Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Good-Bye Good Earth Market

It is with sadness and regret that I write this post.
Our one and only cooperatively owned grocery is closing after almost thirty years of connecting people with nourishing, healthful, and local foods.
It was in the news last night and word is trickling out today.  Matt, as produce manager, has to call all the local farmers he's worked with over these years to tell them the news.  Another independent, grassroots, local business floundered and failed.  It happens every day.  It happens everywhere.
There are lots of reasons.  I think everyone who loves that place has seen the writing on the wall for a while now, actually. 
While more and more people are looking for local and organically-raised products there are also a lot more stores--even gas stations and Alberstons--that carry these sorts of products now, too.  Then Natural Grocers showed up.  Lucky's Market came in, too. Online shopping is so easy.  The Good Earth didn't rise to the occasion as far as keeping up with these competitors goes, didn't accentuate their distinctiveness, the things that made them different.  The board of directors seemed more willing to maintain the status quo than innovate and adapt with the times.  It is hard to be competitively priced and still be so tiny.  Advertising is expensive.  There was some bad advice given.  Some poor staffing decisions compounded already existing problems.  The downtown location proved to be a blessing and a curse.  A series of ineffectual general managers didn't help.
(These are just my observations and opinions, by the way, and I mean no offence to any current or past employees.)
The ship was sinking.  If it hadn't been for some last ditch financial efforts from the National Co+Op Grocers Association I think it would have actually happened long ago.
Sometimes we just have to let things go, even if it is painful.  Even if it isn't what we really want to do.
Matt and I will be fine.  He's a hard worker and will find something else.  I hope he finds something with a mission he feels as much pride and value in as he does for his local farmers.   We'll be fine.  It has been really touching that people have called and messaged and dropped by to talk to him about it, share their, oh, sympathies as it were.
I'm bummed about John Ross and his beautiful orchard in Fromberg.  He invited us out to see peak bloom and have a picnic in the orchard this year.  He toured Matt and me through the grove, talking with depth and passion about the merits of each variety.  This sort of relationship between seller and grower is something incredibly special.   It was something unique that the co-op had to offer.
I'm bummed about all the rest of Matt's local farmers, too.  Strike Farms and Gary Ostahowski, the garlic guy.  The woman with the 20+ varieties of heirloom eggplant and all the farmers that make up the Western Montana Growers Cooperative.  And all the rest.
I'm bummed that the Apple Gallery won't be included in Art Walk any more.  It was such a great space for budding local artists to display their work.  The art collections on display were consistently earthy and funky and bright--and exceptional.
I'm bummed for all the folks now unexpectedly on the job hunt.  I'm not worried though.  They'll find something.
I'm bummed to lose the community down there.  I met so many fantastic human beings through our involvement first, as customers, and later, though Matt as an employee.  What an eclectic, creative, fun-loving bunch of folks.
I'm bummed Billings didn't value the co-op model--which keeps way more money on the dollar in the local economy--as much as they value the killer deals at Sam's Club and Costco.
I'm bummed there won't be another staff Christmas party.  Matt and I had already been talking about what games were going to be played, who we might get for Secret Santa.
I'm bummed the loft won't be hosting any more vegan potlucks, lectures on tea, yoga, naturopathic medicine, or rallies for social causes.
I'm just bummed.
But nothing lasts forever.  Blessings come in disguise.  I'm not worried, just disappointed.
And grateful.  The sense of loss keeps trying to override that one.  I'm so grateful for the impact the Good Earth Market had on our life.  It brought us so much goodness, mostly in the form of people, and that remains the same no matter what happens to the building.
All photos (except the one in the apple orchard) were downloaded from the Good Earth Market's facebook page.


  1. Wow...so sad. I am/we are SOOOOO absolutely devastated - for the Coop, for our community and for ourselves! Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful blog... =(

  2. You nailed it, Beth. So well written. Hugs to you & Matt, always. ~Dolly

  3. So sad :-(. What a loss to the community in so many ways. Your words express it all and would benefit from being shared within your local community paper. Bigger companies are once again putting the squeeze on smaller businesses. When you are counting pennies it can be hard not to be seduced by cheaper prices but at what cost? The earth and the local community ultimately pays the price. I hope Matt finds another job that is equally rewarding x

  4. That really is too too bad...Peace be with you and Matt...and very best wishes for a successful and speedy job hunt...



  5. I've been a member of our local co op since nearly its inception over 35 years ago. Oh, about 15 years ago it nearly went under when the long term general manager left. They hired her back and gladly the co op came back stronger than ever! It is amazing how much one person can influence a business like that. Good Foods has survived Lucky's, Whole Foods and Kroger offering much of the same items. I certainly feel like Lexington is blessed to have them. Good Luck to Matt. I too lost my job a couple of weeks ago. Bummer.

  6. I have always wanted to work for a coop, but never have instead most of my jobs have been for charities/NGOs and I have always supported coops when possible. I feel your sadness and loss; and I feel for the community that was bound by Good Earth market as it was not just about food - but communities and strenghtening them and breaking down barriers.

    You hit it on the head when you wrote 'While more and more people are looking for local.. products there are also a lot more stores' mainstream places beginning to carry these sorts of products now, so impacting on the independents. Its the same with vegetarian places to eat, they will soon be closed as other places begin to target that market at very competitive prices, regardless of ethnics.
    Good luck to you both.
    I don't really like talking about myself, but i have the sad prospect come next year of losing my job too, the nature of the voluntary sector but will face that time when it comes - but every day I dread the day and hope something else embraces me.


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!