The NY Times reported yesterday that Wal-Mart is going to buy more local food, as well as rate the food in its stores for sustainability. It is really amazing, the way Wal-Mart has turned around its reputation in the last five years. And I think Wal-Mart has a chance to redefine food in America, which today is an industrial product with two fundamental flaws…it tastes horrible and makes people fat.
Of course, I wonder if the amazing small farmers who sell at my local farmer's market are going to bother dealing with, I am sure, the ferociously cheap buyers at Wal-Mart.
The Saratoga Springs farmer's market was recently named one of the country's top ten by the American Farmland Trust. It is just spectacularly popular–on a summer Saturday, you have to shove your way through–and with good reason. The vendors are knowledgable, artistic, life-affirming, fun.
I don't spend a lot of time there because I grow most of my own vegetables, but I was there just this week to buy cream for a last tomato soup of the season from the amazing Battenkill Valley Creamery. As always happens to me at the farmer's market, I spent every single dollar in my wallet–on the Argyle Cheese Farmer's incredible yogurt, on another's guy's amazing chevre, on Saratoga Apple's incredible fruit and cider. I didn't even make it down to the young Italian woman who in the last year has started selling stunningly good aged cheeses at some mortgage-the-house price.
I like the idea of "every day low prices" for really great food. But I think it's an oxymoron. There is a lot of labor in beautiful food, and I don't see how it can ever be cheap.