Local sourcing, Walmart, and Felicity Kendall’s legs….

by Peter Smith on October 17, 2010

Did you see strictly Come Dancing? (Not that I watch it usually of course, just happened to be passing etc etc…) Do you realise that Felicity Kendall, and I’m being a little ungallant here, is older than Anne Widdecombe!!  Wikipedia her if you want to know the details.  Kendall’s performance would have been impressive in terms of her flexibility for someone literally half her age; and my goodness, she is in great shape…. In fact, here she is… Anyway, I hear you say, what’s that got to do with local sourcing?  Well, Jason at Spend Matters discussed on Friday whether Walmart’s intention to increase the proportion of locally grown produce on sale in their stores was likely to work.  And that reminded me of one of the early episodes of  the BBC comedy series from the late 1970s, The Good Life, where Kendall and Richard Briers played Tom and Barbara Good, a comfortably-off couple who   decide to pack in the day jobs and go self sufficient in their suburban environment. Way ahead of its time actually when you think about it, with its themes of sustainability and localism.

Anyway, in one episode, they took their surplus produce to their local restaurateur.  Yes, he said, those lettuce and carrots look really good.  So £90 for the quantity you have available?  Sounds OK, says Tom.   So that’ll be £90 every month, replies the restaurant guy….

No, says Tom, this is it!  This is our entire surplus for this season! Which obviously is no good for the restaurant that needs regular supply. And that was – and is – the reality of a small supplier, bigger buyer situation in the fresh produce market.  Now these days, they might be able to nip off to a farmer’s market when they had something to sell; but the problems remain for the small grower.  I know this is an extreme example, but it illustrates Jason’s point; it is a worthy initiative by Walmart, but don’t under-estimate how difficult it will be to make it work.

And I’m very much looking forward to seeing Ms Kendall next week…

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