Is the Co-op Republican/Conservative-friendly?

 car with bumper stickers IMG_1712
Left: As I entered Just Food Co-op earlier this week, I noticed this car plastered with bumper stickers like “Wal Mart Sucks the Life Out of Our Towns” and “Unions: the folks that (sic) brought you the weekends” as well as numerous stickers for Democratic candidates.  I didn’t see any cars representing the other side.

Right: Once inside, I noticed that the magazine rack contained not only health/wellness titles but just liberal/progressive ones like Z, Utne, Ms, Mother Jones, etc.  Where’s the National Review, The Weekly Standard, Guns & Ammo, etc?

Since the discussion is humming along in the Carleton Conservatives blog post, I thought I’d throw another log on the fire.


  1. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    Throwing another log on the fire or feeding gasoline to an inferno that was already raging? Is your purpose to try to convince conservatives that they are not welcome at Just Food and that they should take their business someplace else?

    I have a “Save America, Eat at Tiny’s” bumper sticker on my car and subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, where do you suggest that I do my grocery shopping? Will it affect your answer if I reveal that I also subscribe to Bass Player magazine?

    I saw a car with a Green Bay Packers sticker in the Muni’s lot the other day, does that mean that Chicago Bears fans need to buy their booze in Dundas? The bookstore sells Rolling Stone magazine, are we to interpret this to mean that classical music fans not welcome there?

    This post struck me as at best insipid and at worst destructive, does this indicate you no longer have anything of value to offer to the community? When considered with your recent snow sculpture post and on-going obsession with the kiosk, should Tracy and I consider sending you to the “farm” for old dogs?

    Just asking questions or rolling logs,


    December 19, 2008
  2. David Henson said:

    The Utne Reader used to be a balanced alternative press sampler where ultra conservative articles were published alongside ultra liberal and the unorthodox. But over time Tom’s toothpaste type advertisers clearly pushed for a more pure liberal only content policy – the magazine is not nearly as edgy or interesting. There is probably a lesson in that for blogs and coops – unfortunately that lesson maybe a mindless adherence to one POV creates more predictable cash flow.

    December 19, 2008
  3. Rob Hardy said:

    I kind of have to agree with Ross, assuming his true feelings are buried in there with all the sarcasm! I don’t see the point in courting divisiveness.

    On the bumper sticker front, I loved looking at the bumper stickers on cars parked around the campus of the University of St. Thomas when I taught there in the fall semester of 2005. The same cars would have “He’s Not My President” stickers and “No to War in Iraq” stickers and “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” stickers. Were the car owners simply schizophrenic or confused? No, they had a consistent pro-life stance, and recognized that the death and destruction as a result of Bush’s war is inconsistent with a “culture of life.”

    Did I feel uncomfortable, as a pro-choice Protestant, at the University of St. Thomas? Not at all. I respected and admired my students (most of them were St. John Vianney pre-seminarians), and I learned from them. I realized that there is more to be gained from listening and conversing respectfully, than from counting bumper stickers and sorting people into irreconcilable camps.

    Some people might get worked up about Mother Jones on sale at the co-op, just as other people get worked up about Rick Warren preaching at the inauguration. I’m just not one of those people.

    December 19, 2008
  4. Nick Waterman said:

    C’mon, this really does seem like more heat than light. Where are the organic foods, Guatemalan fair trade hats, and Utne Reader at Farm and Fleet? Any business has limited space and is going to sell things it imagines or knows will appeal to its demographic. Now that organic foods are appearing more and more in the mainstream, e.g. walmart and target, maybe that demographic will include a broader group. But historically, it’s hardly controversial or surprising that the coop demographic, concerned with healthy food, sustainable agriculture, fair trade, etc., leans left.

    December 19, 2008
  5. Paul Fried said:

    I saw three conservatives in the Co-op just the other day. It was like bumping into someone you knew to be an undercover agent at a peace rally.

    But then I noticed a conservative in a picture, hanging from the ceiling, promoting the Co-op. This was inspiring.

    I think the Co-op is doing a good job reaching out to the greedy fascist-corporate-capitalist scum, attempting to make them feel welcome too (insert smile and wink).

