May 25, 2011

Inbox — May 25, 2011

Letters to the Editor

Wise Grasshoppers
Recently, Carden Willis wrote a letter regarding your story on Grasshoppers Distribution (LEO Weekly, May 18). While I understand the writer’s frustration with Grasshoppers’ use of the term CSA, they are not the evil corporate giant he makes them out to be. Yes, in the event of crop failure, I carry the burden, not the subscriber. But, they do offer many other things just as valuable. Grasshoppers has provided me — a meat and vegetable farmer — exposure to a huge market I would not be able to access myself. They have promoted me in their weekly newsletters, adding to our farm’s name recognition. They offer to buy a specific amount of produce over the course of the season. Grasshoppers has taken a burden off us by committing to purchase huge amounts of produce in early March, months before CSA subscriptions would be in.

They were correct in saying Grasshoppers pays the wholesale rate for produce while selling direct to consumers yields the full retail value. But how long does it take me to sell 300 pounds of cabbage? How many trips to the farmers market, how many CSA baskets? Selling to Grasshoppers allows us to sell huge amounts in a single transaction, greatly reducing time spent marketing and selling.

And what happens when the large institutions want to buy local? Hospitals and schools do not have the organizational manpower to buy vegetables from 30 different farmers to be able to put a local salad on their menu. For the local food economy to grow, we must have an organization like Grasshoppers to make that connection to large-scale buyers. Small farmers simply aren’t able to do it. And for local farmers worried about this conundrum, look what happened on the beef side to “fix” this problem. We ended up with “Kentucky Proud” beef that was fattened up on a feedlot in Iowa and shipped to Minnesota to be processed before being shipped back to Kentucky and labeled “Kentucky Proud.” Is this the path we want to go down to get local food on the menu? As a local farmer, I stand with Grasshoppers and emphatically say no.
Layla Musselman, Ashbourne Farms

Good On Top
I have to laugh every time I see the salary of Seven Counties Services CEO Howard Bracco — who is retiring this month — held up as the gold standard for frugality when compared with the wages of Dismas president Ray Weiss. $192,610 doesn’t exactly sound like chump change, either, especially for an agency deemed “nonprofit.” I worked at Seven Counties for almost 17 years and still have many friends and former colleagues there, and no employee who provides direct client services there (therapists, social workers, case managers) would ever dream of making a six-figure salary. Yet, according to its annual tax returns (available at guidestar.org), over the past 10 years, plenty of the agency’s top “corporate” officers have been in that range.

Many of our legislators in Frankfort must have gotten a good laugh every year when Bracco and his paid lobbyist, Ashar Tullis, came to town seeking funds while pleading poverty, but the care of our state’s citizens who battle mental illness or poverty is no laughing matter. Seven Counties, like Dismas Charities, receives a great deal of public funding every year, and as such needs to be held to the same scrutiny. The salaries of Bracco and some of his other corporate employees should be the first warning signal of an issue that begs further investigation, perhaps from a news organization like LEO Weekly or even our state auditor. Ultimately, the question is how such generous salaries for those at the top improves the delivery of services to our citizens who are most in need?
Mike Zanone, Saint Joseph

Leaky Faucets
I recall the Belle of Louisville was once nearly lost from a faucet that had been left on. That faucet was turned off, and the Belle was saved.

Before we throw people off the steamboat that is our city, let’s turn off a couple faucets that should never have been turned on in the first place. I’m talking to you, Downtown Development Corporation and Greater Louisville Inc.
Curtis Morrison, Highlands