Walmart is taking its new emphasis on local and organic food to a radical level, the mega-retailer announced today. Ten Walmart Supercenters around the country will soon begin onsite homesteading programs, using rooftop gardens to grow produce and converting parking lots of grassland to raise the meat sold in the stores. The program’s mission is two-fold: to greatly reduce the farm-to-fork carbon emissions associated with the food it sells and to offer its customers a means of playing a more active role in the food’s procurement.
“We’re looking for ways of putting our massive stores and parking lots to better use, and to somehow work them into our sustainability initiatives,” said a Walmart spokesperson, who added that the specific idea came from an associate in a Nebraska Supercenter who was raised on a sprawling family farm on the very parcel of land on which the store is located. “My forefathers initially cultivated this land in the late 1800s–in fact they were among the first white settlers in the area and Willa Cather used them as reference characters in her novel O Pioneers!” explained the associate, Bernard Burden. “So it’s fitting that this store should be one of the sites for Walmart’s homesteading initiative. Makes me proud.”
As part of the program, Walmart is also launching a program by which customers will have the opportunity to learn how the meat and poultry sold in the stores is procured. The stores will offer classes in animal husbandry and hands-on courses in which shoppers will learn how to slaughter and dress meat and poultry at an onsite abattoir.
This hyper-local food initiative was welcome news to shoppers we spoke with in a Supercenter in Yakima, Washington, another one of the proposed pilot stores. “I used to hunt, but it’s so boring,” remarked Alice Waterston, from Ellensburg, Wash. “And sitting around in the cold, damp woods at the crack of dawn? No thanks. But learning how to slaughter and dress a cow? How to pluck a chicken? These are great skills. Plus, I’ll have so much more appreciation for the food I eat–and I’ll still feel like the breadwinner in our family.”
Walmart, which points to the home improvement courses offered at Home Depot as a model for the homesteading classes, says it will also build monorails at the pilot locations to provide an easy way for shoppers from nearby urban centers to get to the stores. The monorails will be powered by a mixture of hydrogen fuel cells, photovoltaic panels and pedal-power (each seat inside the train will double as a stationary bike). Since the parking areas will be shrinking substantially at the pilots stores, these monorails will also accommodate customers who used to regularly drive to the stores.