Farmer Joe’s & Friends

All about Farmer Joe’s Marketplace

Dimond Winter Festival

Saturday, December 8, 2007, 10:00am – 3:00pm
Fruitvale Presbyterian Church


December 4, 2007 Posted by | community, Dimond, food, neighborhood, Oakland, party | 1 Comment

7th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Join us this Sunday, November 18, 2007, for the 7th annual community Thanksgiving dinner. A scrumptious turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, will be served from 4:00 – 5:30pm at Fruitvale Presbyterian Church, located at 2735 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland 94602. For more information, please call (510) 530-0915 or visit Fruitvale Presbyterian Church online. We’ll see ya there!

November 12, 2007 Posted by | community, Dimond, food, neighbor, neighborhood, Oakland, party | 1 Comment

The Great Pumpkin Contest Winners for 2007

The Great Pumpkin weighed in at whopping 468 pounds. First prize, $50, was awarded to Kathleen R. with the closest guess of 467 pounds. Second closest guess was 465 pounds and received $25. Third prize, $10, went to three lucky people, each guessing 463 pounds.

November 12, 2007 Posted by | community, contest, Dimond, neighborhood, Oakland | 2 Comments


Howl-o-ween came to Farmer Joe’s on Saturday. Our group of costumed adults, dogs and children started at Paws and Claws and worked our way down to the store, where Diana Tam greeted us with sacks of goodies. Okay, yeah, I yelled “trick or treat” with the kids so I could get some candy. My favorite item in my bag was an iced pumpkin cookie. Delicious. A little Dachshund thought the cookie looked yummy too. The small dog jumped up and snagged one from a child. I laughed at the hungry dog until I saw how disappointed the kid was. Diana quickly replaced her cookie, and this time the kid held it out of the dog’s reach.

This year’s Howl-o-ween was better than ever. People and dogs wore some fabulous costumes. I was really torn which were my favorites. I liked the pugs that were ticks, and the Chihuahua/Chinese Crested mix that was a fairy. The little girl who was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was adorable. Her mother was the wicked witch. One of my favorite dogs showed up wearing a Cinderella costume. The dog’s human said, “My dog is so embarrassed wearing that costume.” Later in the evening at the Howl-o-ween bonfire at Paws and Claws, the dog strolled by us with a big grin on her face and no costume. The dog had removed the costume herself. Embarrassed, indeed. We took a flashlight and looked around but we could never find the pup’s outfit.

October 28, 2007 Posted by | community, Dimond, neighborhood, Oakland, party | 2 Comments

Blessing of the Animals

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
2735 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 530-0915

Registration, Coffee, Introductions, & Information

Blessing Begins
Bring the 2 legged, 4 legged, feather, hooved, and scaled members of your family for a free non-denominational blessing on the church patio! We all love our wonderful animal family members. Have them blessed by Monte McClain, preacher of the Fruitvale Presbyterian Church, for the upcoming year. If you have never attended a Blessing of the Animals, check out an interfaith blessing that just occurred at Long Beach, California. Blessing of the Animals is truly an extraordinary event for you and your pets.

Co-Sponsored by Paws & Claws
2023 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 336-0105

October 11, 2007 Posted by | community, Dimond, neighbor, neighborhood, Oakland | Leave a comment

Lost in Translation?

Jean’s Address to the Community

Jean Quan’s electronic newsletter dated October 6, 2007, said

”FARMER JOES MEDIATION: As reported in the local media our office, Mayor Dellums, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee are working jointly to bring both sides together in the Farmer Joe’s dispute. The management and union have never met face to face for direct discussion. To establish a cooling off period, we asked the United Food and Commercial Workers to call off their boycott; they ended picketing 2 weeks ago. We now expect to meet with both sides this week — a small but important step we should all encourage.” 

The Facts

The local media carried this story in both the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune on 9/21/07. It talks about the “confrontational approach” the UCFW local 5 took towards trying to unionize Farmer Joe’s. The union’s picketing and harassment forced Farmer Joe’s to file a charge against Local 5 with the NLRB, case #32-CP-490, on 7/19/07. The NLRB found the case had merit and filed a complaint against UFCW local 5. A federal hearing was scheduled for October 10, 2007 against the union for unfair labor practices. On September 10, 2007, the NLRB reported UFCW local 5 executed an informal settlement agreement to cease all picketing and publicly acknowledge they would refrain from illegal activity. Then on September 19, UFCW local 5 picketed in front of the store despite their settlement agreement. The NLRB is currently deciding how to proceed, considering the union’s latest bad faith demonstration.The MacArthur Metro’s lead story this month “Update at Union Activity at Farmer Joe’s,” said

“Misinformation on this dispute abounds and continues to be propagated. To be clear, the issue is not whether to unionize. It is also not about an unwillingness to sit down and work out the differences. The primary point of contention between Farmer Joe’s and the Union, one that has persisted since the opening of the second store, is about how to formally survey the employees’ views on representation. 

