RE: Jan. 29 story “Spending in Springs keeps money here, locals say”

As the Whole Foods Market representative largely responsible for (and highly passionate about) establishing relationships with local farmers in the Rocky Mountain Region, I’d like to address the inaccurate comments made in Amy Gillentine’s January 29th article, Spending in Springs Keeps Money Here, Say Locals. In that article, Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, states absolutely incorrectly that “Some of the big box stores — Wal-Mart and Whole Foods — say they are buying local, but they pay so little for the products that farmers and ranchers can’t stay in business. The big box stores are ‘co-opting’ the buy-local marketing — but they aren’t local.” He then goes on to claim, “You can go into Wal-Mart or Whole Foods and see the signs that say this came from Colorado. But people have to know, they have to be aware, that buying local produce from there, still means the money goes out of the community, still means that farmers and ranchers are not getting paid a living wage.”

Speaking on behalf of Whole Foods Market, I can’t stress enough how completely untrue and irresponsible these statements are. Our approach to buying local is simple. We focus on quality, flavor, growing methods, tradition and ultimately, the responsible use of agricultural lands. Discussions on price are often secondary and have a strong emphasis on sustainability; meaning we negotiate prices that support the long term health of our grower community. In many cases we pay above the established national market price for a given crop because many smaller, local growers cannot offer prices competitive with those of national growers. Because we want to bring this quality, locally produced food to a broad customer base, we happily absorb the difference. This allows families to eat high quality, nutrient rich, locally grown produce at a reasonable price while also supporting the long term health of local agriculture. This has proven to be a successful model as many of our relationships within the local grower community are over 20 years old. We are also committed to using these strategies to find and develop new growers as we believe it is essential to keep food production where we live, allowing for the enjoyment of local products while encouraging and supporting responsible agricultural uses of local lands, helping to keep them from commercial development.

I hope this provides clarity to the Colorado Springs community around those inaccurate statements.

Anyone with questions can contact our stores or spend time with produce employees. They are incredibly passionate about our dedication to our local growers and eager to talk about it.

Kenny Meyer

Field Associate, Whole Foods Market