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Heritage Agriculture…at Wal-Mart?

Can a company focused on being America’s “one-stop-shop” help support the local and sustainable farming movement?  That’s the idea behind the launch of Wal-Mart’s new Heritage Agriculture Program earlier this year.

The goals of the program (pdf) include supporting local farms, women & minority-owned suppliers, and buying ethnic items.  In a release about the company’s strategy, Wal-Mart said it plans to “create current supply chain visibility to local and regional sources and develop new local and regional sources.”

The first, “Local” strategy also entails marketing and educating its customers on the benefits of buying local products.  Wal-Mart believes this strategy will help “improve freshness with less road time and lead time,” which also improves the impact of the company’s giant carbon footprint.

The second strategy, to engage “Women & Minority Owned Suppliers,” includes increasing the company’s first and second tier spending and growing and producing superior items with these growers in order to increase customer loyalty, maintain a competitive advantage, and improve the company’s corporate reputation.

Wal-Mart’s third strategy includes re-invigorating historic growing areas to grow items popular with growing minority communities near the consumer.  This strategy, Wal-Mart claims, will provide supply, freshness, and cost advantages.

The three tier strategy is expected to be employed at 40 food distribution centers across the United States.

Wal-Mart has also proposed The MarketMaker Pilot Project, a web-based resource to aid in the development of a value-added food supply chain.  The MarketMaker program would map potential markets by demographic characteristics; provide census profiles of the markets being targeted; map and provide profiles of farmers and food-related business; and allow users to query data.

Ten states have already partnered with Wal-Mart to become part of the MarketMaker Website, including Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, and Ohio.  While Colorado and South Carolina’s Websites are still under development.

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Sadly, this reads largely like a press release from Wal-Mart. Your opening paragraph is absolutely not true. How about some good questions, Ms. Greenhalgh?
    There is ZERO comment from anyone actually involved in sustainable farming. Rather, it is Wal-Mart’s attempt to co-opt the actual sustainable farming movement.
    Wal-Mart is only trying to develop a way to APPEAR to be offering local food when its actual purpose is to develop additional competitors to the giant, industrial ag firms it is already doing business with. Wal-Mart is only interested in selling food that is a commodity so it is trying to broaden what is available as a commodity.
    Sadly, some farmers are falling for the lure of a single customer who can buy everything the farm produces without investigating its purchasing record elsewhere.

  • Harry Hamil

    Sadly, this reads largely like a press release from Wal-Mart. Your opening paragraph is absolutely not true. How about some good questions, Ms. Greenhalgh?
    There is ZERO comment from anyone actually involved in sustainable farming. Rather, it is Wal-Mart’s attempt to co-opt the actual sustainable farming movement.
    Wal-Mart is only trying to develop a way to APPEAR to be offering local food when its actual purpose is to develop additional competitors to the giant, industrial ag firms it is already doing business with. Wal-Mart is only interested in selling food that is a commodity so it is trying to broaden what is available as a commodity.
    Sadly, some farmers are falling for the lure of a single customer who can buy everything the farm produces without investigating its purchasing record elsewhere.

  • Doc Mudd

    Geez, Harry H., how can you not be ecstatic over this public committment by WalMart to embrace the “locavore” movement in principal and practice? They are naming producer names and snapping photographs, stepping up to purchase and distribute locally grown product.
    Now, finally, is the moment for the “local” and “sustainable” zealots to prove the theories and assumptions they’ve been preaching so vehemently. Just supply the goods in commercial volume, meet or exceed the quality and safety standards and keep the price competitive – simply show us all how it’s done. It has all sounded so easy and certain and trendy up to now.
    Finally a legitimate chance to prove out the various lofty claims for “local sustainable” agriculture…or have the hobby farm hubris exposed for all to see. Which will it be? We shall see.

