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Pioneers and responsibility.

Thank you to Natural Foods Merchandiser, the major trade industry magazine, which selected us as one of 25 influential pioneers, along with the founders of Ben and Jerry's, Celestial Seasonings, Amy's, White Wave, and others. Natural Foods Merchandiser stated, "As we celebrate the inroads natural and organic food has made into consumer consciousness during the last 25 years, we often forget the pioneers who made it possible--the men and women who established sourcing and distribution where there was none, who educated customers when the concepts were strange and new, and who persisted in the face of adversity ..."

Though the chosen pioneers were diverse, there were a few similar themes. As far as a preferred "epitaph," Andy Berliner, one of the founders of Amy's, asked for "Loving husband and father, and good boss. He walked gently in this world." Joel Dee, founder of Edwards & Sons Trading Company, chose as his epitaph, "He always tried to give consumers something they needed but wasn't there. And he consistently acted on his belief that in diversity lay real strength."

The founder of Arrowhead Mills, Frank Ford, chose, "He did his best," while Michael Funk, the founder of Mountain Peoples Warehouse and United Natural Foods distributors, picked, "Somebody who worked his butt off to make the world a better place." S.M. "Hass" Hassan, founder of Alfalfa's Market, chose, "We did a lot of innovative things in the industry. Sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we made mistakes, but we put care and depth into our work and we aspired to behave honorably." Eden Foods founder Michael Potter selected, "Here lies Michael Potter, a man who chose to do things the most difficult way possible. It's a joke around here that I always find the most difficult way to do things because shortcuts are not an option." And Bill Shurtleff, the author of The Book of Tofu and 52 others on soy products, stated, "Nurturer of people, nature, and spirit."

This Natural Foods Merchandiser award is certainly for all the volunteers, staff, members, and supporters who have been part of The VRG during the years. Congratulations and thank you.

Most of us stay vegetarian because of responsibility for our health, environment, the animals, world hunger, our religion, or other ethical beliefs. But what's hard about responsibility is that there are many competing responsibilities--to self, to others, to the earth, to justice, to truth, to family, to a myriad of issues. It's impossible to fulfill all our responsibilities. And for those whose try, it seems that only more tasks come. It's easy to be critical of others for not doing enough. For those giving positive support to people who are trying to make a difference in a very imperfect world, you are rare and the real pioneers and heroes.

Recently a California newspaper called us to ask what it would take to create a successful vegetarian fast food chain. Many have tried and are trying. Several excellent restaurants have opened additional establishments but closed them down. We firmly believe a pioneer(s) will do it. However, there are several challenges.

The popularity of vegetarian food means that many meatless options are available at non-vegetarian restaurants. Therefore, your food and service must rival theirs. Non-vegetarians have to want to go to your restaurant. You need not only an idea, but also sufficient capital and hard workers to make it happen. You must have investors, cooks, waitstaff, and managers who are willing to work very hard and take on commitment and long-term responsibilities. We all look forward to seeing and tasting the end results.

Have a healthy and happy New Year.

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler

Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group
COPYRIGHT 2004 Vegetarian Resource Group
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Title Annotation:Note from the Coordinators
Author:Stahler, Charles
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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