Prewashed Vegetables, Take Two

A couple of weeks ago, we covered the plight of the organic farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which were flooded by the massive storms that rolled through the Midwest. Now Samuel Fromartz has an in-depth post-flooding report on his blog, Chews Wise. In brief: The flooding’s worse than even the farmers initially thought. For example, Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm said in late August that his damage was around $300,000; he’s now raised that number to $750,000—and his insurance only covers the first $100,000.

Fromartz also documents the minibattle over the remaining nondamaged crops: Although co-op supermarkets were ordering from the farms almost immediately, often taking a markup of only a few cents, Whole Foods, a significant buyer for these farms, declared a moratorium on purchasing from the area. The company was worried about contamination from the flooding, especially E. coli from local dairy farms. It’s a reasonable concern, but it was only theoretical: The surviving fields, logically enough, were on higher ground.

Once Whole Foods realized what the actual conditions were, it reversed the moratorium, although not before it was hit by a wave of fair-weather-friend publicity. Now the company’s bending over backward. Fromartz quotes Jack Hedin of Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables in Minnesota: “Whole Foods is back to buying everything we have, there’s no arguing about price, and they’re telling us, ‘We want to be aware of any surplus product you have.’”