THE READER
March
2007

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Produce News

The California Freeze and Farmer Appreciation Dinner

by Andy Johnston, Produce Manager

Cold in California?

In mid-January, a Siberian air mass made its way into central California. Temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley reached record lows, destroying most of the citrus crop. At the time of the freeze, producers reported that only 10 percent of the crop had been harvested. The industry is reporting over a billion dollars in loss.

Temperatures in the Yuma and El Centro desert regions fell below freezing as well, damaging crops and making harvesting nearly impossible. This area produces much of the country’s vegetables, both conventional and organic. Although not as devastating as the citrus crop, farmers are reporting damage as well as limited supply due to difficulty in harvesting.

How will this effect the Produce department at the Co-op, and ultimately, your purchasing abilities? At the moment, it’s hard to say. I would expect that as warehouse inventories tighten, wholesale prices will go up, and distributors will have limited supplies. Currently, our suppliers are looking for sources from other areas. Florida will have some good quality products available, however, it will not be able to supply the demand. Farmers will boost production in Mexico, though supply will not be available for some time.

The Willy Street Co-op remains committed to supplying our customers with the highest quality and best selection of fresh fruits and vegetables available. We are working with our suppliers to maintain this level of service. At times, certain everyday products may not be available. We will do our best to keep our shelves full and direct you to substitutes and alternatives.

This is a horrible tragedy for California’s agriculture sector. With the loss of crops comes the loss of jobs, many thousands of jobs. Farmers and businesses can file insurance claims to recover up to 75 percent of their losses. There is no unemployment compensation or insurance claim to be made for the farm workers. They lose everything!
The impacts on the industry will last into April and May, long after the freeze in January is forgotten. Please, be patient and understanding through this challenging time, and trust that we are doing the best job we can do to keep you supplied and informed.

Farmer Appreciation Dinner

The 2007 Farmer Appreciation Dinner was a relaxing evening of great food and conversation with a lot of great folks! Co-op staff and Board members had the opportunity to sit and chat with farmers, their families and friends, who provide the Co-op and the Eastside Farmers’ Market with some of the finest quality, locally produced foods available.

The Co-op broke tradition and served spaghetti (with meatball option), instead of lasagna for a main course, with blueberry coffee cake for dessert. It was delicious! Nice job to the staff at the Off-Site Kitchen for their culinary contributions!

Providing locally-produced foods has been a niche of the Co-op for years. It has helped us grow into the successful business we currently are. Whereas many retailers prefer to work with a few distributors that supply them with everything, the Co-op has created systems that allow us to efficiently work with dozens of local producers. In the Produce department alone, we work with over 25 individual producers through the peak growing season. Their products contribute to over 90 percent of our vegetable product line! At any given time, you can find hundreds of locally produced products in the store. Every section of the store offers local goods! For us, it’s an easy choice: we supply the products our customers want!

Our local farmers and producers are truly the ones to thank for our success. They have allowed for the Co-op to grow into one of the most unique grocery stores around. As consumers, their commitment to quality has enriched our lives and helped build a strong, healthy, eastside community. As businesses, their commitment to sustainable and organic practices is building a strong local economy while minimizing the negative impacts on the environment.

From everyone here at the Co-op, thank you, thank you, thank you! We look forward to many more years of working with you!