Spring 2012 Practical Visionaries Field Project

In summer 2011, Walmart announced it was trying to site its urban grocery stores in both Roxbury and Somerville. These plans ignited controversy over whether Walmart would be positive or negative for community development and how it might impact local businesses, workers, and the environment. The community partners in Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop took this debate as an opportunity to ask the longer-term question: If we don’t like Walmart or other big box models, then what alternatives should we pursue? And so, five graduate students from Tufts Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning undertook a semester-long project to begin to answer this question. For the quick summary of the issue and our findings, please check out this post. If you want to check out the entire 100-page report “If Not Walmart, Then What), download the full report here (12mb).

The report has three major sections. In part one, the story of Walmart’s potential impact is told through the stories of individuals in various roles in the Walmart production chain, from farmer to distributor to store employee. In section two, an alternative vision of a community food economy is laid out through the stories of local residents involved in cooperative businesses. The stories in parts one and two are fictional, but based on extensive research of real-life cases. Finally, section three sketches out two possible pieces of a localized food system: a food coop in Somerville and an organics repurposing facility in Roxbury.

Lenz Bayas, Lauren Cole, Jon Feinberg, Caiti Hachmyer, and Jesse Seamon completed report under the guidance of the Practical Visionaries community partners. They also earned credit for Field Projects, a required practicum course in the UEP masters degree curriculum.

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