Mirthless Earthbound Farms

No drama on the Monterey Peninsula Monday, Dec. 30, unless you count the fact that we walked away from the Hotel Abrego with the hardcover copy of the Monterey guidebook from our room and had to drive back there after we’d checked out, to return it.

Fortunately we hadn’t traveled far when we discovered our accidental thievery – we were in Carmel, heading back from a rather disappointing outing to the Earthbound Farms farm stand.

How I looked before I knew any better

How I looked before I knew any better

I am a longtime Earthbound Farms produce purchaser – their arugula keeps me going through the winter in Edmonton – and I’d been looking forward to seeing their headquarters.

I’d imagined all kinds of friendly lettuce growers and arugula cultivators hanging out in a shack by the roadside, eager to meet with consumers such as myself, who come from the far north to see the birthplace of the greens that sustain us from October through June.

That just goes to show you how naïve and idealistic I am. Instead of a farmstand that sold everything that Earthbound grows, I walked into a faux-earthy mini-Sunterra market where I could pay too much for everything from flavored vinegar to bacon, all of it organic and all of it served up in unnecessarily seductive packaging. Isn’t the fact that it’s organic supposed to be seductive enough?

Actually, I didn’t find the fact that it was all organic to be seductive at all; after a while I found it redundant and irritating. EVERYTHING was organic: the chocolate bars, the olive oil, the salmon, the weird cheese. A very small fraction of the inventory was Earthbound Farms produce. (I bought some apples, which were very tasty. They also cost US$1.02 each.)

I am fairly certain that the people who worked at the place were wearing labels that said, “Organic.” If I’d gone into the public restroom, the toilets and sinks would probably have been labeled “organic.”

In case it’s not obvious, the experience made me feel hostile. Or maybe it was just the general unfriendliness of the people who worked there that made me feel hostile. I don’t know how I developed the impression that organic is a synonym for friendly, but for some reason I’ve always believed that people who work with organic produce should be friendlier than people who work at, say, Safeway, or Save-On Foods. I’ve bought into the myth that DDT abd other chemicals make people angry. (I’m still not sure how the anti-depressant industry fits into this myth. That’s for another blog post.)

Doesn't this look friendly and inviting? Don't be fooled.

Doesn’t this look friendly and inviting? Don’t be fooled. 

Something else that struck me as being all wrong at the “farmstand” – the boxed lettuce and mixed greens cost the same as they do in Edmonton. Call me crazy, but I expect to pay more for my greens in Edmonton if they’re grown in California and have to travel several thousand miles to reach my grocery store. But if the stuff is grown right on the premises and has to travel several hundred yards, shouldn’t the consumers get a little break on the price?

I guess this is why am a writer and not a businessperson.

So, Earthbound Farms was not worth the visit – but we wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t visited. We suffered so you don’t have to. No need to thank us.

A more worthwhile visit was our walk to the old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey in the morning, before we left town. This was the authentic wharf, with authentic fishermen, loading authentic (read: smelly) fish products onto authentic trucks. We spent a long time watching the sea lions swimming in the harbor and lying in the shade beneath the docks, barking at each other.

Please, please let me in.

Please, please, can’t I come up, too?

I made it!

I made it!

We drove up to San Francisco through Gilroy, home of the annual garlic festival. Sadly, the festival isn’t until July, but we stopped and looked at the many garlic products at Garlic World, just off Highway 101. I bought two heads of garlic. Now I have to scour the Canada Border Services Agency web site to find out if garlic is a prohibited substance. Feel free to inform me if you know anything.

We reached San Francisco at around 4 p.m. and are settling into our hotel, the Mayflower, which will be our home until we return to Edmonton on Saturday. The Mayflower is a small, old, family-owned hotel, four blocks from Union Square. It’s very comfortable and the people who run it seem quite friendly. We took their advice about finding a restaurant for dinner and wound up at a terrific Thai place a few blocks away. The food was so good we’re thinking we might wind up eating there again tomorrow!


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