Why would a festival organizer or producer work so hard and take so much time to mount a large seasonal event or show, then say it’s deliberately ‘under the radar? ‘
Is Whole Foods Markets Throwing Organic Farmers
Under the Bus to Fund Grocer’s Marketing Program?
Incensed and insulted, five of the most respected and influential, veteran Certified Organic farmers in the nation have sent the CEO of Whole Foods Market a letter calling the company’s new “Responsibly Grown” produce marketing scheme “onerous and expensive” and stating that it devalues the Certified Organic label.
The signatories come from California and Pennsylvania. They, along with many other growers around the country who felt unable to speak on the record for fear of risking their livelihoods as Whole Foods suppliers, express concern that the giant retailer is setting aside decades of partnership with farmers in building the organic movement to pursue an ill-advised, self-serving marketing program.
Their letter was addressed to the corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, John Mackey.
Whole Foods’ growth, with annual sales approaching $15 billion, has run into strong headwinds in the maturing marketplace for organic food. Same-store sales are flat and other retailers are gaining market share from a company that has long had a reputation for being top-quality, but expensive, earning the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” The iconic natural foods grocer has more than 400 stores.
One of the signatories, Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, located in Madera, California, is a longtime Whole Foods supplier. “Intending to create a value-added image for the conventional produce on their shelves, Whole Foods is undermining the work my family and I have done, along with so many others in the organic farming movement, to create a Certified Organic ‘gold standard’ in terms of safe food production,” Willey said.
While devising a new labeling program that identifies fruits and vegetables as “Good,” “Better,” and “Best,” Whole Foods is asking the growers to pay for participating in the retailer’s verification program.
Another signatory to the letter, Jim Crawford, founder of New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pennsylvania, said numerous growers reported that their cost to comply with Whole Foods’ new program ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. “That is not an inconsequential sum for medium-sized, established organic growers like myself. But this cost, and the added labor to administer the program, could be impossible for some smaller and new-entry farmers to absorb,” stated Crawford.
“I call this marketing model ‘Robin Hood in reverse’,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Although their market capitalization has taken quite a hit recently, at over $14 billion Whole Foods remains one of the wealthiest grocers in the United States. In an effort to enhance their image, they are asking modestly scaled family farmers to pick up the tab for a program whose benefits will almost exclusively accrue to the corporation,” Kastel stated.
One of the most objectionable elements of the “Responsibly Grown” program, for farmers, is the company’s alleged attempt to devalue the importance of the Certified Organic label in terms of customer perception. Under the Whole Foods program, conventionally grown produce, treated with toxic agrochemicals, can be rated higher than Certified Organic produce, which is grown under strict, legally enforced compliance overseen by the USDA.
An example of this grievance is clearly illustrated in photos taken this spring at Whole Foods stores in California. The company was selling conventionally grown asparagus, imported from Mexico, at $4.99 per pound with signage identifying it as “Best.”
Simultaneously, the grocer was offering locally grown, Certified Organic asparagus for $7.99 per pound, which only garnered the stores’ lowest rating, “Good.”
“Why would a customer pay three dollars more per pound for the Certified Organic asparagus when they could buy what a trusted retailer has labeled ‘Best’?” asked Kastel.
Because T&D Willey Farms has not yet complied with Whole Foods’ program, their produce is currently labeled “Unrated.” “I am most assuredly rated!” said Willey. “I have been Certified Organic for 28 years and my farm undergoes a rigorous annual physical inspection and auditing by CCOF, an independent certifier, accredited by the USDA. That’s a pretty high rating in my book.”
This is not the first time The Cornucopia Institute has referred to some of Whole Foods’ marketing tactics as “bait and switch.”
“Here is a business that touts their status as being the nation’s first national Certified Organic grocery chain,” Cornucopia’s Kastel explained. “In their marketing materials and signage they are constantly promoting their dedication to organic agriculture. But when you shop at their stores, you might notice that a high percentage of their offerings are not actually organic. Now the ‘Responsibly Grown’ program is attempting to put some of this conventional food on a pedestal higher than organic,” Kastel lamented.
Whole Foods has long been criticized by some in the organic movement for developing a proprietary meat department rating system, which predominately sells premium-priced conventional meat labeled as “natural.”
“The meat Whole Foods sells that is not Certified Organic was produced from livestock that were fed conventional feed, almost assuredly genetically modified, and, based on USDA research, likely contaminated with agrochemical residues,” Kastel added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body. Dr. Michael Crupain, Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, states, “We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis.”
Although the new Whole Foods rating system bans a selected list of synthetic pesticides, most toxic agrochemicals are still available for their conventional growers to use based on the company’s “Responsibly Grown” protocols.