    In the end, I think the conservatives have more to fear from this than the left; more of them might start reading Michael Pollan, and start thinking about organic, locally-grown, hormone-free food as being more healthy for their kids.

    But the left will be changed and challenged: Corporate agriculture is waking up to the organic market, which makes mass-produced organic food more competitive with locally-grown stuff.

    When people stop preaching to the choir and reach out beyond ideological boundaries, it’s a wilderness out there. Anything can happen. Just don’t leave home without your garlic and wolf-bane (and if you’re Catholic, your rosary).

    December 19, 2008
  6. Rob Hardy said:

    And, Griff, pointing out that the co-op stocks the Utne Reader is a case of the pot calling the kettle black: “NCO was born at an Utne Reader Neighborhood Salon at Griff’s house in December of 1991” (from your own “Historical Roots of Locally Grown” page).

    December 19, 2008
  7. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I can’t imagine any conservative objecting to Just Foods marketing to their clients.

    December 19, 2008
  8. john george said:

    I don’t have bumper stickers on my autos. I prefer to shop incognito:-) And I do shop at Just Foods, even though I am not a member. I don’t bow down at the alter of food. I prefer to base my life on this statement, ” …It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him. It is what comes out of it…” and Romans 14.

    December 19, 2008
  9. Mary Schier said:

    I don’t usually comment on “political” discussions, but for Just Foods, I’ll make an exception.

    I’m a Republican, fairly conservative, and one of the first 150 people to join the Coop. I joined because at the time Northfield desperately needed more competition in the grocery area and Ron Griffiths (a driving force in Just Foods’ founding) made a convincing argument on economic grounds that the coop could succeed. I was willing to bet $125 on his logic and it’s turned out to be a pretty good wager. The coop itself is wonderful (clean, well-stocked, friendly) and it has sparked real improvements in the two other grocery stores in town. The reason I continue to do much of my grocery shopping at the coop is that its produce is consistently much better than at the other two stores. It costs more, yes, but I don’t throw half of it away because it’s rotten, either. (Conservatives hate waste!)

    For a better product and increased business competition, I can avert my eyes from a few bumper stickers.

    December 19, 2008
  10. Curt Benson said:

    In addition to underserving its clientele by not selling “Guns and Ammo” magazine, Just Food is missing the boat by not selling magazines like “Cosmopolitan”. Recently I spied a copy of Cosmo at the supermarket checkout that touted an article titled “How to be just bitchy enough”.

    Imagine that you are a Just Food customer struggling with the bitchyness issue. You’d be out of luck. But thanks to the internet you can explore this issue here:

    December 19, 2008
  11. David Henson said:

    Robbie – and Unilever owns Ben & Jerrys

    From Unilever website: ” 160 million times a day, someone somewhere chooses a Unilever product ” (SHOP LOCAL !) I hope they are not going to take a run at Nicks Eggs

    December 19, 2008
  12. Bright Spencer said:

    Yeah, and a ‘liberal’ friend of mine owns stock in Clorox. :

    December 19, 2008
  13. Tracy Davis said:

    Griff, given the demographics of Northfield, I think it’s much more likely that there’s simply a statistical correlation between people who put slogans on their cars and those who shop at co-ops.

    Or maybe it’s just stuff white people like:

    As you walk through Whole Foods/Co-op you will see white people pushing carts buying things like Flaxseed Oil, wine, Tofu versions of meat, and organic kohlrabi. They also provide prepared foods, that single white people often purchase to avoid cooking.

    December 19, 2008
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    Y’all gave me some good laughs.  

    But seriously, while I think Guns and Ammo / Cosmo titles would be ‘over the top’  for the Co-op to stock in its magazine rack, I think it would be better to either balance the political magazines with some right-leaning ones or avoid the political periodicals altogether.  Green conservatives / crunchy cons are a customer segment for the Co-op. Why not be a little more accommodating to nice folks like Mary, George and David who like to shop there?

    December 19, 2008
  15. Rick Esse said:

    I think the larger issue, which Ross indirectly pointed out, is illegal immigration. What is a car with a Green Bay Packer bumper sticker doing in the Muni parking lot?

    They swim across the river, take our jobs, and now they’re buying our beer? As if they don’t have enough of their own.

    Let’s build a wall down the middle of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers and stop the Cheesehead Menace. I fear it may already be too late.

