So one night last week I was standing in a Walmart in Orlando. Other than maybe standing in line for the It’s a Small World ride at Disney World, I can’t think of a worse place to be in Orlando. But one of my classmates had asked me if I’d stop there so he could buy some thermal underwear for his motorcycle ride back to Georgia, and how could I say no to that?
So there I was, killing time within the walls of the hated arch-nemesis of agrarians, while my friend browsed the vast selection of Chinese long-johns. Just being there gave me a weird, anxious, uncomfortable feeling. Sorta like when I was a kid and my Mama made me hold her purse.
This particular Walmart was one of the “super” ones, where virtually everything imaginable is for sale. Noticing that the grocery part of the complex was near the exit where we had agreed to meet, I decided to go check out the produce.
The first thing I noticed in the produce section was a huge mountain of navel oranges, each one bearing its own individual sticker identifying it as a “Navel Orange. California.” I was standing in a grocery store in Orlando, Florida in January, looking at a huge pile of California navel oranges. There was not a Florida orange in sight.
There was also a large display of blueberries, beneath a sign that read “$3. USA” (“Save even more. Was $3.47” the sign above it read.) One might reasonably suppose that the letters “USA” were meant to stand for “United States of America,” signifying, one might conclude, that this big stack of packaged blueberries were American in origin. In fact, the packaging identified them as being from “Sunny Ridge Farm, Winter Haven, Florida.” There may or may not be a Sunny Ridge Farm in Winter Haven, Florida, but if there is, these blueberries didn’t come from there. According to the fine print on the packaging, the berries were, in fact, a “Product of Chile.”
Along with California navel oranges and Chilean blueberries, the discriminating Walmart shopper could also buy potatoes, individually shrink-wrapped in plastic and “perfect for baking.” These potatoes were allegedly from North Carolina. North Carolina potatoes in January? Hmmm…. And who in their right mind would buy a single potato, shrink-wrapped in plastic?
I could go on and on. The experience was disgusting. And all I saw was the produce section. The processed crap they were peddling in the other aisles was undoubtedly much worse.
We are blessed to be able to grow most of our own food. We have a freezer loaded with pork, venison, chicken and fish, all from our farm. We have another one that is full of corn, green beans, greens, blackberries, strawberries, figs, English peas, black-eyed peas, okra, squash, eggplant, tomatoes and broccoli, all grown by us. In the basement I have a big box of our home-grown sweet potatoes, and our chickens give us over a dozen eggs a day.
Growing and storing one’s own food is more difficult than a trip to Walmart, but the payoff is worth it. Our food has never been sprayed with poison, and has been grown using sustainable practices. Most importantly, it tastes better than factory food.
As the victory gardens of World War II proved, families can easily grow a substantial amount of their own food, needing not much more than a shovel and a backyard. For those who cannot, it is healthier and more responsible to buy locally and eat seasonally. If the good folks of Orlando bought their oranges from Florida growers, Walmart would quit trucking California oranges to Orlando, over 2,000 miles away. And if the good folks of Orlando bought their blueberries from Florida growers, Walmart wouldn’t stock blueberries shipped 4,000 miles from grower to grocer. And maybe if enough of us shopped like that, we’d even have fewer Super Walmarts.
And should that happy day ever arrive, we’ll just have to accept the fact that you can’t buy thermal underwear and Chilean blueberries in the same store any more.