Walmart is attempting to capitalize on the interest in fresh, local produce. Will their 100% no questions money back guarantee put them at the head of the new local food movement?

Walmart long has provided a money-back guarantee on practically everything it sells, of course, but customers no longer will need to bring back the produce in question—just the receipt. The chain is also producing a “major produce advertising campaign,” Sinclair said, which will feature the real-life substitution of Walmart produce for regular fare at a California farmstand and focus on consumer reactions.

Redoubling its efforts on “local” sourcing of produce is also a big component of Walmart’s new produce push. (By “local,” Walmart means sourcing within a state.) Three years ago, the company had pledged to double its locally sourced produce by 2015, and Sinclair said “that program is well on its way.”

But in particular now, Walmart has been cutting out the middleman by delivering more produce from farms to store shelves, purchasing directly from growers and leveraging the company’s produce experts, distribution centers and trucking systems; about 80 percent of its produce now is being sourced directly. Walmart has also dispersed its produce buyers from headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to places around the country, especially strong produce-growing regions such as California and Florida.

No doubt, skeptics are legion. However, it is intriguing that market and cultural forces are compelling the largest seller of fresh produce in the world to speak in terms of local production of food and to back up that talk with actual programs to source produce locally.

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


  1. The likely outcome is centralized and industrialized agriculture writ “local.” Some of us in our climes have been trying to develop a market place, real in a church parking lot or some other ground, to make the excess found in nearly every home garden in our community freshly available to others. We have noted that most folks who produce home gardens produce more than they actually consume, be it fresh or canned. They either give it away to family and friends, which is good, very good indeed, or say that much of it was eaten by the local animals (not bad) or spoiled. There are, of course, other ways to foster very local markets, much more local than the level of a state republic; but ours builds one what is already produced and not on “stimulating” production with contract quotas or capital leverage.

  2. Ever since I broke my coffee roaster back in November, I’ve been buying beans roasted by others. The best deal seems to be at Sam’s Club. You can buy local beans in 2 lb. bags. These are beans that have been roasted by Water Street, a Kalamazoo roaster. Water Street is my 2nd favorite roaster in Kalamazoo; my favorite roasts on an even smaller scale. But these Water Street beans are inoffensive enough, and better than a lot of the big name beans (like Starbucks).

    This deal seems to be part of a locavore program by which you can buy Michigan produce in a big box store.

    In this case the Michigan beans were grown in Africa, Indonesia, and Central America, then shipped to Oakland CA (probably) from which they were shipped across the mountains to Michigan to be roasted and then sent down I-94 to Sam’s Club for people like us who drive 20 miles across town to buy local produce.

    If I was a more virtuous locavore, I supposed I’d at least try to buy beans grown on the same continent where I live. But the only caffeine-producing plant that grows in North America is Ilex vomitoria, in the same genus with other holly plants. The caffeine is in the leaves.

    Native people in the southwest used to make a ceremonial drink out of it. They’d drink together and then upchuck it as part of a purification process. There isn’t anything in the drink to make one vomit, so it seems to have been more of a socially conditioned practice. Early European settlers who invaded the continent mixed it with whiskey to make a drink of their own, and they kept it down as well as they kept their whiskey down.

    As the European invasion commenced, the native people morphed the meaning of purification to mean getting rid of the white people. Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa are two prominent names associated with this movement, but there were others, too. I have some dried leaves that I got on a bike ride to Wetumpka, Alabama, which is about how far south you have to go to find Ilex vomitoria. (Tecumseh went near there in 1811.) But back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Ilex vomitoria drink (“black drink”) was taken north to Ohio and used in ceremonies there, too. So it wasn’t a complete locavore product even then.

    Tenskwatawa and other native prophets , such as Neolin, did preach a locavore message, urging Indians to avoid white European practices and products, and go back to the old ways of making and using their own stuff. This way they would be less dependent on the whites and could drive them out, or at least operate a policy of containment against them.

    This was a hard sell, though, because Indians had come to depend on the products they bought from Europeans. They were already part of a huge, global economy. The Creeks of the southeast produced about 1.5 million pounds of deerskin leather a year, some of which was used locally but most of which was shipped to England in exchange for goods they needed. There were a few feeble attempts to turn locavore, but most people didn’t follow that part of the prophets’ messages very closely.

    This is not to say the locavore message has already been tried and tested and found to fail. The dependence on white European goods did in fact greatly contribute to the white European conquest. The American policy of getting the nation in debt in order to take away peoples’ freedom did not start with Obama. As a deliberate policy it was used against the Indians already in Jefferson’s day – he advocated getting the Indians deep in debt and then getting them to cede their lands in payment. Which is what happened.

  3. I was reminded today that Ilex vomitoria is NOT the only caffeine-producing plant in North America. There is also basswood, which grows in my part of the continent. I can be a better locavore if I make tea from basswood flowers. It’s said to be a pleasant and distinctive sensory experience.

    There are also many other flowers (as well as a few other plant parts) that are known to contain caffeine. So caffeine production has evolved many times. And I have learned (from a hallway conversation, not from reading) that recent research suggests that caffeine from flowers stimulates learning in the plant’s insect pollinators (aka sexual brokers) making it easier for them to remember to come back (and not to waste time elsewhere).

    In my case, the coffee I’m drinking right now may have stimulated me to add several parenthetical phrases to the previous paragraph.

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