Wal-Mart and sustainability

By Karl Kupers on June 25, 2012

There has been a recent article (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/us-walmart-wheat-idUSBRE85K06W20120621) circulating that Wal-Mart is making a significant statement regarding wheat and the resulting flour products. The basis is they sent two people out into the heartland of America to study how wheat production could be encouraged to be more profitable through reduction of carbon based products. In addition, it would lower the carbon dioxide impact of producing wheat or lowering the carbon footprint. I received the article from a couple supporters of Shepherd’s Grain. One put as the heading to the email “go to work” the other simply stated “I thought this would be of interest”.

When you first think of Wal-Mart becoming interested in sustainability, there is a bit of skepticism. Certainly the idea of “economic sustainability” for the producer has been portrayed as not of keen interest to that company. You can understand if someone becomes cynical of such an effort or you can see beyond the many early thoughts and suggest that there may be a potential change within that company’s thinking. Well you can.

I want to portray two situations that can be well documented within Shepherd’s Grain. When we first started, Fred had a relationship with the Spokane division of ADM milling that got us in the door and because of a couple people within that local mill believing in our idea, allowed us to begin Shepherd’s Grain flour. Early on the idea of two local farmers integrating their wheat production through the ADM mill in Spokane did not sit well with the head of milling in ADM’s offices in Overland Park, Kansas. If we had thought any effort by them to accommodate us in the future was out of the question, Shepherd’s Grain would never have developed. However, through a positive effort, we have “tweaked” the culture within that corporate structure and they have totally embraced the Shepherd’s Grain concept.

A second evidenced thought is how effective, when someone purchases either the Shepherd’s Grain flour or products made with Shepherd’s Grain those purchases influence the continuation and improvement within the Shepherd’s Grain producer base. When one of our producers travels into the marketplace and finds his flour being used in finished products that he or she can eat, they generally pass along that information to me with great passion and conviction. As the challenges mount, when changing the ecosystem within which we produce our wheat, the drive to meet those challenges comes from knowing you appreciate them through your purchase of the end product. You are influencing a cultural shift within the agriculture sector of this region.

So to see beyond the early skepticisms and “go to work” suggests we might influence a “tweak” of their culture which is not out of our scope of thinking.

As always, thank you for your support of Shepherd’s Grain.