    And Ross, Bears fans should buy their booze in Illinois, not Dundas.

    December 20, 2008
  16. David Koenig said:

    This Bears fan is going to buy his booze in Northfield!

    December 20, 2008
  17. Paul Zorn said:

    I’m with Nick Waterman, in #4 above — the Coop, like other businesses, takes its best shot at stocking the stuff they expect or imagine their customers will want to buy. That Guns and Ammo and The American Mathematical Monthly are missing says less to me about the Coop management’s antipathy to ordnance or to mathematics than it does about management’s hunch, right or wrong, that these journals would attract few buyers.

    To some degree, of course, stocking and pricing practices at a Coop (as opposed to an ordinary store) do and should reflect the preferences and values of its customers — many of whom are also its investors and so have some skin in the game. As a Coop investor myself, I like to support local agriculture and to enjoy its better-tasting results, and I’m willing to pay some premium to promote this interest. I’d be annoyed as a customer, but also as an investor, if management replaced all vegetable products from the Cannon Valley with cheaper counterparts from the Imperial Valley.

    The bottom line for me is that our Coop does a good job of representing and balancing the various and varying preferences and values of its customers. And it’s a friendly place — nothing like the dank and dingy Seattle coop I remember from yore, where the food came with self-righteous harangues on nutrition and the posters hailed the glorious Albanian socialist leader Enver Hoxha.

    December 20, 2008
  18. Matt Bailey said:

    Just Food is a for-profit business, not a public library. They have absolutely no obligation to stock magazines that only a few, if any, customers will buy.

    I prefer Jif peanut butter and have eaten that brand exclusively since childhood. And a lot of other people like it, too. But I don’t expect Just Food to carry it because I know their customers likely prefer organic or natural peanut butter, and I can easily get it somewhere else. And it wouldn’t even faze me if every car in the parking lot had a bumper sticker on it that said “Impeach Jif.”

    December 20, 2008
  19. john george said:

    I just thought of something here. If Just Food sells magazines, then it really isn’t just food. Perhaps they should consider a new name- Organic Food and Inorganic Publications? (As if it really mattered to me, which it doesn’t.)

    December 20, 2008
  20. Mike McGovern said:

    This is my first attempt at a blog. I am not sure I have broken some conservative code by writing to you all but it is the Season of Christmas and confession is good for the soul, or is that Lent.

    It seems that my wife and I may have been two of the three conservatives that Paul Fried saw at the open house last week. He seemed quite startled to see us there. I did not recognize the third member of our cult but it was crowded and I may have missed whoever it was. I had read in my newsletter that there would be lots of free food that evening so I figured being a conservative I couldn’t pass up a free meal, apparently liberals like a free meal too.

    For the person who was concerned about the type of vehicles found in the parking lot. You will know when I am at Just Foods because you will see a big black Suburban with no bumper stickers, I am secure in my beliefs. If it is cold, it will be running, now that gas is back to a reasonable price.

    If there is a group of conservatives out there in the blogosphere that are interested and members of Just Food maybe we could form a little coffee club at the store, just like over at Blue Monday. I hear we have a great deli.
    Thank you for reading, I think.

    December 20, 2008
  21. David Beimers said:

    As a member, I’m pretty comfortable asking the coop to stock products (including magazines) in which I’m interested in purchasing (and think others would likely appreciate as well). If you are a member Griff, you could ask them to carry Guns and Ammo and see what they say.

    December 20, 2008
  22. David Henson said:

    Maybe a more inclusive name like “Just Food, Beer, Bait and Ammo”

    December 21, 2008
  23. Alex Beeby said:

    Co-op hat off (if possible): A cursory look at Locally Grown might leave someone with the impression that it is only for those who jump to spurious conclusions based on hearsay, then proceed to flame on without fear of offending someone to their face. But while those people might feel particularly comfortable here, and thus become prevalent, there are plenty of others who value critical thinking and engaging both here and in the physical world.

    Similarly, there are aspects to the co-op that liberals (comprising much of the Northfield community, according to recent elections) find appealing. At the same time, there are things that conservatives find appealing – supporting local economies for one. Plus there are those aspects that appeal to both such as the religious (conservative and liberal) aspect concerning our stewardship of the earth mandate from God. Some of the most extremely (almost to the point of cracked) liberal and conservative people I know (to remain nameless) shop at the co-op precisely due to their beliefs.

