Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 25, 2007

Look for the independent business label

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Neighbors, Business — Lauren Do @ 7:03 am

I’ve been following the story of independent grocer Farmer Joe’s mostly via the East Bay Express for some time now.  For me, it was just an interesting story that would get a lot of feedback through the Letters, which is why when I heard the news that Action Alameda was co-sponsoring with California Healthy Communities Network a community forum with Jeff Milchen of the American Independent Business Alliance I knew the name of the sponsoring group sounded vaguely familiar.

Turns out that California Healthy Communities Network had “launched a project

…working with shoppers who frequent the Farmer Joe’s location at 3426 Fruitvale Ave., collected some 39 items over a 36-day period, including a box of coconut water 75 days past its expiration date, that were expired or improperly labeled, the group said.

Later, it was discovered by the EBX, that CHCN was not all they seemed to be, highlights:

It would appear that Farmer Joe’s and the local media just got Punk’d.

…a group calling itself the California Healthy Communities Network held a press conference outside Alameda County’s Department of Environmental Health. Spokesman Phil Tucker announced that the group would file complaints with the agency alleging that Farmer Joe’s Fruitvale store had brazenly sold expired food products, and that employees had brushed off customers who attempted to return the spoiled items.

Regardless of whether the claim is true, the group’s faxed press release should have raised immediate red flags: Who, exactly, was this group? And why would it single out Farmer Joe’s? Apparently, neither KTVU nor the Oakland Tribune, both of which jumped on the story, asked themselves these most basic questions. The Trib identified California Healthy Communities Network as “a Martinez-based public health group” while KTVU called it “one health watchdog group,” descriptions that gave the nonprofit a semblance of nonpartisanship and independence.

…the California Healthy Communities Network was cofounded by the same union that’s fighting Farmer Joe’s, along with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a pro-labor organization, and others. Indeed, project director Tucker previously served as spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1179.

The news outlets also failed to figure out that the food sting was the first of its kind for a group that previously worked only on labor and land issues. KTVU, meanwhile, interviewed Daniel Rush, who assisted with the sting operation. The report identifies him only as a “private investigator.” While Rush is indeed a licensed private eye, the report certainly dealt the former political director of UFCW Local 120 an unearned vibe of independence.

A “Friends of Farmer Joe’s” blog has photos. So I suppose what is confusing to me is that CHCN is sponsoring (they say “sponsoring” and did not credit any other local organziations who have now claimed “co-sponsorship”) a series of community forums with Jeff Milchen, six altogether including the one hosted last night at the Home of Truth, to ask folks to:

Join us for a provocative and practical presentation and discussion that will reveal many less-visible benefits our community reaps from supporting local, independent businesses and the pitfalls of community dependence on corporate chains and Big Box stores.

We’ll learn about a wide range of tools our community can use to support local entrepreneurs and the groundbreaking work of Independent Business Alliances — an innovative new model dozens of communities have implemented to support hometown businesses and prevent their displacement by chains and big box stores that undermine local economies.

Jeff Milchen founded and directed the nation’s first Independent Business Alliance in Boulder, CO before co-founding the American Independent Business Alliance to help other communities successfully organize related campaigns and organizations. He is a highly-sought speaker, nationally-published writer and leading voice for America’s community-based businesses. Don’t miss it!

What is contradictory about these recent community forums by CNCH is the efforts that have been expended to basically “take down” Farmer Joe’s, an independent community business.    Farmer Joe’s isn’t a big box store or some corporate giant, but rather the type of business that CHCH is trying to promote through these community forums.   Personally, I think it would have been interesting to ask Mr. Milchen’s opinion on the Farmer Joe’s issue. 



  1. Sort of unrelated, but of the same subject. I’ve found that believe it or not, some of the best deals on fruit and vegetables can be had at the “Swap Meet” flea market next to the stadium. There are literally 2-3 big rows of food. You can get everything from peanut brittle, fingerling bananas and seasoned pistachios there and it costs sometimes 4-5 times less than the same stuff packed up in hip looking stores.

    As far as stuff being out of date… well when I was a kid, the grocery store near our house had an out-of-date shelf and you could buy canned goods, cake mixes, pickles, and so forth at a discount. That and and cans or boxes that got butchered, dented, or crushed was even cheaper. I’m still alive so I don’t see what the big deal is.

    Comment by edvard — July 25, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  2. […] a Cwazy World You have to read this to believe […]

    Pingback by It’s a Cwazy World « Farmer Joe’s & Friends — July 25, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

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