I am all about buying local and in particular, I am a big supporter of local farmers. I’ve always seen Wal-Mart as the antithesis of my beliefs in creating a more regionally economically sustainable culture.
When a press release came through from Wal-Mart announcing their commitment to increase their use of local farmers to provide fresh produce, I was skeptical.
However, in doing a little research for this post, I visited the Wal-Mart website and found that they have an entire section devoted to sustainability. Okay. That is good. You can see that they are going to great lengths to at least appear to be implementing more sustainable activities across the board. But one could argue that these are all either cost-saving measures or done to be SC or Sustainable Correct, which is important to their marketing and PR efforts.
This cynical view of things aside, one could also argue that anything Wal-Mart implements on a corporate level will have a pretty big impact on whatever local economies they might otherwise be harming.
And then there is the argument that even if it is slightly misguided and perhaps coming from impure motives, isn’t it great that a consumer retail corporation of this magnitude is stepping up and reflecting some of these principals to literally billions of people some that might not otherwise take notice of this stuff?
I’m personally of the mind that any movement in this direction, from wherever it comes is good.
Wal-Mart can be faulted for many things, but this is a step in the right direction for many reasons, not the least of which is that they have a tendency to have devastating effects on local businesses and this is one way to make some amends for that. It definitely shortens the trip from ‘farm to fork’ in many cases.
My only other concern is a perennial issue with organic versus locally grown (when locally grown is NOT organic). I think it is not a simple answer and one that if we educate ourselves about the variety of issues surrounding organic and local agriculture, we can begin to think it through. For instance, I found out last year, that many of the ‘local’ farmers in my area aren’t certified organic, but are in transition.
I also think it is vital to know which conventionally grown fruits and veggies are okay and which ones to avoid if we are concerned about ingesting pesticide residue.
None of the farmers I saw listed on the Wal-Mart site appeared to be organic. So . . .
Here are a couple of suggestions to help educate yourself better on the subject in order to make healthier buying decisions that hopefully will have the most positive impact on the environment and the local economy:
2. Talk to your local farmers and/or your local markets where you purchase produce.
3. If they aren’t organic, keep asking them about it, writing letters, pestering store managers, etc. until they feel the pressure to get with the program!
Photo of Genesis Farm in Blairstown, NJ with permission from Relevant Times