    Co-op hat on (unofficially):

    As to the magazines (and newspapers), they are a courtesy, and we make pretty much nothing on them. Consequently, we let our distributor pick our selection, so we don’t have to spend valuable time dealing with it. That said, the magazines we carry are the ones people purchase most, with cooking and yoga magazines ranking at the top.

    p.s. (Personal) I see plenty of Bush ’04 bumper stickers in the parking lot, and I would think that would be the most embarrassing one of all to have – regardless of your political affiliation.

    December 21, 2008
  24. David Henson said:

    Just Food is very well run and has a lot of items unavailable at the other grocery stores in Northfield. I am sure founding the store and operating the store are a huge undertaking. I hope it’s ok to shop there for ingredients, deli, taste without trying to fit those purchases into an overarching world view (ecological or religious).

    December 21, 2008
  25. Alex Beeby said:

    David has a good point: While some people are ideologically oriented in their grocery shopping, there are many people who shop at the co-op for other reasons. For example, some people shop at Just Food simply because they are ideologically oriented to eating food that tastes good — I have to admit that this motivates many of my decisions.

    December 21, 2008
  26. David Henson said:

    Alex – To me what is cool about Just Food is that it represents freedom in America. People are free to conceive of an idea and if they have the energy and likeminded folks they are free to execute that idea and compete against existing institutions. Just Food is really competing against government policy in that Cub and Econo offer many brands with subsidized ingredients. What concerns me about the green movement (and more specifically the Obama administration) is my perception that they do not reject the semi-fascist marriage of government with big Ag, big Auto and big Housing which has lead America off course. Rather they seem to desire only to turn these super-governmental market distorting mechanisms to their own ends … the problem is their ends will be another disaster down the road. Just Food is changing America the way it should be changed by hard work, setting an example and listening to their consumer base.

    December 22, 2008
  27. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    As a raging conservative (well, on fiscal issues and economic justice for workers, read “lower taxes”) conservationist I have argued for some time that locally grown products and produce are critical to our future. The carrying capacity of land in this area was estimated in one writing to be about “10 acres per family”, which, if a family is 4 people, works out to Northfield needing almost 50,000 acres to be locally sustainable. Luckily we can afford to ship food from a goodly distance, but that is a bad plan for the long run. Just Foods give more than lip service to this idea, and therefore has me as a member in spite of the fact that I have to get my “The Economist” fix from a friend who graciously shares his subscription with me (a great example of recycling). I must admit that the atmosphere at Just Foods would be a bit chilly if I were the sort of social chameleon who attempts to become invisible, but as people are learning I tend to be a bit of a contrarian who is unwilling to let people go through life without examining their assumptions. That’s why I moderate Politics and a Pint the way I do and it is why I wrote my Just Foods membership number on the back of my NRA membership card. I do this partly to help defuse the antipathy some feel toward my type (just as other groups have) by not hiding is some closet so as to not offend the easily offended. Although the management does not actually pick the magazines (Alex, post #24), you can bet your investment dollar that the person who does pick them knows the target audience and will feed them materials that do not challenge their beliefs. The fact that conservatives are not well served simply reflects the narrow viewpoint of that marketing expert.

    But heck, I don’t buy magazines targeted at mass audiences anyway, so it is a non-issue. As for the rest, I enjoy shopping at Just Foods, I could have been one of the three conservatives Paul F (#5) saw. And, Paul, you are exactly on the mark when you say that preaching to the choir is not the way to build bridges and create a truly inclusive culture. But more than preaching, it is dialog that best serves to keep us from spinning off into a dark closet of self-perpetuating fantasies about what “they” are thinking. Maybe I’ll start a Saturday “Politics and Soup” lunch meeting at the Co-op this spring to continue to spread the conversation. Anyone, anyone?

    December 22, 2008
  28. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    And as for Griff throwing gasoline on a raging fire … even if he tried, his audience (that’s us) are well behaved enough that we quickly turn that heat into light … (usually)

    December 22, 2008
  29. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: On Saturday, I counted 7 or 8 foreign cars and only 2 American cars.

    December 22, 2008
  30. Eric Johnson said:

    David L, your identification of “foreign” versus “American” cars in a parking lot reminds me of a city council meeting many years ago. Before the meeting the police chief was chiding several council members for driving foreign cars. They were Honda Accords made in Ohio. An agenda item that evening included approving specs for new police cruisers which required they be V-8 powered and rear-wheel drive. The only car to meet the specs was the Ford Crown Victoria made in Canada.

    My point is that “foreign” cars that you might spot around town are as likely to be made in Kentucky or Ohio as in Osaka.

    December 22, 2008
  31. Rob Hardy said:

    And Griff originally illustrated this story with a liberally bumper-stickered American-made Pontiac Grand Prix.

    December 22, 2008
  32. David Ludescher said:

    Eric: I just thought it was ironic that Just Food promotes locally grown foods, and so many of the clientele are supporting foreign companies.

    December 22, 2008
  33. john george said:

    This whole controversy about locally produced foods and foreign cars just points out to me how bi-polar we are in this country. On the one hand, we push for all our commerce and investment to stay local, yet we advocate the foreign policy of a “global economy”. Somehow, this is just a disconnect for me.

    Back to Just Foods, the reason I shop there has only to do with the specific food/produce I happen to need. I have a college student this year in my Tuesday night supper group who has a sensitivty to gluten. Just Foods has the best variety of gluten free products in town, and a very helpful staff for directions on how to add variety to this diet. I really don’t care what they have on their news stand, as long as it isn’t pornography. I think they are doing a good job, and I will continue to support them.

    December 22, 2008
  34. john george said:

    David H.- (Warning- thread drift ahead!)Your comment, “…What concerns me about the green movement (and more specifically the Obama administration) is my perception that they do not reject the semi-fascist marriage of government with big Ag, big Auto and big Housing which has lead America off course…” seems like a reasonable scenario when your philosophy is “Big Government”. Supposedly, our representative system is supposed to link the government with the common man who is not a “Big” anything. This is where we have had a disconnect over the last few decades, as more and more large industries with large amounts of money behind them have had more effect on governance than the voting power of the common man. When Wellstone started out, he was for “the little guy”, but even he got sucked into the vortex of big government inside the beltway and reneged on his promise to only serve one term. But, so much for thread drift.

    December 22, 2008
  35. David Henson said:

    John – I think it is fair to say the elected national leaders look after the interests of their funders first and the consumers of government services (taxpayers) a distant second. Maybe we should join Bruce for some his ‘free range soup’ sessions. But Alex may understandably want that discussion somewhere less visible than the Yoga magazines.

    December 23, 2008
  36. Bright Spencer said:

    Bruce Morlan’s idea for Politics and Soup (see post #28, last paragraph)is a good one!

    December 23, 2008
  37. john george said:

    David- I think you hit the nail on the head about our representatives. “Free range soup” sessions? What a title! Would that be chicken soup? …Oops! I’d better not start down that road! I wouldn’t want to hit any chickens trying to cross it.

    Bruce- I actually like the idea of some different setting, not that I have anything against the Cow. I like it, but the pint doesn’t attract me. Also, most of my Sunday evenings are tied up.

    December 24, 2008
  38. […] been having fun with Just Food Co-op lately on LoGroNo (here and here) and so, since I’m a long-time member, I thought I’d try to redeem myself for these […]

    December 26, 2008
  39. Nick Waterman said:

    David, re post #33, I don’t think cars made by “foreign” companies at a “local movement” coop are any more problematic or amusing than America-firsters shopping at Walmart for cheap Chinese goods which have replaced those formerly made by their forebears and relatives. And parking there in their “american” cars full of foreign made parts.

    December 27, 2008
  40. David Ludescher said:

    Nick: I didn’t find it problematic nor amusing; I found it ironic. I’ve heard comments that we should promote Just Food because it has locally grown food. It would seem that the same philosophy should apply to all products.

    December 27, 2008
  41. Bright Spencer said:

    We support locally grown food and other things if they are available when we need or want them. When they are not, we buy from which ever country is providing the item.
    This is how we cover each other’s backs in
    times of drought, fire, all natural and political disasters.
    Three years ago, we tried to buy a Honda Civic to replace our 42mph Ford Aspire that was totalled by a truck. Couldn’t find one within a thousand miles for three months. Had to buy a Pontiac. Pontiac parts made everywhere, just like the Honda. Bigger car, but don’t drive it as much, it can all work out…it’s a crazy wonderful world out there.

    December 27, 2008
  42. Bruce Anderson said:

    David L,

    If I were able to buy a vehicle produced by a company in the Northfield area (or that employed locals at a manufacturing plant) that gives me the same utility as the 1998 VW Jetta TDI or 2001 VW Jetta TDI (five passenger capacity, safe, 50+ MPG highway, 45+ MPG average all-around, year-around) owned by my family, I would do it in a flash. There were no Chevrolet, Ford or Chrysler products in those years that remotely challenged the diesel Jetta in terms of safety, efficiency, or ability to use biofuels (biodiesel being my flawed-but-still-prefered choice of poisons), three of my primary considerations. In the 2009 vehicle year, there are STILL no domestic vehicles I would like to own (or imports that are much of an improvement, for that matter). (BTW, I walk or ride my American-made Trek mountain bike with panniers to shop at the co-op as often as I can.) I support the co-op because of the food choices it offers the community, the support it provides for local food producers, and because, as a Notorious Local Leftist, I like the cooperative ownership model.

    I don’t think there is anything ironic about supporting high-quality local food producers (or any other product, service or economic activity) with my dollars, but participating in the global economy as necessary (i.e. when there are no local, or even domestic, alternatives). Furthermore, as several others have noted above, auto manufacturing is such a global game that there isn’t always a whole lotta difference between a “domestic” vehicle and an “import” other than corporate ownership. I’m not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about supporting the Big (But Perpetually Shrinking, While Still Begging for Government Largesse) Three with my dollars just now.

    Start a local company that produces a high-quality plug-in electric car, and I’ll be your first customer!

    December 27, 2008
  43. Nick Waterman said:

    I can’t do any better than Bruce there. I just think that “ironic” thing is often used on anyone from the left when a matter of ethics or morals is at the forefront. Locally grown coops with foreign cars, vegetarians with leather shoes, peaceniks with stock in Raytheon, what have you. While these small potatoes arguments go on and on, the FAR larger matters of hypocrisy on the right are unchallengable, because righteousness surrounds them all. Thus is makes perfect sense to be anti-abortion but pro-war, or pro-fiscal conservatism but voting for proven republican profligates, etc. These sorts of ironies never seem to get any traction, whereas the kind that David L. points out (and which, as Bruce shows, aren’t necessarily ironic at all) get lots of play. My favorite among these is the old who-can-trust-Al-Gore-on-global-warming-when
    he-lives-in-a-big-house–and flies- in-private-jets thing. Utter nonsense.

    December 27, 2008
  44. David Ludescher said:

    Nick and Bruce: I think that Just Food has found a good market niche.

    December 27, 2008
  45. Peter Millin said:

    I am all for supporting local or American made products, as long as it makes financial sense.
    Financial sense not only when it comes to cost but when it comes to reliability and quality.
    My personal experience with American cars has been less then good. Usually engines and transmissions are on par with foreign made cars and in some cases I prefer the more plushy feel of an American made car over the spartanic feel of a foreign car, but this is where it ends.
    Poor handling, poor workmanship and a lesser degree on reliability offset the previously mentioned advantages.
    After buying American brands for the last 18 years own now two Japanese brands (made in America)

    Relying on fruits and vegetables locally grown in a Minnesota winter doesn’t really make any sense. Part of the reason why people live longer today is the availability of vitamin rich food all year around. Minnesota fresh fruit and vegetable supply in the winter month is limited at best.

    More concerning to me that where our supply of food comes from is the quality of foods that are available.

    December 29, 2008
  46. Nick Waterman said:

    I agree with you Peter, about “when it makes economic sense,” but I think we all have different ways of counting this. When we look at a $10 umbrella or a $3 lawn sprinkler, is it “cheaper” than the $20 umbrella or the $12 lawn sprinkler? Sure, obviously. Unless it is crud and we will have to buy a new spinkler/umbrella every year. Or, trickier, perhaps they’re the same quality but one plant is adhering to air quality standards, offers its workers a retirement plan, and is located in Minnesota. Personally, and within reason only, I will gladly choose the second — once several years ago, I saw a package for something that explained, right on the front of the box, this is more expensive than the China-made version because a,b.c.d, and I think more companies should take this tack, boldly displaying an American flag and, if they can honestly claim it, explaining why it’s actually to our ultimate economic advantage to buy this seemingly more expensive product. Who among us would not trade back our housefuls of Chinese crap for a sound economy? If only we could!