For example, the USDA’s National Organic Program bans the use of antibiotics, sprayed on fruit trees to control the bacterial disease fireblight, in apple and pear orchards. The agency also bans the use of synthetic mold and sprout inhibitors, sprayed on the skins of potatoes after harvest. However, these materials can be used on fruits and vegetables that receive the “Best” rating under Whole Foods’ new approach.
“Undoubtedly, based on research, some of the produce that Whole Foods has rated ‘Best’ carries detectable levels of pesticides demonstrably higher than anything that would be found on Certified Organic produce,” added Kastel.
Tom Willey, who farms year-round in California’s San Joaquin Valley, added, “If Whole Foods truly is committed to the values they expound, nothing in their stores should be rated ‘Better’ or ‘Best’ unless it first passes muster under the strict regulations Congress designated when they passed the Organic Foods Production Act.”
Jim Crawford, of New Morning Farm, and Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, were both recognized in a 2014 gathering, covered by the New York Times, of “Organic Elders” who founded the organic movement. Crawford thinks Whole Foods’ marketing program is unfairly burdensome and expensive for farmers, especially smaller-scale ones, but he says that’s not the worst aspect of it.
More harmful, he says, is the fact that the program deceives consumers in their perception of which foods deserve to be rated “Best.” “It’s a privately dreamed up, proprietary food-rating system directly contrasting and competing with a publicly created system, USDA Certified Organic, which was painstakingly developed over years and is administered rigorously and with verifiability.”
Crawford thinks it especially ironic that the private Whole Foods program is made to appear more demanding, more rigorous, and more restrictive than Certified Organic. “In reality, it is drastically more permissive, especially in the area of pesticide use, and not rigorous or verifiable at all in the way it’s administered,” Crawford said.
And, unlike within the USDA National Organic Program, farmers participating in Whole Foods’ labeling campaign are not subject to annual, on-site inspections or audits of the paper trail for their farm inputs and all sales to assure compliance. Nor could any detected malfeasance lead to large fines and other sanctions.
A prank at a Manhattan GAP store resulted in the NYPD being called, as 40 members of Improv Everywhere posed as Mannequins in white Morphsuits and GAP apparel.
Improv Everywhere, a comedy troupe that solicits people to do collaborative public pranks, dressed 40 people in Morphsuits and had them pose in different parts throughout the clothing store on 54th St. and Fifth Ave.
The group’s founder, Charlie Todd, said “Many of the customers and employees had a good laugh, but five minutes later the police arrived after the store had called them. Many of the members were initially handcuffed but they eventually left the store and no charges were filed”.
“All we were doing was wearing a costume and standing in a store.”
GAP have released the following statement.
“The safety of our store associates and customers is always our main concern.”
“We are pleased to report that no customers, employees or mannequins were injured in this event.”
By Rose McGowan | Women and Hollywood
The following speech was originally delivered on April 21 to the Sisterhood of Traveling Producers, a small, invite-only group of young female executives and producers founded three years ago by Stacy Keppler.
To the wonderful women in this business of film: Your welcoming kindness last night meant a lot to me. As an actress, I’ve been treated as property or as a competitor. There is very little camaraderie on my side of the business. Your warmth was a new experience for me. How wonderful that you women have each other, and how wonderful that we got to meet.
I’ve been thinking about what I said last night. I feel inspired to expand on last night’s topic, that of Being Progressive.
Historically, artists have had patrons to finance and shepherd their work. To me, that is what anyone working on your side of the business is: a patron of the arts. We artists need you to be our protectors and our warriors. Not that we need coddling — quite the opposite — but we need fighters. Washington, D.C., accuses us of having an agenda. Damn right we do. We have a responsibility to push for our world to be better. We all know the power of media. Let’s use it to our benefit. As I said last night, we count as audience members, too.
WE ARE THE PUBLIC.
Here are a few actions you can take to improve and change the role of women in film and the role of film in society.
–Just because a writer or director “succeeded” at something before doesn’t mean they should do it again.
–If you know certain directors (men) behave reprehensibly, fight against their hire and offer up alternatives. BE BOLD. If someone is a known dickhead, stop their hire. If they are misogynists, stop their hire. These are not the people we need to reward. Stand up and stop perpetuating the cycle. We are responsible. Stop protecting evil. We didn’t join the Mafia when we joined this business. We owe no one our vow of silence.
–Suggest traditional men’s roles be turned into ones for women. It will instantly make your work more layered. Anyone from the lead to the sidekick to a character with one line — turn them into women. It is imperative that we start seeing women on film in other roles than The Wife or The Sexpot. How boring. Let’s reflect on film what society ACTUALLY looks like: 50% female. Women are in all kinds of jobs and have complex lives, so put that on the screen. I’m curious about the plumber who says two words on film if she’s a woman. What’s her story? How’d she get there? People love relating to othe rpeople onscreen. So why aren’t we women allowed to relate to our own lives? Where is our representation? Let’s take action to change these tropes. It is time.
–Put female writers and directors on the TOP of your lists. Do it every time. If asked why, say why not, smile and walk away. Give them something to think about. It’s about time to see women in films as equals. This is a simple way to start. Remember: Just because it’s been done a certain way doesn’t mean it should still be done that way. The sad fact is, Hollywood is out of date. Let’s bring our town into the modern world. Dwindling ticket sales are a reflection of how largely passé Hollywood films are. Let’s be better, let’s do better.
–Stop rewarding males that do half-ass jobs. Hire women instead of men. Be bold when you hire. Go with your gut. Go with someone interesting and not someone “safe.”
–If someone yells at you or puts you down, stop them in their tracks. Retrain them. If someone says your name wrong, you correct them, so why don’t we do it when mistreated? Correct bad behavior as it happens. If Scott Rudin throws a phone at your head, throw one back and throw it harder. No one gets to abuse you. If someone is a misogynist, an abuser of talent and crew, or worse, DO NOT LET THEM GET HIRED.
–Finally, please stop viewing film and TV as product. It is not product. You and I are making documented history. We are creating a time capsule. Choose what you put in it wisely.
We can be the change we want to see. Let’s go, let’s have an agenda, and let’s do this.
99-Seat Review Committee releases statement in advance of Tuesday’s vote by Actors’ Equity Association national council on controversial new proposal that would eliminate availability of current 99-Seat Theater Plan in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (April 20, 2015) — In the wake of a recent advisory vote by Los Angeles members of Actors’ Equity Association that will be taken under consideration when the AEA national council meets on Tuesday, April 21 to determine the fate of Los Angeles’ current 99-Seat Theater Plan, the 99-Seat Theater Review Committee has released a statement.
AEA has put forth a three-pronged proposal that would effectively eliminate availability of the current Plan, which permits its members to perform in theaters with fewer than 100 seats for a stipend, in favor of minimum wage requirements for both rehearsals and performances. 99-Seat proponents argue that the new proposal will destroy L.A.’s intimate theater scene, and have asked the union to sit down at the table with its members to work out a better plan. With a turnout of 44.6%, members voted 2,046 to 1,075 against implementing the new AEA proposal in the advisory referendum, which is not binding.
What follows is a statement from the Review Committee, which was created to monitor and study the impact, implementation, problems and operations of the 99-Seat Plan and is made up of plaintiffs, or their designates, from a 1987 lawsuit against Equity by its members.
“We are encouraged by the results of Friday’s advisory referendum. We look forward to working together with Equity to strategize, study and craft a workable 99-Seat Plan that will take into account not only where we are presently, but also where we would like to be five and ten years from now. If these past months have shown us anything, it is that Los Angeles is a vital and fervent community of artists who are united in their resolve that 99-seat theater continue to thrive.
We have sent an email to executive director, Mary McColl, assistant executive director/Western regional director Gale E. Gabler and president Nick Wyman requesting that the national council, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, postpone any decision regarding 99-seat theater until an in-depth study and thorough conversations with actors, community leaders and theater producers can be successfully completed.
Change is needed, and we look forward to working closely with AEA’s senior staff, the Western regional board and New York’s national council to create that blueprint.”
The members of the current Review Committee are Sean Branney, Martha Demson, John Flynn, Gary Grossman, Simon Levy, Tom Ormeny and Joe Stern.
The vote came in just around noon today and there has been a hotbed of social media dialog since. This is only the beginning of the battle for what is now recognized as the “majority” of actors in Los Angeles who are determined to decide how they shape their artistic life, value and pay. But for now the actors have spoken directly to their union, Actor’s Equity Association, “99 Seat Theatre Stays!”
#Pro99 Wins @ActorsEquity Referendum 65.5% NO, 34.4% YES #LAThtr #DIVERSITY99 #LosAngeles #99Seats #99Seat #Noho #DTLA #ILove99 #Changefor99
Art is definitely not dead and today Eventbrite released new insights that showcase Millennials’ unique perspective on Performing and Visual Arts events.
