It had to happen sooner or later. As American Agriculturist editorials have been predicting, the "buy local, buy fresh" craze has caught fire. And Wal-Mart is jumping on the bandwagon due to fast-rising shipping costs.
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart announced that it will "source" more local fruits and vegetables to keep produce prices down. The retailer also reported that partnerships with local farmers have grown by 50% over the past two years to cut shipping costs and provide fresh food offerings.
During summer months, locally sourced fruits and vegetables that are both grown and available for purchase within a state's borders make up 20% of Wal-Mart's produce, according to Pam Kohn, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and general merchandise manager for grocery. "We're taking it to a new level with a pledge to grow our partnerships with local farmers," she added. "We're committed to purchasing locally grown produce whenever possible. Increasing the amount of local produce in our grocery aisles – and adding clear locally grown signage – reflects our dedication to offer the freshest products possible at great prices."
This year, Wal-Mart expects to source about $400 million in locally grown produce from farmers across the United States. Through better logistics planning, better packing of trucks and local sourcing, Wal-Mart expects to save millions of food miles.
The retailer reports it's also working with state departments of agriculture and local farmers to develop or revitalize growing areas for products that haven't been grown there. The company is also dedicating space on its web site to locally grown produce, including farmer profiles and recipes. Visit www.walmart.com/locallygrown.
A list of locally grown produce available at Wal-Mart by state is at www.livebetterindex.com. Click on the "Save More" tab at the top.