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Thoughts About Wal-Mart and Organics From Rural America

Wal-Mart, Its Like Crack for Consumers 

Since leaving San Francisco and moving to northeastern Pennsylvania I’ve been looking forward to living in a swing state and think that it might make up for leaving the ocean views, my friends and the produce too.

Okay back to the point. Here in Milford we have a nice little natural foods store, a first rate Italian deli and meat market, a lousy Grand Union supermarket and just a few miles away, a giant store open 24 hours a day called a Wal-Mart Super Center. The produce is, well it is the Northeast so need I say more, but the farmer’s markets, small as they are, provide some great corn, lettuce, peaches, pears, potatoes and soon apples, too!

A month ago, when taking care of my ailing mom (who is now doing great), I went to a small Wal-Mart in Stratford, Connecticut to buy some light bulbs. That was the plan. You see the Super Stop & Shop, where she buys her groceries didn’t have the floodlights she needed needed.

Walking around I became mesmerized, following those freaky huge happy face yellow sale dots all over the store, thinking maybe she needed a new iron, wondering if I should replace my toaster oven, drooling at low priced music CDs, gawking at cheap new release DVDs, even contemplating buying some $19 Levis.

NBN’s all-American consumption loving yin in an internal monologue shouting down my progressive eco-friendly yang, One hour and fifteen minutes later I finally dragged myself out of there, with just a the 50 watt floodlights I went in for. Phew!

Well here in Milford before you knew it there I was at the self-checkout, packing my Van’s wheat free waffles, Silk Original soy, Gardenburger riblets, Florida Crystals 32 ounce canister of organic sugar and some not so natural products into plastic bags and sheepishly heading back to my new private vehicle (a 1983 Ford F-100 pickup truck that makes me look like a hungry hunter heading for a deer shoot as much as an ex-San Franciscan searching for peace and happiness amidst the Delaware River Valley in Northeastern, Pennsylvania.

The Wal-Mart near my little town had enough organic products to pack a pantry–flour, jam, peanut butter— products that years ago one had to order by mail from Walnut Acres or make yourself.

The moral of the story, well there really isn’t any moral. Maybe one point is that Wal-Mart’s cheap prices are like crack to people like me and if you’re poor and don’t have much work may in fact be irresistible.

Sadly Wal-Mart like much of American business provides value but only one kind. The kind of value that is rung up at the checkout stand. Its long term growth has created more shuttered businesses and lost jobs, just the kind of economic environment that makes its cheap prices so appealing.

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