Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The media's labeling of things puts them into a box from which there is sometimes no escape. Sometimes this labeling doesn't even mean anything. Like when some catch phrase from television or some equally spurious source starts being used so much people stop questioning the origin or even the meaning.

Every year, yet another "think tank" (see what I mean?) comes out with an annual list of top new words or most overused words, it is always astounding to me that anyone even took the time to think about it in the first place. I know that in our modern culture there is always something new that might need a specialized description, but what is wrong with stringing together some of the old words that we have stuffed into the verbal broom closet and completely forgotten about.

In 2007, the Oxford dictionary word of the year was "locavore". While I am actually in the business of growing food for others and love the idea that more and more people are interested in what I do, I just don't like that word. It sounds pretentious to me, kind of like eating local food is something new. My grandmother lived during the time when if you didn't eat local food, you went hungry, simple as that. So, why do we need a new word (locavore) to describe something that existed for the entire history of mankind until less than 100 years ago? I don't get that at all.

And while I am on the subject, when did the market become "super"? (I got most of the following from a Wikipedia article on Supermarkets.)

The concept of a self-service grocery store was developed by Clarence Saunders. His first Piggly Wiggly store opened in Memphis, Tenn., in 1916. According to the Smithsonian, the first true supermarket in the United States was opened by a former Kroger employee, Michael J. Cullen, on August 4, 1930, inside a 6,000 square foot former garage in Jamaica, Queens, New York. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Hmmm? How about some more interesting factoids:
  • Supermarkets, especially big box stores, have made the survival of the smaller family-run farm stands and neighborhood markets increasingly difficult.

  • Supermarkets, in general, also tend to narrow the choices of fruits and vegetables by stocking only varieties with long storage lives, thus leading to medium-term extinction of the cultivation of other varieties. There are only about 80 varieties of vegetables being cultivated on factory farms in the US. 100 years ago, when everybody ate local produce, there were probably thousands because each state, region, even community that had favorites, etc. Thank goodness the interest in heirloom vegetables, fruits, etc. has kept some of these from obliteration.

  • In the US, major-brand supermarkets often demand "slotting fees" from suppliers in exchange for premium shelf space and/or better positioning (such as at eye-level, on the checkout aisle or at a shelf's "end cap"). This extra supplier cost (up to $30,000 per brand for a chain for each individual SKU) may be reflected in the cost of the products offered. Some critics have questioned the ethical and legal propriety of slotting fee payments and their effect on smaller suppliers.
So, if you aren't shopping at your local farmer's market, why not?