Walmart to the rescue? | Rock Candy

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Walmart to the rescue?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 1:50 PM

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Not entirely likely, but the Atlantic's Corby Kummer (if you're having trouble viewing the video above, just follow the link) asks if Walmart could actually help small farmers by its plans to go green(er).  Walmart is a huge buyer of produce, so decisions they make about what kinds of fruits and vegetables to sell have ripple effects throughout the food and farming world. Through a new program called Heritage Agriculture, the retail giant is trying to promote local farms by encouraging those within a day's drive of Walmart warehouses to grow crops that would normally take days to arrive from other states.

Ron McCormick, the senior director of local and sustainable sourcing for Walmart, told me that about three years ago he came upon pictures from the 1920s of thriving apple orchards in Rogers, Arkansas, eight miles from the company’s headquarters. Apples were once shipped from northwest Arkansas by railroad to St. Louis and Chicago. After Washington state and California took over the apple market, hardly any orchards remained. Cabbage, greens, and melons were also once staples of the local farming economy. But for decades, Arkansas’s cash crops have been tomatoes and grapes. A new initiative could diversify crops and give consumers fresher produce.

Kummer even stages a taste-test between products purchased at Walmart and Whole Foods.  The results may surprise you.

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