  • hhamil

    The foolishness of what Doc Mudd has written was reported the day BEFORE his comment above in the article “Wal-Mart to slash grocery prices” at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=10148948. As reported by Reuters, “Walmart has used aggressive pricing in grocery and other units to
    bring shoppers into its stores. The grocery business is particularly pressured by such pricing, as its profit margins are already low. Investors in Walmart have been concerned about signs that shoppers who gravitated to its stores during the worst of the recession — boosting sales and profits — are returning to rivals. Traffic fell in Walmart’s U.S. stores during its fourth quarter, despite the holiday
    season, when shopping is at its peak.” The grocery sub-industry index dropped 2.2% AND Wal-Mart dropped 1.1% as investors recognized what will be happening. In short, Doc Mudd, Wal-Mart is going to use its huge profits elsewhere to lower its grocery prices. That is the opposite of the sustainability that it professes. Furthermore, just as large producers have found for years throughout agriculture the bigger the buyer the greater your risk they will drop you “in the blink of an eye” if they find a lower price elsewhere. Simply put, Doc Mudd misrepresented what our movement and my comment said. Finally, Wal-Mart’s record in other products is exactly as I am forecasting. Ask the former officers of the bankrupt Vlasic pickles.

  • Harry Hamil

    The foolishness of what Doc Mudd has written was reported the day BEFORE his comment above in the article “Wal-Mart to slash grocery prices” at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=10148948. As reported by Reuters, “Walmart has used aggressive pricing in grocery and other units to
    bring shoppers into its stores. The grocery business is particularly pressured by such pricing, as its profit margins are already low. Investors in Walmart have been concerned about signs that shoppers who gravitated to its stores during the worst of the recession — boosting sales and profits — are returning to rivals. Traffic fell in Walmart’s U.S. stores during its fourth quarter, despite the holiday
    season, when shopping is at its peak.” The grocery sub-industry index dropped 2.2% AND Wal-Mart dropped 1.1% as investors recognized what will be happening. In short, Doc Mudd, Wal-Mart is going to use its huge profits elsewhere to lower its grocery prices. That is the opposite of the sustainability that it professes. Furthermore, just as large producers have found for years throughout agriculture the bigger the buyer the greater your risk they will drop you “in the blink of an eye” if they find a lower price elsewhere. Simply put, Doc Mudd misrepresented what our movement and my comment said. Finally, Wal-Mart’s record in other products is exactly as I am forecasting. Ask the former officers of the bankrupt Vlasic pickles.

  • Doc Mudd

    If your “sustainability” is intended simply to cost more, then that will not be, well, uh, sustainable on a global scale, Harry. Besides, “local” is touted as being so much more energy efficient (food miles, and all that rot) and, so, it should be less costly at retail, no?
    .
    Good for WalMart, introducing competition and bringing prices in line for basic commodities, like wholesome food that sustains the masses. Trendy folks don’t have to shop there if they are offended by reasonable pricing – they can continue to indulge themselves in conspicuous consumption among the boutique farmers markets.

  • hhamil

    As you don’t address any of the issues I raise, Doc Mudd, I will close with this comment. Wal-Mart doesn’t give a crap about “wholesome food.” I do. I grow, distribute and retail local, healthy food–the most wholesome food in America. So, unlike most of the people in this country, I work in the production economy. There’s nothing “trendy” about those of us who do. I work 60 – 80 hours a week–EVERY week–doing it and trying to protect the ability to do it. How do you make a living?

  • Harry Hamil

    As you don’t address any of the issues I raise, Doc Mudd, I will close with this comment. Wal-Mart doesn’t give a crap about “wholesome food.” I do. I grow, distribute and retail local, healthy food–the most wholesome food in America. So, unlike most of the people in this country, I work in the production economy. There’s nothing “trendy” about those of us who do. I work 60 – 80 hours a week–EVERY week–doing it and trying to protect the ability to do it. How do you make a living?

  • Scott Southerland

    The first spewers of negative info above sound as though they work for some of the national or international food cartels that control food and food prices. Quetion, are you scared criminals? I must say I agree with Harry Hamil, he seems to be telling it like it is. It’s about time a large corporation looks to do business directly with small local farmers. The reality is the cost of transportation from far and away to bring quality food to our tables is killing us. I work in the oil & gas industry on offshore production rigs, I also grow food. Me, I’m contacting Walmart.
    Screw U Food Lion !