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Posted by on Mar 31, 2010 in Health | 0 comments

Hipster Moonshine & A Locavore Walmart

In The Atlantic, Wayne Curtis pronounces, Moonshine is back! This time in a hipster guise:

still2.jpg[R]efined moonshining hasn’t died—in fact, it’s booming today, taken up by a new generation, mostly in big cities and micropolitan towns. Practitioners make tiny batches not to resell, but mostly to see what sorts of goodness they can concoct. “It’s the same people who drove the home-brewing trend, and they’re just as dorky,” Watman said. “It tends to attract tattoo guys and the more outré farmers’-market types, although in the mountain states the practitioners are a little more snowboardy.”

I can attest to its truth. And agree with his tasting notes judgment of Virginia moonshine, “musty,” “rancid,” “Alpo.” And it “smells like nail polish.” He came around eventually, later concluding “it was … quite good, actually.”

But not for me.

More my speed, and also from The Atlantic, a locavore Walmart wants to revive local economies, communities and farmers who lost out when agriculture became centralized in large states:

The program, which Walmart calls Heritage Agriculture, will encourage farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California. In many cases the crops once flourished in the places where Walmart is encouraging their revival, but vanished because of Big Agriculture competition. […]

As with most Walmart programs, the clear impetus is to claim a share of consumer spending: first for organics, now for locally grown food. But buying local food is often harder than buying organic. The obstacles for both small farm and big store are many: how much a relatively small farmer can grow and how reliably, given short growing seasons; how to charge a competitive price when the farmer’s expenses are so much higher than those of industrial farms; and how to get produce from farm to warehouse.

Walmart knows all this, and knows that various nonprofit agricultural and university networks are trying to solve the same problems. In considering how to build on existing programs (and investments), Walmart talked with the local branch of the Environmental Defense Fund, which opened near the company’s Arkansas headquarters when Walmart started to look serious about green efforts, and with the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas. The center (of which the Walmart Foundation is a chief funder) is part of a national partnership called Agile Agriculture, which includes universities such as Drake and the University of New Hampshire and nonprofits like the American Farmland Trust.

The person from that local Environmental Defense Fund office, Michelle Harvey, is quoted saying, “It’s getting harder and harder to hate Walmart.” I stopped hating Walmart years ago. This new initiative is important for rural “food deserts” that include farm areas like the one I live in.

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