“The food we put into our mouths today travels an average of thirteen hundred miles from where it is produced, changing hands at least six times along the way.” Coming Home to Eat, Garry Paul Nabham.
It was with an ironic and heavy heart this Wednesday that I attended the city’s sponsored brainstorming session on marketing Eugene as the World’s Greatest City for the Arts and Outdoors. Invited as a member of the City of Eugene’s art community, I felt myself instead being compelled to address Eugene’s recent issue of giving Whole Foods the approval to develop itself in Eugene’s downtown.
Sure it may sound ironic at first, for a city of Eugene’s liberal leanings to bawlk at this store coming to our city. However, that is precisely why we cast a suspicious eye towards a large Texas based mega corporation, who is wanting to plunder our area’s grocery budgets. Whole Foods is not the shining becon of health it wants to seem. In additon to consistency coming out as non-Union friendly, the Human Rights Campaign recently released a 2004 report also pointed out this smudge on Whole Foods name: a 54% rating in its Corporate Equality Index (heck- even Kraft scored a great 100% on these issues!).
What follows here is largely the text of a rant email sent to my local City Council members after their vote to give Whole Foods developers $8 Million in develoment money to build a parking garage / grocery store combo. Mind you, our fine city doesn’t even have $8 Million, but they assume the library funds won’t mind being borrowed from.
The recent development idea of WholeFoods has marched itself into Eugene’s downtown make-up with hardly a City Council nod of recognition to our own regional gems in the Farmer’s Market. Our local farmers are a testament to Lane County’s standing of having the world’s greatest outdoors. Lets build these jewels a crown, an indoor, year-round farmer’s market, a move that proved very financially successful for Olympia, Washington:
“In one single year the farmers’ market in Olympia, Wash., went from $100,000 in sales to $2.3 million by building a permanent structure for their [farmers] market,” EW cover story, 2004/08/19
Such a development would match the City’s desire to showcase its outdoors and exhibit itself as engaging in environmentally sustainable practices (of which the public gave the City an abysmal 3 out of 5 rating in the 2004 Community Snapshot). 53% of respondents of the Snapshot surveys rate that the City’s engagement in environmentally sustainable practices is very important to the public.
The 2004 Community Snapshot also reports 86% of the respondents believe the City government “should take an active roll in helping local businesses create and retain jobs” (p8). This sentiment to support local business rises above the issues of helping outside companies come to Eugene and above the giving away of tax incentives.
Will WF stock local food products for a reduced stocking fee? Will WF abundantly stock our local produce? Will the omni-presence of WF squash our Saturday and Tuesday farmers market?
Only time and the perpetually mum WholeFoods Corporation will tell.
My City Council has saddened me in its perpetual lack of respect to our local businesses, and local agriculture producers in the Farmer’s Market.
$8 Million in funding for a parking garage and I sit here contemplating ltd’s news to cut the 8pm run of my bus route due to lack of funds.
Round up of response to the Whole Foods development as seen in the Eugene Weekly: