The Walmart Effect?

Here at The Maven, we're die-hard farmers market shoppers. In Orono, our market runs year-round, though it slows to twice a month in the winter, so we're a bit spoiled. We know pretty much everyone who grows, raises, catches or produces the veggies, cheeses, seafood and meats we buy. In some cases, we even know the name of the pig that our pork chops came from.

From a food lover's perspective, it doesn't get any better than this, and we bemoan our more frequent trips to the grocery store in the colder months. Nothing against Hannaford — it's a great market — but it's just not the same experience. In Bangor, the Natural Living Center is a nice alternative with lots of local foods, and we've been known to go a little out of control when we visit Whole Foods in Portland (but really, who hasn't?)

One place we've never bought groceries? Walmart. In fact, The Maven hasn't set foot in a Walmart in about four years. It's a little closer to 10 years for Jason.

But after reading Corby Kummer's recent article in the Atlantic — The Great Grocery Smackdown — we may reconsider. Apparently, the retail behemoth has gotten into the local foods game and the results, he writes, are surprisingly good. We're not going to rehash his article here — you really need to read it — but it provides a lot of food for thought. Does this cancel out any of our overarching concerns with Walmart? Not necessarily.

Because we haven't been there in a dog's age, we have no idea what our Walmart is doing and which, if any, local farmers it has on its roster (if you do, drop us a line or post a comment). But as we saw in "Food Inc." there's something to be said for a large corporation supporting groups of small, independent producers.

Will it replace our farmers market? Never. We wouldn't trade that experience for anything, including a lower price tag. Is it a benefit to have another, huge player in the marketplace supporting local agriculture? Only time will tell.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please post a comment below or drop us a line at kristen@mainemaven.com.

3 comments:

Ted said...

Nice to see an open mind about Wally's World. If it wasn't for the fine selection of fresh foods, pricing structure and convenience offered at our neighborhood Super Wal-Mart, grocery shopping in Mobile AL would be less than adequate.

lvotey said...

My knee-jerk reaction is that this is fabulous news! Here's why: While many of us will continue to support the farmers' markets no matter the price or inconvenience, there are families who simply cannot. There are also folks who are less aware of the dangers of industrialized food. With Wal-Mart getting in on the action, the odds, of more families buying local wholesome food and thus supporting local producers, greatly increases.

Jj Starwalker said...

DO look carefully at the labels on the produce. They consider Backyard Farms (http://www.backyardfarms.com/) to be "locally grown" tomatoes at the Bangor, ME store that was the closest to "local" and while I support Backyard's concept -- and have bought their fruit -- that was just about the only thing I saw that was even close to local.

Growers who work on the scale that I would consider a "small, local farm" just don't have the volume to supply WalMart.

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