Casting shame

Casting shame

I was very disappointed in your article regarding Horse and Buggy Produce [“Trouble in Paradise,” April 1, 2008]. It’s a shame that you are discouraging people to support a business that is truly great for this area. Compared to buying in the grocery store, the produce from H&B is better in quality, better for the environment and better for our local economy. They are providing an excellent service to our community and are filling an important role. So what if H&B is a wholesaler? Because of that, H&B’s typical week’s shares are full, diverse and well worth the cost when compared to my experience with single-farm CSAs. 

Allie Hill

Lifestyle of the un-rich

I just read an article on about Horse & Buggy Produce [“Trouble in paradise,” April 1, 2008] that seemed to be written quite carelessly.

While the author hints at critics and controversy over Horse & Buggy throughout the article, the only specifics offered are from two people affiliated with the same community farm (one a shareholder and the other a farmer). Surely you all know that it’s not uncommon for two leading organizations within the same business to have some biased criticism of each other.

Moreover, is the article’s point that Horse & Buggy is misrepresenting itself so Brett Wilson can get rich? If so, the author has not done her homework, because one visit to a H&B produce pickup would convince anyone that running such a business is hard work, and a very inefficient way of trying to make a fortune.

Finally, as just one more example that the article was written a bit too hastily and with too little editorial oversight, the author mentions the term “CSA” six times without indicating what the acronym means.

Frankly, I came away with the distinct impression that someone, either the author or the people she interviewed, has it in for Horse & Buggy. If the claims in the article are true, then the article should have included more facts to support them.

Adam Slate
Albemarle County

The sound of two hands clapping

The criticism about Horse & Buggy Produce’s locally grown, spray-free advertising appears to come from one particular CSA farmer and subscriber [“Trouble in paradise,” April 1, 2008]. Perhaps a point of view from a H&B subscriber might have evened out the fabricated controversy in the article.

I was attracted to H&B as an alternative to chain grocery stores. I want my dollars to stay in Virginia whenever possible, and small local farmers of fruit and vegetables are usually more careful about overuse of chemicals on their land. I still shop at the chain grocery stores during the off season and for produce I can’t get from H&B. I suspect most, if not all, H&B and CSA subscribers do the same (try getting a locally grown banana or orange!) There is no comparison between the taste and variety of locally grown food compared to the majority of grocery store produce, which is commercially grown and chemically engineered to withstand being shipped thousands of miles, ripen along the way, and look pretty when displayed.

Specifically, the spray-free moniker that H&B advertises never implied to me that the produce is “organically certified” or even “non-certified organic,” so I don’t understand the controversy there. If an individual wants or requires all their food to be organically certified, they will not find those words in H&B’s advertising, so they can’t cry foul.

Regarding how local something is, even while H&B acknowledges they aren’t a “true CSA”, they absolutely ARE supporting small family farms in the Shenendoah Valley. Brett and April tell us if any of the produce is not from this source. The article attempted to imply that the more people between the producer and consumer, the more opportunity for dishonesty. Well, that’s true in most anything, not just buying produce. I trust that H&B has good business morals and good judgment in choosing with whom they do business. That’s why I continue to give my money to them.

Supporting local produce and local farmers is part of the bigger picture of using resources wisely, and discouraging wasteful practices. I applaud all Horse & Buggy Produce subscribers for doing just that.

Maria Hatz

The terminators

In looking over the TJ Center’s Muzzle Awards this year [“You can’t say that!” April 8, 2008], I began to wonder how owners or custodians of media stations and publications can uphold standards without being cited for violating the right of free expression. I am referring to The Cavalier Daily “Ethiopian Food Fight” cartoon and the CBS Radio/MSNBC Imus incident. The TJ Center seems to be saying that because these media “avail themselves of the protections of the First Amendment” that they should not be allowed to enjoin the work of their staff. Note that we are talking here about staff of media organizations, not individual citizens.

A few years ago, a reporter for The New York Times was caught making up stories. He was fired. The New York Times needed to maintain its reputation. No one objected to that firing. Now, if a New York Times reporter were to falsely accuse a political leader of a crime based on inaccurate and unverified rumor, shouldn’t the Times be able to fire that reporter?  Or if a New York Times columnist used highly offensive, inflammatory and obnoxious language that did not meet the standards of The New York Times, is the paper obliged to retain that columnist on its staff? Does the TJ Center contend that once someone is employed by some media outlet that that employee has immunity from being let go no matter what they write or say?

The TJ Center very appropriately condemns cases where individual citizens are punished by authorities (police departments, high school principals, college presidents, etc.) for their acts of expression. But is it “punishment” to terminate someone who does not meet the standards of the organization they work for? Can’t a media organization see to it that its staff maintains the reputation and editorial policies of the organization?

David RePass

Josh Wheeler, associate director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression offers this reply:

The short answer to Mr. RePass’ question—”Does the TJ Center contend that once someone is employed by some media outlet that that employee has immunity from being let go no matter what they write or say?”—is “NO.”

As stated in the Center’s announcement of the Muzzle posted on its website, “A free press obviously has to include the right of editorial control over what to report and how it is reported. If Imus and Woolard had been fired because their expression was contrary to the editorial policies of their respective employers, no Muzzles would be awarded.”

Each of the scenarios presented by Mr. RePass involves a situation in which an employee of a newspaper did something that violated the editorial policies of the newspaper. Imus and Woolard, however, were fired for actions that their respective employers had encouraged, if not approved. 

A central value of the guarantee of freedom of the press is to insure that the press need not fear reporting or commenting on the controversial issues of the day. As such, public controversy and criticism over press content is to be expected, if not the norm. When adverse public reaction is the primary factor in determining editorial content, as it was in the firing of Imus and Woolard, one must question how “free” the press truly is. A democratic society needs a free press willing to stand up to public criticism. It was the failure to heed that call, not the mere firing of Imus and Woolard, that earned CBS Radio, MSNBC, and The Cavalier Daily their Jefferson Muzzles.