Eventbrite, the global ticketing and events marketplace, today released new research that examines how millennials define, discover, spend on and engage with performing and visual arts events. Eventbrite, which experienced a 54% year-over-year increase in performing and visual arts events, surveyed more than a thousand Americans who attended an event in this category in the past 12 months. The study, “The Art of Attraction: How to Grow Your Millennial Arts Audience,” uncovers key insights including:
Millennials Attend and Spend
The millennial generation currently commands an estimated $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending and they are allocating a healthy amount of their disposable income to performing and visual arts events; one in five millennials spend $500 or more in the past year on or at performing arts or visual arts events. They also splurge on souvenirs at these events; one in three millennials said they were likely to buy merchandise, such as posters or apparel, while attending an arts event.
Numerous millennials are apt to prioritize spending on arts events over other discretionary spending. When presented with the question, if you won $1,000 and had to spend it all in the next 12 months, more millennials said they would allocate the money to arts events (50%) than coffee (35%) or alcohol (29%).
Defining and Fueling a New Performing and Visual Arts Experience
Millennials are expanding the definition of ‘arts’ and ‘arts’ events: nearly one in three (31%) feel that iPhone photography is considered a visual art, more than half (54%) consider graffiti or street art a visual art, and 43% consider comic books or graphic novels a visual art. While some speculate that millennials are less engaged with the arts, Eventbrite’s survey found millennials are often more engaged than boomers and crave a closer, more interactive look at the performing and visual arts world. Forty-three percent of millennials said they would prefer to attend events that incorporate audience participation, while only 29% of boomers feel the same way.
Some millennials take this engagement even further and set out to acquire new skills following arts events. Millennials are more than five times as likely as their boomer counterparts (21% vs. 4%) to take a class related to the arts after attending an event, such as enrolling in dance lessons after visiting the ballet.
Focus on Digital Discovery and Crowdsourced Recommendation
Millennials are more likely than boomers to hear about arts events through online resources like social media (48% vs. 24%), online ads (28% vs. 19%), and blogs (25% vs. 4%). In contrast, boomers are more likely than millennials to learn about arts events through traditional channels, including TV (66% vs. 42%), print (63% vs. 33%) and radio (49% vs. 33%) ads.
When it comes to taking action from reviews, everyone’s a critic in millennials’ eyes: they are almost equally as likely to attend an arts event because it was recommended on a site such as Yelp (47%) as they would if it was recommended by a critic or reviewer (53%). Boomers are more influenced by critics, with 73% likely to attend arts events if they recommend it and only 27% likely to attend based on a recommendation from a review site.
A Millennial Rendition of Arts Events
In 2014, Eventbrite saw a more than 60% growth in performing and visual arts events where alcohol is served, a trend in line with survey findings that more than half (58%) of millennials prefer arts events with drinks on the menu. Additionally, two in three millennials (66%) prefer arts events with food, and 31% said they would attend more arts events if they could eat or drink during a performing or visual arts event.
Millennials embrace the tradition and formality around arts events; survey results found that they enjoy dressing up and attending fancier gatherings. Thirty-five percent of millennials would rather attend an arts event that is formal instead of casual (vs. 14% of boomers). Nearly half of millennials (49%) even think performing and visual arts events are not dressy enough. Even though formality can be a draw for millennials at arts events, they don’t want to be forced into a tux. Sixty-three percent would prefer events without the rules of a dress code, proving a little freedom can go a long way with this generation.
“Amid recent studies indicating a decline in arts event attendance rates for U.S. adults, it was encouraging to see that our study found 70% of millennials who recently attended an arts event expressed interest in attending more,” said Martina Wang, marketing lead at Eventbrite. “The challenge for performing and visual arts organizations is to effectively reach this highly-connected, influential generation, while staying true to deep-rooted traditions. Our findings offer them valuable insights into the future of this industry.”
For more details and to view the full study, please visit the Event Academy, Eventbrite’s resource for event organizers with webinars, whitepapers, and industry insights for events of any kind. To learn more about Eventbrite ticketing and registration for performing and visual arts events, check out eventbrite.com/arts.
Eventbrite is the global marketplace for live experiences that allows people to find and create events. Since 2006, the self-service platform has helped event organizers of all kinds to sell more tickets through robust technology and promotional tools, totaling $3.5 billion in gross ticket sales. In addition to providing technology for organizers, Eventbrite has become the destination for consumers looking to discover a variety of live experiences from small photography and yoga classes to large concerts and festivals with tens of thousands of attendees. More than 200 million tickets have been processed on the platform, and in 2014 alone, Eventbrite processed $1.5 billion in gross ticket sales for attendees in more than 180 countries. Eventbrite investors include Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global and T. Rowe Price. Learn more at www.eventbrite.com.