CSA Share #6: Loyalty

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The CSA share has more variety this week, with a lot less leafy greens. The vegetables we hold out for until we can eat them fresh during the summer are finally starting to roll in regularly. Along with the seemingly ubiquitous kale, there are two heads of lettuce, tomatoes, sweet yellow Italian peppers, yellow summer squash, slicing cucumbers (both green and white), scallions, green beans and broccoli. The herbs are basil and dill.

In other news, you may have heard a little bit about the grocery store boycott going on here in New England. It’s a family saga that goes back decades and is worthy of a TV miniseries, but is now playing out its climax in the streets and kitchens of average folks here, with two cousins vying for control of the company, Demoulas Market Basket. Arthur T. is seen as the “good guy” because of his generosity and loyalty to his employees and customers, and Arthur S. is seen as the “bad guy” because of his interest in the bottom line at the expense of those employees and customers. There are ongoing protests, picketing outside stores, and an amazing customer boycott of the stores until Arthur T. is reinstated as CEO of the company, that has been going on for two weeks now. There is even a customer-funded two-page newspaper ad in the Lowell Sun (MA), demanding his return.

I have been quietly supporting the employees by choosing to shop elsewhere until this thing is sorted out, but it has been a challenge, because even though there is a lot of food I can get from local farmers and producers, there are ingredients that are not, and never have been, local to New England or even the United States, that I always buy at Market Basket because their prices are so low. Being able to save money on some items makes it possible for me to spend a little more at farmstands and farmers’ markets, so it plays into my whole eating locally strategy. I really don’t like shopping at the other supermarket in town. The prices are higher, yes, but that isn’t the only reason. It’s just not a friendly place to be.

You can tell the difference when people want to be working somewhere and when they are just collecting a paycheck. The employees at Market Basket are truly proud of their stores, and it shows. During the boycott, (and let’s be clear, it’s a boycott by customers, not a strike by employees) employees and managers are keeping their stores open and keeping themselves busy by cleaning the stores stem to stern, doing repairs and repainting, and keeping shelves as neatly stocked as they can. The only employees who have refused to work are the distribution truck drivers, so there are a lot of empty spaces, and no fresh foods of any kind, but they are making the best of it. I’m pretty sure this type of thing would not be happening at the other supermarket.

Arthur S. and his voting bloc on the Board of Directors have underestimated their employees’ and customers’ loyalty to “the Basket” and the respectful, generous culture created by Arthur T. in every store. If there is one thing I’ve learned since I was transplanted here 13 years ago, New Englanders are steadfast, resilient, and fiercely loyal once they’ve embraced something in their hearts. They are willing to wait. We are willing to wait. Think Red Sox. Think Bruins. Think summer corn, tomatoes, and squash.

Yeah, Arthur S., we’ll wait. You give us back our Market Basket, or risk costing New England thousands and thousands of jobs, while your family’s legacy goes down the toilet as your company bleeds millions each passing day. Is that what your father would have wanted? Is that what he worked so hard for? Do you care? We know Arthur T. cares, because it shows. We’ve seen his loyalty, and now you’ve seen ours.

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