”

While Roseman and Bascou mentioned that their businesses have felt some impact from the opening of Whole Foods and the humongous Safeway remodel on Mission Street (Roseman simply says, “Of course it is challenging to compete with the big guys”), they offered no hard numbers to demonstrate the blows. However, if expansion is any indication of prosperity, the Westside New Leaf moved into a roomy, impressive new location earlier this year and SOL has plans to relocate to a larger space just a few blocks down Soquel Avenue. The owners are optimistic about the ability of local grocers—from New Leaf and SOL to Shopper’s Corner and the small but beloved Food Bin and Herb Room—to keep a hold on their niche.

“I’m happy when people tell me they’re shopping at any of the other local stores,” says Roseman. “If you’re not shopping at New Leaf, I hope you’re shopping at one of those guys.”

Whole Foods is no stranger to controversy—its very nature as a giant health food chain seems an oxymoron to many within its potential market. The latest debate came when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal opposing President Barack Obama’s plan for health care reform, leading to the bolstering of nationwide anti-Whole Food groups, such as the Facebook group “Boycott Whole Foods,” which had over 34,000 members at the time of print. The local group of the same name had only 50 members. Several groups along the lines of “Boycott the Boycott of Whole Foods” cropped up, as well, and the omnivore himself, Michael Pollan, publicly explained why he will continue to shop there. His Aug. 28 blog on newmajority.com read, “Whole Foods is not perfect, however if they were to disappear, the cause of improving Americans’ health by building an alternative food system, based on more fresh food, pastured and humanely raised meats and sustainable agriculture, would suffer.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 31

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover