Thursday, March 10, 2005

Supporting Local Women-Owned Businesses for Women's Month & How Thinking Locally IS Thinking Globally 

Right now in downtown Philadelphia there is only one woman-owned health food store left. It's called Natural Goodness, located on the corner of 20th & Chestnut. The owner's name is Beverly, and like all the independently owned natural foods stores, she has been struggling against the tide of so-called natural foods Super stores, such as Fresh Fields (Whole Foods), and Trader Joe's.


There are many reasons, but for one reason, these are people who stimulate our local economy by putting their money back into other local businesses instead of a giant corporate office many miles away. One way they do this is by supporting local cottage industry, something which is about to collapse in America as local independently owned natural food stores collapse.


I'm sure there are many reasons we could think of to answer this. One very important reason though is ingredients. In my travels across this country I have always tried to find local, independently owned health food stores to shop in. Almost always, you will find local producers of tofu, seitan, cookies and all kinds of other health food products. When you compare the ingredients labels of these products with those of the big national brands you can see the difference right away. For instance, tofu. A big named brand of tofu--probably the biggest--is Nasoya. Nasoya doesn't have Nigari as one of its ingredients, probably because they can't be bothered with all the processing involved with Nigari. But without Nigari, our bodies DO NOT digest the tofu as it should be, and therefore we don't get all the nutrients we need from the bean curd. Your local tofu makers KNOW how important Nigari is for us, and I have yet to find a local tofu maker (whether in Philadelphia, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Chicago, Asheville, Memphis, Norfolk, etc.,) who does not make sure Nigari is in the tofu.


There are many, many examples of why, and how, but in the case of natural food stores, let's stay with the example of Nigari in the tofu for a minute more. In eating well, in eating the very best we can, our bodies and our lives will and do change for the best. Eating foods which not only have the proper ingredients, but also eating foods which are made by hand, locally, has a wide-ranging spiritual ingredient, one that machines cannot reproduce. Anyone who has ever had any experience with Reiki, Bio Feedback, or any other form of NaturoPath healing, KNOWS how the human body responds to other human bodies. When food is made by hand, especially by someone who cares deeply about the ingredients, the preparation, etc, that person transmits that care into the food well beyond the physical product. Doing the best we can for our bodies and our lives reflects and affects many other bodies and lives around us, and THIS is how the global is designed from the local. In an age where world leaders want the reverse to shape us (global to shape the local), it's ESSENTIAL we see what it is we will be giving up if we allow these local businesses to fail.

We will ultimately fail ourselves by letting these businesses fail.


The numbers stand today as less than 1% of owned businesses in the world are owned by women. In America many of us don't yet seem to realize what an amazingly rare thing it is to have women-owned businesses. Beverly, at the corner of 20th & Chestnut in Philadelphia, is a rare an amazing person. She's a true maverick! You should stop in there and talk to her, you'll soon see what I mean. Despite all odds she is still there, and she's not going until they drag her out of there. Her dedication to the health of Philadelphia's macrobiotic and vegetarian community is no small effort, especially these days. The reason I'm writing this at all is because of Beverly. With the new Trader Joe's just blocks away, she has to actually start selling free-range meats. This is something she has NEVER wanted to do, but is left without choice at this point. Not only that, she's now installed a State Lottery machine, in other words she's doing everything she can to stay alive. All she needs is for all of us to take notice, and walk in there, and support her.

Without Beverly and the few remaining independently owned health food stores in Philadelphia, our local cottage industry of health foods cannot survive. And this is mainly because Fresh Fields and Trader Joe's have their own brand names, as well as big national brand names, and REFUSE to carry locally made foods. This is a fact, because I have ASKED them if they will carry the locally made products, and they simply say No.

Help me say No back to them! In fact, I don't just want to say No, I want to say Fuck YOU! We really are sitting at a fork in the road. Let's work together and do our best to help the local build the global.

"If we give our money to KFC, we're paying for a life of misery for some of God's most helpless creatures." --The Reverend Al Sharpton Calls for KFC Boycott for 2005

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