Wal-Mart marketing to locavores?

Brent Finnegan -- August 28th, 2008

There was a story on a recent Morning Edition about Wal-Mart moving in on farmers market territory. The company is attempting to change their image by trying to appeal to environmentalists and locavores by selling local produce in their Supercenters.

…the nation’s top grocery seller is highlighting its purchases of “locally grown” produce. While the company is touting the community benefits, buying local produce is also a way to cut the company’s growing fuel costs […] Wal-Mart says partnerships with local farmers have grown 50 percent over the past two years — not just in California, but in Wal-Mart stores across the country. This year, it plans to buy about $400 million worth of locally grown produce.

A similar story appeared in U.S. News and World Report last month:

But the retail giant, which relies heavily on items made in China, may find it hard to manage two very different consumer bases: purely cost-driven shoppers and sustainability-minded consumers with more to spend. As Wal-Mart juggles new and old identities, can it rule both the dirt-cheap arena and the local niche market?

It’s unclear at this point whether Wal-Mart intends to sell local produce in the Harrisonburg locations. Calls to managers at the Supercenters in Harrisonburg Crossing and the location near Dayton directed me to the Wal-Mart media relations office in Bentonville, which has yet to return my calls.

If I hear anything new, I’ll update this post.

14 Responses to “Wal-Mart marketing to locavores?”

  1. Emmy says:

    This is interesting to me. When Martin’s first opened they were selling local herbs. I recognized the name of the farm they came from. Now, they are advertising local foods in their ads. When you are in the store, they actually have the name and location of the farm above the produce. While they are in the state, they aren’t all that local. Its still a lot better than having it shipped from across the country though.

    I used to hear Wal-Mart commercials about a lady selling her pumpkins to local stores. While I rarely shop there any more, I’d be glad if they did start offering local foods. Of course, that’s assuming that the deal was good for the farmer.

  2. David Miller says:

    Walmart is far to cozy in its bed of power that its demand for goods creates. Dealing with local farmers will be disastrous for them unless their actual goal is to find AgriBusiness corporations in all 50 states that will operate in the same manner as their Chinese suppliers. This in turn would create the same manner of job loss experienced in the US manufacturing industry. Except this time it would be the American farmer that gets squeezed out, oh wait…..this is already in full swing enactment. Bring on Walmart to the mix for the killer blow.

  3. linz says:

    Is this good or evil in action? Too early to tell, I guess. Good for local farmers, bad for farmers’ markets? Good for Wal-Mart’s pocket book, bad for the locavore’s? I’m hopeful that it’s a good thing, but skeptical because it’s Wal-Mart and usually their “good” is tainted.

    I’m picturing a business strategist presenting to the Wal-Mart execs about the untapped market of squashing small businesses that deal in local foods and then someone saying, “Great, AND it will save us gas and appeal to the environmentalists!” But maybe I’m just being paranoid. Either way, if they’re trying to appeal to me as an environmentalist, I’d like to see Wal-Mart address more of their issues than that before I start wanting to spend my money there.

  4. David Troyer says:

    This is interesting to me. When Martin’s first opened they were selling local herbs.

    Still there, I buy them all the time: Shenandoah Growers

    At the end of the day, Martin’s is still a grocery store and is still expected by the general American public to carry Apples and Tomatoes in January. Farmer’s markets don’t have that expectation.

  5. Bubby says:

    Anyone try to do business with Walmart? They tell you what you will be paid for your product…take it or leave it.

    And when they have enough farmers (who didn’t pay attention in math class) enrolled, they’ll dry up the farmers market, just like they shut down mainstreet.

    But we must kneel before the divine Free Market !

  6. David Miller says:

    Bubby

    Exactly

  7. Mike says:

    Year 1
    Walmart: “We want to buy every tomato you produce.”
    Farmer: “Hurray! Thank you very much!”

    Year 3
    Walmart: “We want more tomatoes.”
    Farmer: “That will require investments of more land, more equipment, more people, and more time. But okay, sure.”

    Year 10
    Walmart: “We’re going to pay you half as much for your tomatoes this year. If you don’t like it, good luck selling them elsewhere.”
    Farmer: “You suck.”

    Obviously that’s exaggerated for effect. But when you dance with the devil, you don’t get to call the tune.

  8. Bubby says:

    Mike:
    More like we’ll build your greenhouse, sell you the plants, fertilizer, put you on a payment plan, and buy your tomatoes…wander where I got that idea?

  9. Josh says:

    I wonder how local those herbs really are… Do they get shipped out to a distribution center and then get shipped back into town?

  10. mikekeane says:

    They must cater to us! the people have the power. your dollar is a vote. i still don’t plan on voting for walmart just because they address just one of my concerns. unless i really really need something at 4 am. i’m glad though to see these ideas trickling up.

  11. Brooke says:

    They’d have to do a whole lot more than bring in some local produce to start getting my business again.

  12. Derik says:

    Shenandoah Growers ship all their herbs straight from the facility on Mountain valley Rd. I worked there for a summer when I was in school cutting herbs and packing them for shipping. They run on a tight schedule and insist on shipping everything the day it’s cut.
    It’s quit and operation. If you haven’t seen it they recently finished what is the first of a 3 phase construction of new state of the art green houses that cover something like 5 acres each. All organic locally grown from seed to shipment.

  13. ammc says:

    I go to the farmers market just as much for the environment it creates as anything. I like being outside, I like seeing what’s new, I like the people, I like teaching my kid(s) where food comes from. Those are some of the same reasons I avoid Walmart. The people are rude, it’s crowded with rabid shoppers, the store is unkempt and sometimes downright dirty.

Reader Tweets

Latest Flickr photos in the hburgnews Flickr pool
Announcements & Press Releases
  • Friendly City Grand Opening Set for July 9

    Friendly City Food Co-Op, Harrisonburg’s consumer-owned grocery, invites the community to come see its new destination for natural, organic and locally-produced products at the store’s grand opening 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 9 at 150 East Wolfe Street.

  • Friendly City Becomes Member of National Cooperative Grocers Association

    HARRISONBURG, VA — Friendly City Food Co-op, slated to open this month in Harrisonburg, Va., has become the newest member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative serving 120 consumer-owned food co-ops nationwide.

  • Harrisonburg Recognized as a Bike Friendly Community

    May 2: Harrisonburg was honored when the League of American Bicyclists announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designations over the weekend to kick off May as National Bike Month.