Shareholders & Employees Wrestle Over $4.5 Billion Supermarket Chain
A recent US national hot potato was the story of Market Basket, a chain of over 80 supermarkets in New England which has its roots in the early 1900’s when a Greek immigrants, Athanasios and Efronsini Demoulas opened a grocery store in Lowell, Massachusetts. The story begs the question: what is the best way to deliver world food?
Descendents of the original founders became billionaires, Arthur S. Demoulas, who controlled just over 50% of the company became the eighth richest person in Boston with an estimated net worth of close to $2 billion. A cousin, Arthur T. Demoulas, ran the company as CEO for years until he was ousted this past summer when opposed a $300 million cash distribution to the company’s private shareholders. The Board of Directors summarily fired Arthur T.
Does Your Food Supplier Deliver Value?
I used to shop at supermarkets around Boston, which were inferior to Market Basket in price and quality of food. Things change when I was told about Market Basket by checkout staff at my old supermarket. Market Basket is extremely crowded all the time, like a Tokyo subway station, so fresh meat, fish and produce is moved in and out very quickly and was affordable.
For my family Market Basket was a godsend as we were able to buy a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, meat & fish without breaking our piggy bank.
From June 24, 2014, when Arthur T. was fired, employees rallied and protested as the threat to their livelihoods came became evident: Market Basket employees earn the top wages in supermarkets in New England, substantial benefits, grants and loans for education and more.
The impasse was finally resolved at the end of August, 2014 when Arthur S. agreed to sell his shares to his cousin Arthur T. for $1.5 billion.
This event is a wake up call to consumers and perhaps a signal that supporting local agriculture is a good idea.
Returning Agriculture To The Small Farmers Like First Root Farm
State & Consumer Support For Local Agriculture
The state of Massachusetts is now supporting small scale agriculture in an effort to improve employment in the state and improve the quality of food available at reasonable prices.
At a new farming school called “The Farm School” new generations of small-scale farmers are being educated on how to run farms successfully. The Farm School has an educational program that runs from October through the following September and costs $18,000.
Laura Olive Sackton and Ariel Berman, co-founded First Root Farm and graduated from The Farm School after a full year in the program which began in October 2008.
Then in April 2009, the two rented land from the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concorde Massachusetts. First Root Farm ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, raising just over $10,000, enough to buy small farm equipment needed to expand and take care of their growing customer base. The farm now serves 120 families in Massachusetts through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which runs full year with seasonal CSA’s available. They also sell produce at local farmer’s markets.
What Will The Future Bring For Agriculture?
Unsustainable farming practices and use of resources by big agriculture and industry may soon be giving way to smaller scale operations.
And given the problem at Market Basket and the growing number of small farms, it may be just a matter of time before people begin to switch to locally produced, smaller scale agriculture, where people appreciate personal service. First Root food sure looks good, is reasonably priced, and is likely healthier as well.
Click here for a virtual tour of First Root Farm.
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