After getting questions about whether or not the Durham Co-op would continue to stock Driscoll's berries at the store, the market issued a statement telling shoppers to "shop your values" because in order to keep berries in the store it'd have to keep Driscoll's on the shelf.
The Co-op was asked to boycott the berry distributor in light of some not-so-great farm labor practices at two of its partner farms.
"Farm labor is an important issue in the current food market, and it’s one that deserves our attention," the statement read. "However, it is also a very complex issue that has many facets and a long history. At this time, the Co-op will not suspend sales of Driscoll’s products. Instead, we intend to be transparent about the challenges involved in the matter and educate our customers on the very serious issues at hand."
Because Driscoll's is the biggest supplier of strawberries for grocery stores the Co-op doesn't really have an alternative option from its distributors.
"So to boycott Driscoll’s would mean being left without berries more often than not, and that would makes us a less viable resource for our shoppers," the Co-op's statement said. "We encourage you to shop your values, and to avoid purchasing Driscoll’s product, if that is where your conscience leads you."
While the Co-op will not be boycotting Driscoll’s we have already pursued the following actions:
- We have posted educational materials about fair labor and the Driscoll’s boycott in the store to help educate consumers about this issue and encourage them to make an informed choice with their purchases;
- We have requested that our distributors provide us with non-Driscoll’s berries whenever possible, and encouraged them to seek alternatives to Driscoll’s in their supply chains;
- We have and will continue to source as much local, sustainable produce as we can to provide our shoppers a fair labor choice;
- We will continue to evaluate our selection, monitor labor practices, look for fair labor options, and make the best decisions possible for our business and our community.
Boycotts of Driscoll's have been ongoing for years and stem from two berry farms the company contracts with—one in Mexico and one in Washington State.
Driscoll's reached out to the Indy this afternoon about the concerns raised by the Co-op and its customers, saying it takes its "responsibility seriously when it comes to how our independent growers treat and pay their farm workers."
The simple truth is, Driscoll’s has and will continue to demonstrate leadership in the agriculture industry by facilitating initiatives and standards which support socially responsible business practices, including worker welfare. We strongly support comprehensive immigration reform, the state of Washington raising the minimum age for farmworkers to 15 and creating the legal framework that enables farm workers to organize.
Our worker welfare standards, which each of our more than 700 independent growers are held accountable to, are built upon those introduced by global labor organizations. These standards are published at www.Driscolls.com/workerwelfare for members of the agriculture industry, retailers, consumers and supporters of farmworkers to review.