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Portland Maine-area farmers shun Boulder, Colo.-based natural foods supermarket

(Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Tux Turkel, Portland Press Herald, via Agnet: Maine Organic potato farmer Jim Cook is not, according to this story, a fan of Wild Oats Markets, the natural foods supermarket that opened a store four weeks ago on Portland's Marginal Way.

The story says that Cook organized an $8,000 newspaper advertising campaign last month with 17 farmers that supply restaurants and natural foods stores in the Portland area.

Headlined, "it's about community, ethics & business," the ad thanked the public for buying locally produced food and listed the stores and restaurants where (these products can be found.

The ad didn't mention Wild Oats.

The omission was intentional.

Wild Oats is one of the nation's largest natural foods supermarket chains.

It leased 22,000 square feet directly across the parking lot from The Whole Grocer, a locally owned natural foods and organic market on the site since 1998.

And with the help of advertising and public relations efforts, including a food giveaway on its opening day, Wild Oats has been drawing crowds. Sales have exceeded projections, according to the store's manager.

Behind the ad, then, was an unspoken message: Wild Oats is a big corporation that will drive The Whole Grocer out of business and then abandon local farmers.

"Wild Oats doesn't have a commitment to Maine agriculture," Cook said, "even though they will give lip service that they do."

This contention is disputed by Scott Reed, manager of the new Wild Oats store. The company supports local producers and vendors, Reed said. During a recent tour of the store, Reed noted several local products, including bread, granola, apple cider, milk and honey. The company also maintains that it can coexist with The Whole Grocer by drawing more shoppers to the area.