Skip to content

Surprises at the Grocery Store

2011 August 19

Several years ago, I had one of those jobs. You know, the worst job you’ve ever had. Everybody has those. The stories we could share, right? And one of the many pains of this company was the person responsible for the software budget, officed in Cupertino, CA. Silicon Valley. Headquarters of Apple. Once ranked #2 by Forbes as the most educated small city in the U.S.

Anyway. One day, an emergency project came along in our little ole Northern Kentucky office, and I needed Photoshop. I called “Dano” [name changed, etc.] to get approval before running out to purchase a thousand dollars worth of software on my personal credit card.

His reply: “Of course it’s approved!” he chirps happily. [Long pause.] “I’m just not sure how to get it to you.”

Me: “What do you mean?” I asked, fingering my car keys and calculating time in my head. It’s 10 minutes there, 5 minutes in-store, 10 minutes back….

Dano: “Well, it’s a really large download and could take a while.”

Me: “What do you mean, ‘download?’ I’m not going to download this thing — that would take hours on our office connection. I’m just going to run out and buy the box.”

Dano: [crickets]

Me: “Hello?”

Dano: “Um, how do I put this? Do you guys even have software stores out there?”

Me: [headdesk]

So, what’s my point, you ask, Patient Reader? Irony, is my point. Oh, the irony.

While I do believe (and hope) that Dano’s ignorance of American geography and sociology was uniquely acute with him and only him, I do understand the general stereotyping of us “flyover states.” Yes, Ohio has a lot of farmland. But like every other state in this vast union, we do have cities … with ‘lectricity, software stores, Starbucks and everything.

In fact, I can see the international headquarters of Procter & Gamble from my office window, and Kroger’s headquarters is just a 5 minute horse-and-buggy ride from the livery.


No, the irony is that, here in the 21st century technology is always butting up against the natural world, and cities like Cincinnati often get the short end of the stick.

On the one hand, there are the Dano’s who think we roll off of a hay bale every morning at the crow of the rooster and plant our overalled butts in front of our Commodore 64s (as if anyone does that any more. Everyone knows that Windows 95 is where it’s at, man). But on the other hand — and even worse — there’s Kroger.

Kroger, who orchestrates a massive, twisty supply chain yarn ball to all points on the globe from this flyover city, can’t see the forest for the trees. Kroger, who is surrounded in every direction by farm land nurturing the most amazing local, organic crops of tomatoes and corn and berries and apples, still insists on bringing in produce from everywhere except here.

Imagine how thrilled I was to round the corner at Kroger, fresh from a stop at the farmers’ markets to pick up local San Marzano tomatoes for canning and other yummy heirlooms for salads, only to be faced with this display. In the lobby, no less, right next to the shopping carts.

Hydroponics? In August??  In the Midwest??

Really, Kroger? Really? I have a bagful of Brandywines in my car. Do you want me to bring them in, set them up? Can I make some introductions between you and the spectacular farmer who grew them? Because I know his name, even if you don’t.

[shakes head] Hydroponics shipped from where-the-hell-ever right into the heart of summer tomato land.

Dano would be shocked (mostly to learn there are paved highways leading to Cincinnati).

Me, I’m just flummoxed.


6 Responses
  1. August 19, 2011

    Oh, too funny. Cincinnati is such a neat city – it’s too bad those who don’t know don’t get it…

    I was in Cinci last week-end and very deliberately avoided the big-K :-) (although I did manage to wheedle a trip to Jungle Jim’s out of my brother). My sister-in-law used to be a P&G drone – she is much happier today working somewhere else.

    Hang in there – at least you can grow your own…

    • leafandgrain permalink*
      August 21, 2011

      I might’ve mentioned this before … Jungle Jim’s is building a second location much closer to where I live. I’m psyched about that!

      I sent an email to Kroger about the hydroponic tomatoes and local farmers. No response, but I did see that they were removed from the lobby. Now, I don’t pretend to think I have any kind of clout in this matter, but I’m glad they’re gone (people were buying them – gah!). What burns me about the whole thing is that there’s a large farmers’ market on Saturday mornings in the same parking lot. So, even if folks don’t shop farmers’ markets because of the inconvenience thing, there’s no excuse here. It’s literally, park your car, walk to the left = farmers’ market, walk to the right = Kroger. Both are doable in the same trip.

  2. August 22, 2011

    I’m very lucky to live in the big city of Chicago (heard of it?) where eating local has become kind of a big deal — even the Big Bowls out here (a chain) are starting to bring in produce from the local farms. Anyway, enjoyed your post and your blog!

    • leafandgrain permalink*
      August 22, 2011

      Yay, Chicago, for doin’ it right! I’m happy to say that many restaurants here do “get it” and proudly feature seasonal menus that match local availability. It’s Kroger that sticks right in my craw. They buy a small amount of local produce (and I do mean small – one skid’s worth of melons or corn) and plaster big signs all over the produce department blasting the tenuous local connection. Of all the markets where Kroger should be going local, it’s right here in its own home town, surrounded-on-four-sides-by-farmland Cincinnati.

  3. September 8, 2011

    Oh I feel your pain! When I moved to Utah, my sweet little niece asked me if there were malls there. She was worried about my shopping talents going to waste I guess.

    We are so blessed with wonderful Farmer’s Markets out here, but I know what you mean about the tomatoes. I stopped early in the year to pick up some at my local Farmer’s Market, and there was a guy there with a big sign, heirloom tomatoes from Southern Utah! I couldn’t wait to get it home to eat it, so I sliced one up right there and if it was awful! Mealy, tasteless, most assuredly ripened long after it was picked.

    I marched back and confronted the guy who sheepishly admitted that he had bought them at a grocery chain!

    It was so horrifying to me to think that I couldn’t trust my lovely little Farmer’s Market anymore, that I decided to just forget about it and go on as if it had never happened.

    I haven’t seen that particular vendor there all year and I haven’t had any similar experiences, thank goodness.

    • leafandgrain permalink*
      September 9, 2011

      Rocky, you are my hero!

      We have similar farmers’ market challenges here – the unscrupulous middlemen seek out the disorganized markets and sell until they’re caught. Back in May, there was a guy selling sweet corn. It’s not possible to grow and harvest sweet corn by May here. Hoop houses or not – germinating corn in a hoop house will only give you about a 3 week head start, which puts you about mid-June for first harvest. He was also selling red onions … with the sku stickers still affixed.

Comments are closed.