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Business Tue Jul 21 2009

Wal-Mart Brings Farmers Market?

Tribune reports that Wal-Mart is bringing a "farmers market" to Southside neighborhood of Chatham, with the hope that the gesture will create more favorable climate to the recently stalled plan for the second store within the city limits.

The "farmers market" will be held this Saturday, July 25, from 10 am to 2 pm, at 83rd and Stewart, where the new store is proposed. Interestingly, neither the Trib story nor the chain's flyer for the event lists any details on who is going to be selling what, come Saturday. A "farmers market" without any identifiable farmers??? I briefly tried to get an answer for this, but quickly gave up when the only phone number provided turned out to be a generic customer service phone number. (This is why I'm not making my living as a journalist.)

The Trib article's only mention of the source of the produce sold is that it will be "supplied by Wal-Mart vendors." In my mind, that makes it a produce aisle dragged out to a vacant parking lot. I know that a significant portion of so-called farmers markets isn't necessarily centered around actual farmers, and many don't have as strict a standard as Green City Market and others in the area. Still, what sets farmers market apart from a produce aisle, however well stocked it may be, is the face-to-face interaction with the farmers who grew the fruits and vegetables in their tents, and the sense of trust that you gain from such interaction. (Let alone the fun of discovering unusual vegetables that would be unprofitable in big stores.) Without that aspect, it's not a farmers market. Not even close.

Calling this produce-aisle-in-the-parking-lot a "farmers market" is way off the mark. And it's only for a day. If Wal-Mart really wants to appear committed to the community's health and local agricultural economy (which I'm SURE they are), why don't they sponsor a weekly farmers market in the area, one with actual farmers from the region? Then I'll stop cringing and take it seriously. Maybe.


Tara / July 21, 2009 7:57 PM

I saw your blog and wanted to give you some more information - and a solid source for info on this event.

Thanks for your interest in the Farmer's market this Saturday at 83rd and Stewart, from 10-2.

Yes, most of the food will come from our farmers, producers, and growers that supply to our distribution center - we have a few more trucks coming direct from growers/producers. Regional cantaloupes and watermelons grown in Posyville, Indiana will be sold at the Chicago Farmer's Market. And if you’d like to meet one of our farmers - Frey Farms Produce and grower, Ted Frey will be at the event as a representative from one of the farms that we purchase from.

All proceeds will go to the Chatham Business Association.

A fact you may not know - Wal-Mart purchases more than 70 percent of its produce from U.S.-based suppliers, making Wal-Mart the biggest customer of American agriculture. This year, Wal-Mart expects to source about $400 million in locally grown produce from farmers across the United States.

If you’d like to learn about our Heritage Agriculture program –
log onto

Frederico / July 21, 2009 8:50 PM

This is an interesting point. Didn't Grub Street make it this morning?

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