    December 29, 2008
  47. john george said:

    Nick & Peter- You have some really good points about quality on some items. It is a little diffucult to get locally grown fresh produce in the winter months. The only thing close is the hydroponically grown tomatoes. These leave something to be desired, in my opinion.

    I work in the furniture industry, and over the last few years there has been a mass exodus of furniture production off shore. The reason being is that the greatest expense in any piece of furniture, be it wood or upholstery, is the labor to make it. Wood (what we call case goods) production has seen leaps and bounds in quality over the last ten years. During that time, something like 85% of our exports to China has been manufacturing machinery. The furniture we now get shipped from China looks just like the furniture made in North Carolina because it is made with the same machinery. The difference is the labor factor. Domestic is about ten times off shore. This makes for some really good values in this catagory, but I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot by doing this. But I feel like I am trying to dam up Niagra Falls with a teacup in trying to affect any change in this economic trend.

    I worked with a fellow a few years ago who would tell customers with sticker shock, “You only cry once when you buy quality.” I think you allude to that in how long something lasts. The problem with furniture is that many times a person will only purchase one, or possibly two bedroom sets in their lifetime if they purchase a well made set. There is really nothing to wear out on something like that. The secret is in the drawer construction, as these are the only moving parts on bedroom furniture. It used to be easy to point out the difference in construction to justify the difference in price. Now, with the construction the same, it is very difficult to justifying spending twice as much on a domestically made set. This is one downfall of embracing a global economy.

    December 29, 2008
  48. Nick Waterman said:

    thanks, John, for that challenging example. we did buy some $150 per Amish chairs for our dining table over the $25 ones at ikea, but you’re right that it’s a tough sell to pay ten times as much….es[pecially if the quality, as you say, is truly comparable. still, i do think if we did more to put the reasons for the cost differences, it would make a difference to some people.

    December 30, 2008
  49. john george said:

    Nick- Country of origin does indeed make a difference to some people. They will not buy something made in China no matter how much money it might “save” them. I really applaud these people, but, unfortunately, they are in the minority. Others do not see the long range effects, and are only delighted that they can purchase a higher quality set than if they only had domestically produced goods to chose from. There are many furniture companies, family owned in many cases, who have been forced to close their doors because they were too small to make the jump to off-shore production to remain price competitive. When the price of oil started going up, I thought this would be the equalizing force needed to move production back Stateside, but with the drop in price again, I don’t think it is going to have any effect.

    December 30, 2008
  50. Ray Cox said:

    Folks, lots of interesting thoughts about commerce, vehicles, countries of origin, etc. Maybe this thread should be expanded to: Is Northfield conservative/Republican friendly? Are our businesses, churches, colleges, and organizations friendly to conservatives/Republicans?

    December 31, 2008
  51. Peter Millin said:

    John & Nick

    Not many people can afford to pay $150 for a dining room chair.
    For most people this decision is more about money then patriotism.
    Even if the $ 25 chair only lasts 5 years I can buy five more before I am on par with the Amish chair.

    Don’t misunderstand me, without a doubt the Amish chair is nicer and much better made, but there is always the reality of money…sorry.

    December 31, 2008
  52. Nick Waterman said:

    Peter, You’re totally right — I guess, in this instance, I’m talking about someone who *could* spend that on a dining room chair. In my case, the house I bought is worth less than half of what I could have been approved for, my car is 11 years old, and the chairs were a splurge. I love knowing they could go on to another life as chairs (as opposed to landfill). So while I agree that money is a big factor, we all figure things differently — one person’s necessity of a newer car or a nicer house makes other things luxuries. Of course, all of this is bs if you’re really living hand-to-mouth (as opposed to the self-imposted hand-to-mouth many of us live by living beyond our means.). And not for nothing, Ray, I’m glad no one has taken you up on your offer to have a discussion of whether conservatives are welcome in town and at the colleges; that feels *way* more like an invitation to a fight than anything else. I frankly think that on the whole, Northfielders and northfield institutions go out of their way to try to make everyone welcome.

