Readers' Thoughts on "Walmart and Local"

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Last month I wrote a short article about Walmart's plans to begin stocking local food in its grocery aisles. Figuring that some of you would have something to say about the idea, we had intended to open up the article for public comments, but somewhere in the flurry of preparing the newsletter for publication, we forgot. Several people took the time to write to me, which I appreciated. They raised such disparate valid points that we thought the whole conversation ought to continue. With their permission, we are reprinting them below.

Hello Erin,

Although I'd like to think that Walmart could go all warm and fuzzy on us, but are you kidding? The only thing Walmart is concerned with, is their bottom line. And if they think they can monopolize on anything they do. I've been around long enough to see how their company destroys small businesses and entire small communities, by offering to buy up everything at a ridiculous low cost, pass the savings on to consumers, and ultimately put producers out of business. Their concept is simple sell quantity not quality. If they start supplying local food those entities (farmers markets, coops, CSA, specialty stores) that are struggling already, will be gone in no time.

So, once the farms are out of business, where do you think they will get their fresh food from? Imports? Big corporate farms?

You might want to read your history and why the Direct Marketing Act was developed before you start advocating HUGE corporations connecting with farms. Huge brokers and corporations were the reason small farms were dropping like flies before 1970.

Don't get me wrong, I understand your 'kindness' attitude as its applied to making food assessable, however, isn't this why organizations such as LocalHarvest exist. And if I don't say so my self, you are doing a terrific job.

I own and operate two Certified Farmers Markets. Its already challenging enough do deal with all the bombardments of the business. And we are making a difference in our community (finally after 18 years). And if Walmart came in - we would lose that local connectivity. Naturally, Walmart wants a piece of the action - because farmers markets and local food sources alike, are finally becoming extremely important and they want to take it ALL. That's what they do. PLEASE PLEASE do more research. And I don't mean just Walmart's history. I mean the bad too.

In fact, the town I live in, has been a ghost town since Walmart came in. There are no more quaint mom and pop shops that make this community together. Its just shameful.

Kerri Santoro High Desert Farmers Market
Victorville, CA

Erin, I read your article, very good! I know we tend to fear the "giants" will take over.... however, we must have faith that this is actually the LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT.. moving!! I am hopeful...! Thanks for all you do, girl!!

Debbie Hill
Debbie's Garden
Marietta, GA

Dear Erin:

Besides I always enjoy your newsletters network/journalings, particular thanks for this month's "ambiguity catharsis". I was, me thought, unequivocally green, local, low impact until a sojourn in England. Main upside was they're non-GMO and more savvy about herbal and natural remedies than average U.S. and not as infiltrated with varieties that have been developed to pick green and forever shelf life. However, the controversy originating in London and other population centers was McDonald's is taking over Europe, we don't need your fast food. But the factoid out in the interlands was that sitdown genteel food and even pub food was too expensive for family outings, and in McDonald's it was readily seen that average families could afford to eat out. The other factoid was that in historic villages public restrooms were nonexistent, but Mickey D was always reliable. I came back to U.S. in equivocation up to my ears to discover that in a lot of rural areas, Walmart is the only place serving a wide populace. I currently live in a rural area where it's the big boxes or nuthin. The Kroger Big Box has installed an organic department to compete with Walmart's and things are lookin' up. Which further ensconces me in equivocation: I hate shopping in the Big Boxes, it reminds of Dante's entrance to hell, ditto I despise the factory farming syndrome and buy zip-nada ConAgra products. BUT we gotta eat and when farmer's market is over, I can't pay shipping prices on organic brands all winter. At any rate, thanks for expressing the horns of the dilemma and yours for bigger and better ambiguity.

Clare Templeton

Hi There,

Thanks for your article Erin, it was informative. I live in Homestead, Florida where we have the largest Walmart Superstore in the state. I shop there weekly and they offer local produce at fabulous fair prices. Back a few years ago when the farmers here in Homestead let the tomatoes rot in the fields because Publix, Winn Dixie and whoever else would not pay a fair price, only Walmart stepped up.

Hope that helps in your thought process. I grow a lot of my own herbs, veggies etc and am very happy to be able to buy local whenever I can.

Thanks for your newsletter,
Laurie Connor

Hi Erin,

You'll probably be inundated with comments about your Wal-Mart blog. Check out the Well-Fed Neighbor Alliance. We are creating local food and local jobs here in SW Missouri, and it will spread to the rest of the country. We are NOT going to sell to Wal-Mart because we want our locally owned grocery chains to be able to offer products that people can't get at Wal-Mart. We want the mom and pops to not only survive Wal-Mart, but flourish.

There is no county in this entire country that produces the food it needs to feed the people that live there. That is scary! We are food dependent on other countries!

My two cents is that Wal-Mart will not offer fair prices. It will do to the local farmers what it's done to the manufacturers; if it is allowed to take over the food industry, local or otherwise, it will use its massive power to force its price on the food producers. This is one reason why we want to create demand for local at the local grocery chains so they will compete for local production. We need to level the playing field, and create vibrant sustainable local economies in the process.

Thanks for all you do,
Kathy Vimont
Pasture Nectar Farm
Mount Vernon, MO

Hi Erin,

In regard to Wal-Mart.
Our farm, Audis Acres Natural farms, was featured in the January 5 2009 Issue of Crain's Chicago Business. This is in regard to Wal-Mart and its attempt to woo Local farmers. In this case Illinois farmers. This is nothing new.

You might want to read that article and its implications... You will find it very interesting. Once they set up farmer friendly relations, I might do business with them, but this seems highly unlikely.

