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.