Dear Galen Weston,
In mid-March 2008 I sent a letter to you in which I suggested that President's Choice should buy out CanGro fruit/vegetable processors.
At that time, the company - after a series of ownership flips - was on the brink of closing its last processing plants in Ontario. They did close and there are no such, anymore, in Ontario. That spring, fruit growers in various regions of Ontario had to really scramble to find alternate markets for their produce. Some just quit - pear orchards are gone. Producers are gone. People were out of work.
I have no idea what your financial circumstances were at the time. Maybe you simply didn't have the money to buy a processing plant that would have done a lot of the good things you wrote about in an article you'd written for the Globe and Mail (Retailers are wasteful and must change, Feb. 2007). Your assistant told me you never got the stuff I sent you. And when I sent it all again, she didn't acknowledge. I was kind of ticked then ... and it looks like I'm still ticked. (I probably even still have the e-mails, but right now I'm not inclined to track them down.
Now, when a shopper goes into your stores - and because you are the face of Present's Choice I extend you to Loblaws and Superstore and all the others owned by your family - the brand names of Del Monte, Aylmer and Ideal - that used to have some Ontario fruit in their tins - are now all filled with stuff from far, far away.
I realize I can't blame you for all the food problems we have in Ontario and Canada .. but you're the Face.
So, let's come to now and your current commercials.
I'm really grumpy about your eat fresh, Ontario produce promotion on television. Not because I don't want good, fresh, Ontario produce and financially secure farmers, but because good fresh, Ontario produce isn't in your stores.
Traditionally, Ontario has been an apple producing area. My nearest ValuMart has no Ontario apples whatsoever. There seem to be - at most - three things brought in as specials at any one time, for one week promotion - not the length of a growing season.
And the thing that frosts me most right now is the plastic packages with President's Choice herbs - a few sprigs that cost about $3.00 each. Mint, Rosemary and Bay leaves come from Columbia. Chives come from Israel. Basil comes from Hawaii. Poor wee leaves.
Galen! In my garden, all three types of mint are invasive weed. Chives - in the onion family - reproduce themselves beautifully too. Rosemary and basil are both annuals in our climate. Rosemary is easy to grow from cuttings and basil will grow to seed stage in a southwestern Ontario gardening season. I've never grown Bay leaves, but I bet they could be grown in Ontario, if only in a greenhouse setting.
So, these 5 herbs could be grown in Ontario, augment the variety of crops on farms and give employment. As mentioned, there's a $3.00 price tag on the piddly quantity ... but what's the unrecorded price of plastic packaging and shipping in terms of fossil fuel? And what's the cultural cost to the people of Columbia?
And don't bother to tell me that people need fresh herbs all year 'round. No one needs fresh herbs all year 'round. That's what drying is for.
Oh yeah ... and was it one of your family stores where I saw the Peruvian asparagus that's destroying watersheds in that country? (I've been in a lot of stores lately because I've been helping a friend with shopping)
Do you realize that Canada is a food insecure country ... like Pakistan right now ... but we don't even know it?