    January 1, 2009
  53. john george said:

    Peter- I’ll go back to my quote in post #48, “You only cry once when you buy quality.” I agree with Nick on this. So much depends on your expectations and priorities. Good quality wood furniture just doesn’t wear out. My dining chairs I use every day are close to 100 yrs. old. I purchased them used at an estate sale 26 years ago. My 5 children grew up using them and I still use them today. I’m sure that I paid at least 6 or 7 times their original price when I purchased them, but they were still less expensive than new. It is this type of “sustainability”, if you will, that I think we could use more of in this country. The whole concept of disposability for convenience sake only violates my sense of value of longevity. And, I don’t but new cars, either. In fact, it has just been in the last few years that my wife and I felt we could afford cars less than 10 years old.

    January 1, 2009
  54. john george said:

    Ray- I’ll bite on your questions from post 50, “Is Northfield conservative/Republican friendly? Are our businesses, churches, colleges, and organizations friendly to conservatives/Republicans.” Of course they are, or at least say they are. To be otherwise would be considered “intolerant.”

    January 1, 2009
  55. Paul Fried said:

    Thanks to Mike McGovern for outing himself and spouse as conservatives. Maybe I saw five that day…

    And thanks to Bruce for the kind words on the virtues of not only preaching to the choir. Bruce, I see your topic for Politics&Pint this Sunday is Art & Economics. I may join you.

    One of the things (of many) that I like about the co-op is that their offerings of rBST-free dairy now includes not only (expensive) organic butter, but also (less expensive) rBST butter. I like their cheese selection, but wish that more of it would be labeled as such if it’s rBST-free. Some of the larger corporate dairy companies label their milk as such, but not their cheese.

    This discussion and its thread-drifts highlights the fact that we have very fuzzy definitions of what it means to be conservative. If it means to value the time-tested over newer-is-better, then conservatives would be against rBST in dairy products. If it means to serve the interests of economic leaders, then Toyota is just fine if it’s a market leader. If it means low price is the only bottom line, and if Wal*Mart delivers at low prices, then it’s a winner.

    The fact that some conservatives like the co-op at all demonstrates that there’s more to conservatism (and/or conservatives?) than some may have thought. Surprises can be a good thing.

    January 3, 2009
  56. Peter Millin said:

    Comparing an Amish chair to an IKEA chair is a bit extreme, there is a lot of good choices in between.

    Household choices are mostly about priorities. Some put an emphasis on quality furniture and some don’t. Most of ours is second hand and has lasted for some time now. Once our kids are gone most of our furniture will go with them or disposed off in one way or another.

    Sustainability is a great idea and we should all strive to be aware of it. But we have to stay away from extreme on both sides as always common sense should prevail and we should certainly do it in a way that it won’t hurt those that can’t afford it.

    January 3, 2009
  57. Ray Cox said:

    Paul F, this conservative certainly does not approve of the use of bovine growth hormones (BGH, Bst, etc,) to increase milk production and products. While serving on the school board I made sure our bid solicitations for milk alwalys required certification that the milk was BGH free. We never had problems getting quotes. I have not followed the board closely enough lately to know if they are continuing that practice.

    January 4, 2009
  58. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Sure, it’s great to have Just Food Coop where we can find some more healthy foods, some of them local.
    But are we ignoring the big picture? Hightower tells it like it is:

    Friday, January 2, 2009
    Posted by Jim Hightower

    Oh, this is just dandy! Hedge fund schemers and Wall Street manipulators -the very characters who brought us the Great American Housing Collapse –
    have a new target for their fast-buck profiteering: farming. EIEIO! Speculators have long messed with farmers by artificially manipulating prices on
    everything from corn to soybeans. But now they’re pooling up billions of dollars from global investors to go after the farms themselves, as well as fertilizer plants, grain elevators, ships and barges, and other
    basic tools for producing, shipping, and storing our food supply. As one hedge-fund operator says; “It’s going on big time. There is considerable interest in what we call ‘owning structure.'”

    January 7, 2009

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