Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Getting Harder and Harder to Hate Walmart

So says Michelle Harvey, who is in charge of working with Walmart on agriculture programs at the local Environmental Defense Fund office. This article in the new edition of The Atlantic tells the story of Wal-Mart's big move into supporting local farmers to bring fresh and local produce to its stores:
I started looking into how and why Walmart could be plausibly competing with Whole Foods, and found that its produce-buying had evolved beyond organics, to a virtually unknown program—one that 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. Not even Fishman, who has been closely tracking Walmart’s sustainability efforts, had heard of it. “They do a lot of good things they don’t talk about,” he offered.

The program, which Walmart calls Heritage Agriculture, will encourage farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California. In many cases the crops once flourished in the places where Walmart is encouraging their revival, but vanished because of Big Agriculture competition.

As the article points out it remains to be seen what affect this will have on local economies and other grocers but if there is any business with the heft and the skill to make bringing local farm produce to grocer work on a massive scale it is Walmart. And if they do it will be good for the farmers and for our health and wallets. It is getting harder and harder to hate Walmart.

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