Local agriculture and Wal-Mart — do-able?

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of ‘Foodie News’ produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which can be found here. I thought it was an interesting idea and conveniently piggy-backed on a blog post from Jeff VanderWerff on the ‘Farm Fresh Food’ blog found here. What do you think? Can “big-box” stores adequately represent local agriculture and support agricultural communities across the country?

Heritage Agriculture Spotlights Local Produce

Wal-Mart is working with local farmers in its Heritage Agriculture program to bring locally grown pro-duce to customers of the country’s largest retailer. The Heritage Agriculture program was sparked three years ago when Ron McCormick, senior director, strategic food sourcing for Wal-Mart, saw an article in a local newspaper with photos from the 1920sand 1930s showing that Rogers, Ark. (the home of the first Wal-Mart) was once one of the largest producers of apples.

“This triggered the concept that allacross the U.S.there are similar stories of communities that were once thriving agricultural economies, but lost out as the agriculture migrated west and south,” McCormick said.

Today, many of these areas thatonce supported agriculture are often home to a Wal-Mart Food distribution center.

 “It made sense to us, that if we could revitalize those economies,it would let us buy fresher product for our customers and save food miles. At the same time, we would be supporting many rural communitiesthat support our stores,” McCormick said.”We are seeing success with these growers expanding the types of pro-duce they grow and extending their season. This expansion gives us more locally grown produce to buy and helps reduce their fixed costs and makes their farms more profitable and sustainable.”

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