On September 14, 2007 Mayor Dellums wrote a letter to Ron J. Lind, UFCW Local 5 and the Tams of Farmer Joe’s. In that letter, he wrote,

“As Public Officials we (Mayor Dellums, Congress Member Barbara Lee, State Assembly Member Sandre Swanson, Councilmember Jean Quan) all stand firmly in favor of small local business enterprise and are keenly aware that such enterprises contribute greatly to the development of Oakland’s unique neighborhoods. At the same time, we are also in support of the rights of workers to freely organize.” 

The Tams petitioned the NLRB to conduct a vote to determine if in fact the employees wanted union representation. The request was dismissed August 3, 2007, citing “there is no evidence that it (the UFCW) has ever demanded that the Employer (Farmer Joe’s) recognize it (the UFCW) as the majority representative of its employees.” The MacArthur Metro elaborated,

”For the purposes of collective bargaining, an employee representative must be designated for an NLRB vote to be held. The UFCW persists with their request for a card check to determine if Local 5 represents a majority of the employees. The Tams maintain the card check violates their employees’ personal privacy rights and will not turn over the polling process to the UFCW.” 

It is noteworthy that the UFCW’s latest bad faith demonstration took place after their receipt of this letter from our public officials requesting a “cooling off period be established.”

October 9, 2007 Posted by | Dimond, Local 5, neighbor, neighborhood, NLRB, Oakland, politicians | 1 Comment

Dimond Howl-o-ween

Pet Parade & Costume Party

Dogs, kids, and adults are invited to the 4th Annual Dimond Howl-o-ween Pet Parade and Costume Party. Meet in front of Paws & Claws at 6pm and parade through the Dimond District collecting treats from participating store vendors. Then return to Paws & Claws for an outdoor party behind the store with a campfire and spooky games for kids. Dress warmly!

Donations will be accepted for the Oakland Animal Shelter

Where: Paws & Claws, 2023 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland
When: Oct. 27, 2007, 6pm – 9pm

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Dimond, neighborhood, Oakland, party | 1 Comment

Do the Right Thing

These are the vacant stores in the Dimond District within a one-block radius of the Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. It’s a sad state of affairs in Oakland. 10 million dollars a year are lost in tax revenue from shoppers going to other cities to spend their disposable income. My burg reminds me of a ghost town at times. The taggers spray paint these abandoned buildings on a regular basis. When the Payless Shoes pulled out, I called the corporate office and begged them to stay. They replied it was not feasible. They said they were losing too much money. When Blockbuster Video packed up, they told me too many people in my neighborhood stole.

This store used to be a vacated boarded up hole-in-the-wall for 7 years before Diana and Joe Tam took it over, renovated and opened up their first Farmer Joe’s on MacArthur Boulevard in the Laurel District. This is now what we neighbors fondly call “The Little Store.” It’s the original Farmer Joe’s grocery Joe and Diana Tam opened 13 years ago. When the Tams first started out, they sold only fruits and vegetables. Diana will laughingly tell you half the store was potatoes. Joe will tell you neighbors approached him and said, “Joe, you have to start selling milk and meat.” For a couple of years, Diana and Joe worked the store by themselves. Joe and Diana did everything from checking to order writing to hauling garbage. Gradually, they began to hire employees to help them. Like today, they remained deeply involved in their business, working side-by-side with their employees, cultivating a family atmosphere and getting to know a lot of their employees’ families. For the first 8 years in the life of The Little Store, the Tams took only 2 days off from work, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even on those 2 holidays, they drove to The Little Store to insure the electricity was running, and their food was safe and ready for sale the next day.

From looking at this picture, it’s hard to believe or remember what a physical dump and eyesore this building used to be. This is the new Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. Prior to being Farmer Joe’s, it was stalled out Crazy John’s, a failed Albertson’s and a closed Lucky.

Oakland politicians like to give a lot of airtime to renovating the city. They like to talk about helping the neighborhoods and throw around terms like sustainability. Joe and Diana Tam took the terms and did something tangible out of their own pocket. Since they opened their store on Fruitvale Avenue, Peet’s Coffee moved in across the street from the newer Farmer Joe’s. La Farine French Bakery opened a beautiful store also across the street. La Farine renovated the abandoned Payless Shoe Store. The Tams invested in our neighborhoods where others gave up. People call the new Farmer Joe’s an anchor store. Realtors are advertising now by their proximity to “the anchor.”

And then there’s this statement from Ron Lind, President of UFCW Local 5, “Locally, we’re working with elected officials to help protect our union market share by limiting the growth of non-union stores.” That statement makes me wonder what this conflict between the union and Farmer Joe’s is really about. Is it about the rights of the workers? If so, why won’t Local 5 agree to an NLRB secret ballot election to let the workers simply vote whether they want a union or not? Or is the real crux of the matter with the union, the union dues, declining union membership and the fact two other non-union groceries, Whole Foods and Trader Joes, are moving into our immediate area? Is the union picking on the Tams because they thought Farmer Joe’s would be an easy target? And why would the union think that? Because the Tams are first generation Chinese immigrants? Because they are a family owned business?

