An Open Letter – Political Roots & Costa Farms

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“To garden is to believe in hope.”

My mother-in-law remarked that to me recently, and the words stuck with me. As an avid home gardener, I surround myself with vines, sprouts and stems, defying the cold New England odds with each new unfurling. My dad keeps a garden, and so did his mom. It wasn’t hard for me to see how gardening is an optimist’s hobby. All that green warms up our spaces, and teaches us how we can grow marvelous things from a single seed.

No matter what, I’m an inherent optimist. It’s what keeps me going, and keeps me fighting for the things I believe will help move our communities and planet forward. But sometimes, it can be hard to see the light. We all felt our hearts break – yet again – after the news of the Parkland shooting broke. And while I thought I couldn’t be shocked anymore, that’s how I felt when I heard Florida Senator Greg Steube tell WBUR that the answer is more guns on the street. It was crass. It was craven. And it was cruel, while 17 of the latest innocent people to die in a public space hadn’t even been laid to rest. Who elects people with these values? I headed to Sen. Steube’s campaign donations to learn more.

Political roots in my own home garden

I wasn’t surprised to see many campaign supporters, but I didn’t expect the records to point me back to my own home garden.

One surprise as I paged through the list was a company called Costa Farms – they’re a large, Florida-based grower who supplies many big stores with philodendrons, ferns and other home and garden plants. I saw that not only had they donated to Sen. Steube, but to dozens of Republican candidates in FL, totaling more than $200K for more than a decade. A few days later, I noticed a fellow home botanist post a Costa Farms-branded promotion. We started a conversation in the comments section, and she asked me to send along some supporting data. There’s a lot of info, and without an available email address, I thought I’d share it here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you thinking more critically about how you relate to certain brands and businesses?

 


 

A Costa Farms Partnership

Hi Summer,

Thanks for getting back to me about your relationship with Costa Farms re: Instagram and your associated promotion. As I described, Costa Farms uses their corporate entity to fund the campaigns of Republican elected officials who work hard to further the NRA’s agenda – as well as a host of other far-right themes.

In Costa’s home state of Florida, that’s an especially tough pill to swallow in the wake of the tragic Florida shooting – among others all over the country; Costa beneficiary Sen. Greg Steube (an NRA favorite with a perfect 100% NRA rating) took the shooting as an opportunity to try to sell more guns, telling news outlets that we need more guns in schools, airports, and public places. I found those interviews so crass that I immediately went to his donor list, which is where I noticed Costa. As a longtime Costa customer, that alliance deeply disturbed me – so I started looking deeper into their donor and lobbyist records – and they are ample. Immediately, I will no longer to be able to patronize their business in good conscience, as a supporter of common sense gun laws, as well as other values starkly in contrast to the far-right Republican agenda.

Promoting Costa Farms helps to support that agenda. While Homestead Brooklyn is not inherently political content, everything we do has political implications, and I believe a mission that is truly committed to environmental health and sustainability runs counter to the agenda of today’s Republican party – one funded generously by Costa Farms.

In your comment to me, you asked about data and sourcing – one easy database to use is Followthemoney.org, where you can easily browse political contributions by donor, lobbyist and candidate. Follow the Money is a non-partisan nationwide database of publicly available campaign donor and lobbyist records, filed at the federal, state and local level.

I’ve linked you here directly to a direct search to Costa Farms’ corporate contributions – not including individuals and Costa subsidiaries, which add to the figure in the same channels. With a little Googling, we can see other partner companies that Costa also owns, such as PM Transport – (which gave $9K to FL Republicans) and Gardenvision ($5,000 to FL Republicans). So, that initial $200k number is actually much bigger.

Costa Farms Republican donations

Source: Followthemoney.org

Taking a look at the donors Costa Farms uses their corporate entity to fund, we find a gallery of successful campaigns that all use their seats to further the NRA’s agenda, as well as anti-choice, anti-environment causes. These candidates typically also receive donations from the NRA, and high NRA ratings. Here’s just a snapshot.

Republican candidates funded by Costa Farms

Source: Costa Farms donations via Followthemoney.org

We can pick almost anyone from this list and find high NRA ratings and pro-gun voting records – and even more, such as personal patterns of abuse. For example:

  • Sen. Greg Steube is an NRA favorite for his hardline pro-gun stance – and used the FL airport and school shootings to call for more guns on the street. Read more about his staunch pro-Trump agenda here. Costa donated the legally-allowed max of $1K to his campaign.
  • Costa Farms donated $1,000 to antichoice, pro-gun FL Senate Budget Chair Jack Latvala – he earned an A rating from the NRA, but resigned this winter after a slate of women accused him of groping and sexual harassment.
  • Bobby Payne, another Costa recipient, is an anti-choice FL House member who earned a 93% rating from the NRA.

The list goes on and on – as you can see, the trend is clear. Looking up any of these candidates in public databases like votesmart.org, which catalogs public positions and voting records, shows a consistent commitment to candidates who oppose common sense gun laws, and other far-right positions. Costa Farms uses their business to fund far right Republican candidates – including those who in their own state, where 17 people were recently killed in a public school – have used the event to call for more guns on the street. I asked Costa Farms about this and they simply told me they are sorry to lose my business – which is to say, this is the political agenda they stand for, for which there is ample public documentation, and this is who they are and how they leverage their capital.

Partnering with and promoting Costa Farms means helping to boost a company that uses their profits to fund NRA-backed candidates. We can choose to use our influence in the world to stand with the Parkland students, or to promote a company who uses theirs to intimidate and diminish them. I hope you’ll consider this in your relationship, especially as lovers of plants and the environment.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your thoughts.

-Lindsay


March 24, people who believe that now is the time to end senseless school shootings are gathering – in Washington, D.C. and across the country. Find a march near you, donate to the movement, and learn more at MarchforOurLives.com.

Showing 2 comments
  • Justin Hancock
    Reply

    We at Costa Farms are appalled about the tragic events at Parkland. We’ve always been committed to being good stewards in our community through contributions to local healthcare clinics, educational, and scholarship programs serving lower-income Floridians.
    As a wholesale grower of indoor and outdoor garden plants, we want to make it clear that our past donations to elected officials have been exclusively to advance causes important to the horticultural industry. If you have any questions, or would like to engage in a discussion, please let us know at jhancock@costafarms.com.

    • mm
      Lindsay Crudele
      Reply

      Thanks for your response, Justin. As I wrote in a subsequent exchange with Summer, while I understand there are agricultural motivations relevant in the political conversation, the collected impact of more than $200K sent to GOP candidates remains clear to me. I appreciate the causes you mention, and I worry that your company’s significant contributions to Republican candidates might negate the impact of your donations to local clinics and scholarships. We can see the impact of the policies they wage brought to life today as students across the country speak out for a safer world, and I cannot be a part of a supply chain in any way that contributes to what they’re protesting. If, as a company, you are truly committed to increasing opportunity and equality, I look forward to hearing more about how you will divest from the Republican party members who currently benefit so generously from your support.

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