Walmart to the rescue?

The Atlantic ran an article by Corby Kummer this month exploring the question of whether Walmart may actually help small farmers and restore our citizens to health.

As you can guess, I nearly choked on my breakfast. In the end, though, I found Kummer’s piece interesting. 

Walmart has decided to grab at the locovore, health-conscious market share by starting a program called Heritage Agriculture. It will encourage farmers within a day’s drive of a Walmart warehouse to grow crops for the large retailer. In many cases, these will be crops that used to flourish in these local areas, but couldn’t compete against Big Agriculture (thanks to entities like Walmart):

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Walmart says it wants to revive local economies and communities that lost out when agriculture became centralized in large states. (The heirloom varieties beloved by foodies lost out at the same time, but so far they’re not a focus of Walmart’s program.) This would be something like bringing the once-flourishing silk and wool trades back to my hometown of Rockville, Connecticut. It’s not something you expect from Walmart, which is better known for destroying local economies than for rebuilding them.

Indeed. But Walmart isn’t the annoyingly giant success it is for no reason. They see where things are going and look for a way to get there.

It’s true that most Walmarts now carry a large range of fresh fruits and vegetables and often serve areas where food is no longer grown or available. But I can’t help think that this is Walmart’s attempt to play savior to a mess it had a big hand in creating.

While Kummer believes Walmart is untrustworthy, he thinks it can still be part of the answer:   

I’m not sure I’m convinced that the world’s largest retailer is set on rebuilding local economies it had a hand in destroying, if not literally, then in effect. But I’m convinced that if it wants to, a ruthlessly well-run mechanism can bring fruits and vegetables back to land where they once flourished, and deliver them to the people who need them most.

What do you think? Is this just another marketing ruse?

 

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in “Catholic Digest,” “Faith & Family,” “National Catholic Register,” “Our Sunday Visitor,” “Urbanite,” “Baltimore Eats,” and Godspy.com. Zo

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