And what about the politicians Ron Lind claims he is working with so hard to limit the growth of non-union stores? It doesn’t sound much like he is concerned with employees’ rights. It sounds like he and the politicians are at a mutual back scratching party. Is that what this is about? Party down from out of town; screw Oakland. So, what about Oakland’s growth, expansion and helping our little burgs into a better place, whether they are union or not? The politicians need to do the right thing here – the right thing by their constituents, by the people that live here, by the people that support the store. It’s time for the politicians to step up to the plate and do what we elected them to do. They need to support us, the store, our community, and Oakland.

September 30, 2007 Posted by | community, Local 5, neighborhood, Oakland, politicians, UFCW, union | 1 Comment

Picketing the Plywood

I have to give the whole UFCW local 5 theatrical scene yesterday a two thumbs down. First, they started late. The union’s “rally” was supposed to commence at 5pm. Local 5 has to drive in from out of town so someone is always holding up the show because of bad traffic. Finally, their “rally” got started with a little over twenty people – executive board members, paid organizers, and the hourly non-UFCW folks you’ve seen in the parking lot who don’t speak much English and don’t really care what’s happening. The manager of Pete’s popped her head out the door and told them to take the freak show away from her store. The “rally” walked down the sidewalk and was left circling in front of the plywood of the soon to be opened La Farine French Bakery across from Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. Their bullhorn broke.

I guess it was about that time I lost interest in the bad production. I walked back to Farmer Joe’s entrance and talked to customers. Some were laughing. Some were rolling their eyes. Some wanted harassment forms. All are sick of the union coming into our neighborhood and disturbing it. One shopper thought they were picketing the La Farine’s. I thought the person was kidding.

“Yeah, someone inside the unopened store called the UFCW,” I joked.

“Really?” she asked.

I shook my head though I wouldn’t put it past something local 5 would claim considering what they have said about Farmer Joe’s.

The only shining light to the whole afternoon was Saundra Andrews. She showed up from Barbara Lee’s office. She is the first and only person that has showed up in the trenches. She got a first hand view of the sideshow. She got to see how we get treated by local 5.

In all honesty, my attention had waned so there at the end, I don’t know if she stopped the “rally,” or local 5 stopped it, or the broken bullhorn stopped it. The next thing I knew the union was claiming they were taking the high road by calling off the boycott and the picketing. I squinted into the sun when they said this, not so much because the sun hurt my eyes but what they said hurt my brain. That’s kind of like saying, “I’m going to take the high road and quit beating my wife for a while.” Screwed up logic. Even while they were saying that, they had 2 organizers in Joe’s parking lot passing out leaflets with lies. Saundra Andrews called across the street to the UFCW and told them to get their boys out of Joe’s lot. The UFCW called back across to Joe’s lot and told the jokers to leave. Of course, they couldn’t just leave the premises. They intimated they were going to sue me for the blog as they strolled by. “Corn Dog, it’s gonna cost you,” the organizer sneered. “You better get your money ready.” That’s some high road.

So, I went and chatted with Saundra Andrews. I like her. She kicked two harassers out the parking lot by shouting across the street. She is a strong woman. She says her background is labor relations. She has a funny little car with a missing hubcap. Someone broke in it and stole the ashtrays looking for money. It is all Oakland. Can she help? I don’t know. She says she is interested in the workers and the small Oakland businesses.

She gave me her business card. She told me if I saw local 5 in the parking lot harassing, picketing, or passing out leaflets in the next 30 days to call her. I intend to, but I worry the union is using her. Local 5 needs 30 days right now to go off and fry bigger fish. According to their own web site, they are currently in contract negotiations in Northern California with the major grocery chains and things aren’t going well with Safeway. Does this mean they are going down the block and cause a big scene there? Another high road?

September 20, 2007 Posted by | Local 5, neighborhood, Oakland, picket, UFCW, union, union harassment | 2 Comments

Neighborhood Happenings

Maxwell Park’s A Day in the Park

Maxwell Park is hosting their second annual Day in the Park. Come and have fun Saturday, September 15, 2007, in Maxwell Park, Fleming Avenue between Courtland Avenue and Monticello Avenue. Local musicians will be featured along with a variety of other talent, activities for the kids and youth, delicious barbeque, neighborhood businesses, and of course – neighborhood chit chat. Fun, music, food and comradery!

Montclair Village’s 5th Annual Jazz and Wine Festival

Fruitvale Presbyterian Church’s Fundraiser

September 13, 2007 Posted by | community, neighborhood, Oakland | Leave a comment