What if every grocery store had its own farm? That's the question I saw circulating on Twitter this week after the Times-Dispatch and RVA News both reported on the Richmond branch of Whole Foods Market planting its own one-acre vegetable patch in Short Pump.
It's not too far-fetched – Ukrop's started, in part, on the local produce available near its first store on Hull Street. (From the company history: "Jacquelin cooked lunch for the employees, and Joe frequently lent a hand to neighboring farmers, closing the store when the demands of harvest season required his help.")
Leaving aside the practicalities behind a farm-per-store model of sustainable agriculture, I think the Whole Foods model is awesome. Yes, awesome.
It not only provides produce for the store's prepared foods (and ultimately, it's hoped, its produce shelves), but a one-acre farm next to a chain grocery store on the most commercialized section of West Broad Street will stand out, speak volumes and perhaps entice more families to explore local produce – or, better yet, grow their own.
“The Village Garden” took about six months to complete and will supply fresh and seasonal produce to be sold in-store and incorporated into prepared dishes and salad bar options, according to Whole Foods Market Team Leader, Joey Herndon.
“This is really a dream come true for Whole Foods Market — to have a community garden of this size and scope right here in our own back yard,” Herndon said. “Many of our stores have helped fund and build gardens in their communities, but our Short Pump store is proud to have the first on-site community garden of any Whole Foods Market in the country.”
The one acre space will offer classes and workshops on a weekly basis to teach local residents and school children about eating locally, all-natural growing practices, and living a healthier lifestyle, Herdon said. Area residents will also be able to rent plots for personal use, and a portion of the food grown in the garden will be donated to the Central Virginia Foodbank.