Walmart Stores Inc. recently announced a program intended to put more locally grown food in its U.S. stores; invest in training and infrastructure for small and medium-size farmers, particularly in emerging markets; and measure how efficiently large suppliers grow and move their products.
The retailer said it plans to double the percentage of locally grown produce it sells to 9 percent. Walmart defines locally grown as produce grown and sold in the same state.
"Walmart’s effort to increase its offering of local foods illustrates the increasing consumer demand for local food," said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "I hope farmers will realize greater returns are possible from this increasing consumer demand. With the list of retailers interested in local produce growing each year, this trend should continue to offer farmers an opportunity to improve their income."
Some Walmart stores in the state already carry Virginia peanuts and other local foods.
Ned Jeter II of Roanoke County, who co-owns Jeter Farm, sells produce to Kroger and has sold small quantities of produce to Walmart in the past.
"We will be trying to get in with Walmart when that time comes," Jeter said. "We would like to do more with them. We hope to address questions with Walmart in a meeting they will be having here in the Roanoke Valley."
The retailer will hold several such grower meetings throughout Virginia.
Jeter said the benefit of selling to a big chain is "the volume of produce they purchase.
"Usually we sell yellow squash and zucchini to Kroger. They’ll take all that we can pick on the farm, twice, sometimes three times a week. By doing that, they’re getting really fresh produce. We’re really close to Kroger’s warehouse, so in the time we pick, pack and deliver — it’s all in the same day."