Wal-Mart trying to buy more from local farmers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Wal-Mart trying to buy more from local farmers

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- The Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley are both huge agricultural areas and Wal-Mart is using trying to buy more local produce from local farmers.

In October, Walmart committed to doubling the amount of locally grown produce will bring the total in the U.S. to 9 percent of all produce sold.

Five years ago, chili peppers were sourced from California, Florida and Mexico, last year Walmart sourced chili peppers from 17 states, including Washington and this year expects to expand to more than 30 states.
In Washington, Walmart locally sources, onions, pears and 11 varieties of apples.

At various times of the year  they have broccoli, watermelons, green beans, asparagus, cherries, cauliflower, nectarines, cucumbers, and others.

Sourcing Washington grown produce for at local Wal-Mart stores in Washington helps reduce freight costs and wasted produce. Both create significant cost savings, which many times allows the stores to pay a local farmer a higher price for their crop than they would a national grower.

"We've been working with Wal-Mart for over 15 years. Before the season begins, they give us a layout of everything that they're going to want from us that season," says Josh Fewel, of Fewel Farms in Prosser.

Fewel says it makes sense.  "Their distribution center is 20 miles from our farm so we can transport all the goods to them direct instead of having to broker a truck."

Fewel also says Wal-Mart was the first retailer in the area to participate in the "Regionally Correct" program, and it made other retailers follow in their footsteps. "If the produce is available in your area, they will buy it from you even if it's cheaper to bring it up from some other areas such as California or Mexico."

He says the retail giant even goes a step beyond to make sure what local farmers are growing is efficient with their Heritage Ag experts.  "What they'll do is they'll make recommendations on what types of seed varieties grow well in your area, how the crops may react to certain different sprays," say Fewel.