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Business Tue Jul 21 2009
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.