Ed Wonsowski
Audis Acres Natural farms
Plano, IL

By: | Nov 26, 2010 06:29 PM | Permalink
My comment about the Walmart article is this: I think it could be a good thing except I believe Walmart would NOT treat the farmers and producers fairly. Furthermore, I was shopping at a local Walmart one day and noticed the way their stockperson was handling the produce, just slamming it down in the rack, bruising every apple in the display. It wont matter if they do buy locally, slamming food around, quality will always be less than anything I would want to eat. I do not or will not buy produce or meat there.

By: L. P. | Nov 24, 2010 05:17 PM | Permalink
Walmart is the #1 mass retailer and e-retailer because they provide middle-class customers with much needed products and services at an equitable cost. Case in point:

1. Walmart started the first low-cost program relative to multiple medications for those of us that are underinsured or have no major medical healthcare. In the USA, 50 Million people are in this category. The cost-savings is huge, as all medications are either $4.00 or $10.00.

2. Walmart initiated walk-in health clinics in certain parts of the country. Do know how much good this does for people who, are again underinsured, or lack insurance? Preventive visits are not included in most insurance plans, so the patient is responsible for approximately $150 to $450 per doctor visit. Indiviuals without health insurance skip these routine office visits and later end up in the Emergency Room, which is a high cost for all of us to pay.

2. Their in-store Vision Center is a huge solution provider for those of us who wear glasses or contacts. They employ professional eye doctors, competent staff, great frame styles at a reasonable price. Have you checked the costs at Lenscrafters and the like? A basic pair of glasses is > $300, in contrast to Walmart where the same pair of glasses are priced at $85.

3. The general cost of Walmart's products and services are not exorbitant, and the quality and quantity of product /services, coupled with good customer service, is the reason they are number one (1) Mass Retailer in the World. Furthermore, you should know that their electronics department is second to none--I can promise you.

4. Lastly, don't believe everything you read or hear regarding Walmart's mistreatment of their employees, as it is most likely fictitious.

By: AnnMarie Laramee | Nov 24, 2010 12:34 AM | Permalink
Class-Action Lawsuits - One of Many

The class-action lawsuit, filed in 2001, accused the retailer of denying workers rest and meal breaks, refusing to pay overtime, and manipulating time cards to lower employees pay...

I find it really hard to believe that Wal-Mart will treat local farmers fairly or pay fair wages for their food; they will treat them the same way they treat their employees. Local & Organic is a movement and it is slowly but surely making an impact on their bottom line, of course they are interested!

AnnMarie Local Food Stop

By: Peter Tauch | Nov 23, 2010 09:31 PM | Permalink
Yep, Wal Mart will destroy the local farmers now. Big corporate farms see the locals as a threat as well they should. GMO, Monsanto, Con Agra etc... are destroying our food supply and the environment. Just look at your sky everyday and see all the spraying of Aluminum Oxide and barrium that is going on. Monsanto has the patent on the seeds that wil grow in the soil that is being polluted by this spraying. Chemtrails are real and they are spraying more now than ever. Don't be fooled by Wal Mart. They are all in on the scam together.

By: Marvin Zinn | Nov 23, 2010 07:43 PM | Permalink
Regarding WalMart's potential sales of local products: If this is done, I will NEVER enter any WalMart to buy it, just as for anything else now. WalMart forces a price that will either greatly reduce quality, or put the supplier out of business. It will destroy producers of anything, because stupid customers want things cheap instead of good quality. Many companies are shut down because employees buy things cheap made in China by workers treated like slaves.

If you want details, read the book: The Wal-Mart Effect, by Charles Fishman.


By: Joline Stone | Nov 23, 2010 06:49 PM | Permalink
Hello Erin ... first off, I have never written to you before, although I LOVE everything about Local Harvest. I joined in the beginning because I was full-timing on the road in my RV and had difficulty getting fresh food Eventually the traveling slowed down as I neared my 80th birthday and I moved to rural New Mexico to be with other friends who settled here. I totally agree with every stance taken here about Walmart, the good, the bad and the ugly..

I am not here t o pick a fight, just to state my individual situation and I've said this many times to friends: After living for 55 years in California where EVERYTHING under the sun was available to me, including 7 farmer's markets a week! if Walmart were not available in my neighborhood I could NOT live here. Drastic words.

Fresh food is 40 miles away in Albuquerque. When diesel was almost $5 a gallon, trips into ABQ were few and far between. That can happen again. I even grew a small garden of my own this past year with beginner's not so good luck. One awesome tomato plant survived and was the hit of the neighborhood, but I digress.

I just want to point out that in some areas Walmart is the only game in town, already here by many years by the time I got here, and I am grateful for the many organic products I can get there, especially the salad greens and other salad ingredients. I eat only organic, I might add. Or try to. It's a full time job. So I'm not promoting Walmart, just stating how it affects one senior citizen living in a rural area.

Keep up your good work. I forward your newsletter all around the world and hope that others will connect to you and your many farms. I love you all. Thank you for listening.

Many Blessings ... Joline Stone, Belen NM aka Rio Communities.

By: Natalie Woodroofe | Nov 23, 2010 06:47 PM | Permalink
Thanks for your thoughts and your readers' comments on the issue of Wal-Mart going 'local'. I feel that ultimately consumers and farmers are better off when we directly support our local growers and food producers rather than through an enormous middleman like Wal-Mart. Here's a link to my blog posting on this issue:

Thanks for encouraging the conversation.

By: Jan Steinman | Nov 23, 2010 06:17 PM | Permalink
if Mall*Wart has its way, it will simply commodify local food, pitting neighbour against neighbour.

That is why I moved to a place that won't let Mall*Wart in.

Back to the November 2010 Newsletter