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Eat Locally Think . . . Walmart? February 24, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, random stuff.

This morning,  I was doing my usual blog-reading-before-work.  (Which reminds me, I really need to get my blogroll updated over there on the sidebar, don’t I?)  Contrary to how it might appear, I don’t just read recipes  (OK, you can put away your shocked face now!), although I do tend to read a lot of food-related stuff, and sometimes (often) that does include recipes.

So anyway, this morning, I read Mark Bittman‘s column at the Times, which was basically a brief blurb directing the reader to yet another article – this one called The Great Grocery Smackdown, a surprising article about, believe it or not, Walmart.

You know, I read somewhere that if Walmart were a country, it would have the 7th largest GNP in the world.  That’s HUGE!  I mean, they don’t play with the big guys, they ARE the big guys, you know?

And here’s the thing – Walmart, the Evil Empire, the “little guy crusher,” has begun a program called Heritage Agriculture.  As I’m understanding it, the Heritage Agriculture program supports the stocking and sale of locally-grown produce in your local Wal-Mart.

This is Walmart we’re talking about here.  I could be buying stuff grown in Chili, not Chile.  At Walmart.

But would it work?  Would it even do any good?  Well, Kummer seems to think this program

. . . could do more to encourage small and medium-size American farms than any number of well-meaning nonprofits, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with its new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign.

So. . . the private sector – the guys who are FOR profit – can succeed where nonprofits and the government itself don’t?  (Is that your shocked face again?)

Speaking of profit.  HOW would it work? How could it be competitive?  I know you’re wondering.  Think about this.  Rather than the expense of shipping inferior produce by truck, train, boat, whatever (which, if you think about it, is probably the biggest part of the cost of your Brazilian tomatoes anyway), farms are within a day’s drive.  That’s it.  Fewer transcontinental trips = less cost +  fresher produce = win-win, I’d think.

Then there’s the locavore movement – in the past few months, I’ve heard more and more people at the Public Market asking whether the apples or the greens or the turnips are locally grown – people actually care about that, whether their reasons are sustainability-driven or, like me, they’d simply prefer to spend their money with local farmers than foreign ones.

But can they deliver?  I mean, you know, it’s WALMART.

Well, what does Mr. Atlantic Magazine have to say?

Huh.  I’m betting, if Walmart can compete with Whole Foods, Wegmans had better step up its game.

We may want to try shopping at Walmart now and then.  Huh.



1. Mazco34 - February 24, 2010

So after all these years, Walmart has finally grown a conscience? I somehow think not. Walmart cares only for Walmart.

Example – I have a Walmart near my home. It does a good business. Yet Walmart wants to build a bigger store 5 miles away, and do away with the current store.

The employees – no one carried over. All new crew. That’s the Walmart I know.

As for being locavore, I live in an area that has more farm markets than Shop-Rites, Pathmarks, Acme & A&P’s combined. I need never step into the hell that is Walmart for a Jersey Tomato.

I’m sorry. I think I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

See, I knew this was going to come up. I don’t understand why people are so offended that a business is actually making money. Don’t they have a responsibility to their shareholders to do just that?

And as for the employees, no one forces them to work at Walmart, do they? They’re not slave labor. And what prevents them from re-applying at the new store?

We all have the opportunity to spend our dollars where we see fit – you have a problem with a business that’s profitable. Fine – don’t shop there. I had a problem with Target a few years back when they banned the Salvation Army bell-ringers, so I chose not to give them my money. It’s a good thing that we have the ability to make that choice, that’s all.

2. anne - February 24, 2010

I think you also have to look closely at the “locally grown” label, wherever it shows up. Recently I was in Harris-Teeter, one of the big grocery stores in the Southeast. I forget what the product was, but it had a big “locally grown” sign on it. I thought, hahaha, this is NC and it’s winter, those don’t even grow here in the summer (oranges or lemons or something such.) Closer inspection of the label revealed that it came from Mexico. I guess “locally” means somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. 😕

Well, it’s local to somebody, I guess!

Our Wegmans and Tops often actually name the farm and town where it’s located on their signage for “locally grown” produce. As for the Walmart initiative, my understanding is that they’re looking to producers within a day’s drive of the individual store for their “local” designation, which is reasonable, I think.

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