“I am certainly displeased that (Wal-Mart) did not contact me directly, since they have my phone number, and, instead, they had the police come down. It was totally unnecessary. We were in negotiations as far as I am concerned.” That was the statement given to the Metrowest newspaper by Jeff Cole, director of the Federation of Massachusett’s Farmers Markets. The headline in the June 9th edition of the paper read: “Wal-Mart tosses Framingham Farmer’s Market from Route 9 Property.” After a ten year history of selling produce, flowers and plants at the local farmer’s market, in the parking lot of the former Caldor’s store, farmers got a different reception from the new owners: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. According to the newspaper account, Wal-Mart, which now leases the dead Caldor’s store, sent the city police down “to clear the farmers off the property”. Members of the farmer’s market said they were “shocked” by their hasty removal from the parking lot. Wal-Mart told reporters that they couldn’t allow the farmers on their lot because the company has asked city officials for building and zoning approvals to build a new store. “Until we have our permits and our application is approved,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson said, “we just can’t let them out there.” The spokesman said once the corporation has their approvals, they would “revisit” the farmer’s application. Wal-Mart made the Farmer’s Market sound like a bunch of carjackers or drug dealers. “Anything that goes on there is a reflection on us,” Wal-Mart explained, “even though we are not out there yet. In these instances, other towns have placed a burden on Wal-Mart about trucks that have been parked overnight, trash that is left.” But instead of picking up the phone and talking this out with the leaders of the farmer’s market, Wal-Mart dispatched the local police, who showed up at the market with a letter from a Wal-Mart lawyer saying the farmers had to clear out. The vendors were already set up, so the police allowed them to sell that day, but then closed down the market. The farmers say they are scrambling around to find new space, so their produce will not rot in the fields, and revenues be lost. Local customers of the farmer’s market were also miffed at Wal-Mart’s treatment of the farmers. “We thought maybe Wal-Mart would come to their senses,” one shopper told the press. “I don’t know what we are going to do now.” “I think it stinks,” another woman said. “It is not interfering with Wal-Mart’s business because Wal-Mart is not even here yet. It is just a small area of the parking lot.” “I don’t understand Wal-Mart,” said a third shopper. “I thought they were supposed to be so customer-friendly.”
I don’t think we’re going to see any time soon a Wal-Mart commercial on TV entitled “The Wal-Mart-Framingham Farmer’s Market Massacre”, but this small incident says something about a big company. Having a farmer’s market in their parking lot is surely a positive reflection on Wal-Mart. Kicking them out, is not. Requiring the police to do it is pathetic. At Wal-Mart, their watchwords are “respect for the individual”. It looks like that individual doesn’t happen to be a local farmer. The solution for shoppers in Framingham is quite clear: either Wal-Mart “revisits” the farmer’s application, and lets them back into the parking lot, or shoppers should not “revisit” Wal-Mart whenever it finally opens. Caldors, by the way, was killed off by companies like Wal-Mart in the first place. The company that says it helps local businesse flourish, doesn’t talk about all the stores is has turned into dust. But as soon as those stores go out of business, Wal-Mart is only too happy to try to inhabit the dead carcasses they leave behind.