Whole Foods to open in Basalt

When Carbondale rancher Felix Tornare heard Whole Foods will open a store in Basalt and is interested in buying from local food producers, it seemed like a good opportunity for him.

“Being that close to home, down the block, would be perfect, I think, for them and us,” Tornare said.

Tornare, whose Milagro Ranch raises grass-fed beef, was a participant in a presentation by Whole Foods last week in New Castle at the annual Ag Day put on by local conservation districts.

“We do buy a lot of local produce and other local items,” said Robert Glover, produce/floral coordinator for Whole Foods’ Rocky Mountain region.

The natural foods store has 17 stores in Colorado, but all are in the eastern part of the state. It’s scheduled this summer to open a store of about 30,000 square feet and employ probably more than 100 people in Basalt.

Glover said Whole Foods is a decentralized company, which works to the advantage of local vendors.

“Even though we have our own warehouse, our store in Basalt can make the choice of what they want to carry in that store,” he said.

Dave Ruedlinger, Whole Foods’ meat coordinator for the region, said “local” within the region is defined as within seven hours of drive time, and the closer, the better.

Glover said suppliers have to meet certain liability insurance, packaging, food safety and other standards, and they must consider whether they’re willing to sell to Whole Foods at a cost that allows for a retail markup where the price is still competitive.

“We need to make sure it’s in line with the marketplace,” he said.

Theresa Rumery, a manager of Osage Gardens west of New Castle, said her greenhouse has been selling culinary herbs to Whole Foods stores in eastern Colorado, and she hopes to offer a larger array of products through its Basalt store.

“They’re an excellent customer to work with, very supportive of the local market,” she said.

Joanne Teeple, a board member with the Carbondale Community Food Co-op, attended last week’s event because she was curious about how Whole Foods’ interest in local growers might affect product availability for co-ops and farmers markets. She said she thinks things such as Whole Foods’ $2 million liability insurance requirement will keep a number of growers selling through those alternative venues instead.

And as far as customers go, “I don’t think people will abandon farmers markets to go to Whole Foods,” she added.

Glover said Whole Foods doesn’t view farmers markets so much as competition.

“I tend to look at it as a rising tide raises all boats and creates awareness” about local food, he said.

Growers may reach Glover at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 303-396-6702; and Ruedlinger can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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