Whole Story

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Most Definitely a Different Banana

By Matt Rogers, February 26, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Matt Rogers
bananas During Whole Trade February, we hope you've learned a lot about the difference that Whole Trade makes. In case you are just tuning in, The Whole Trade Guarantee is our commitment to quality, the environment and ethical trade with partners in developing countries. To wrap up the month, we wanted to revisit bananas - our first Whole Trade product and a great example of the very real, positive impact we can have on farm workers, communities and the environment while providing a quality product to our customers. Bananas were the first product to carry the Whole Trade Guarantee. Over the past several years, we've built relationships with some of the world's best and most socially and environmentally innovative banana growers. Bananas from these farms are now stickered with the Whole Trade seal and are available in our stores nationwide almost every day. Considering the social and environmental problems that have resulted from large scale banana production in many Latin American countries, we are proud to offer this excellent fruit from growers that are truly part of the solution. Our Whole Trade bananas come from two primary origins: Costa Rica and Colombia. Customers in our Washington, Oregon and British Columbia stores will find that we've recently introduced Whole Trade bananas from Ecuador and Peru as well. For this post, I'll focus on our primary growers. I'll tell you a little about each and I encourage you to follow the links to learn more on your own.

EARTH - Limón, Costa Rica

EARTHBananaPacking EARTH (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda) is a non-profit, international university dedicated to the sustainable development of the tropics through education, research and outreach. EARTH specifically recruits students from poor, rural communities around the tropics and provides many students with full scholarships so they can attend. When EARTH's founders acquired the land to build the university campus in the late 1980's, the property included a commercial banana farm, which EARTH decided to keep active as an outdoor laboratory and as a business where they practice the entrepreneurial approach to agriculture that they teach. Since then, EARTH's faculty, staff and students have been working to reduce the environmental impact of the farm by protecting biodiversity and drastically reducing the amount of chemicals used in conventional banana production. EARTH's farm is certified by the Rainforest Alliance and they go far beyond the requirements of the certification. Some of the environmental techniques developed at EARTH in the early days have become industry standard. Learn more about the practices in place at EARTH's farm. Whole Foods Market has been buying EARTH bananas for more than six years. This will be the third year that we will buy all of their top quality production. We pay an above market, fixed price for this special fruit. We buy directly from the farm and ship and import the bananas ourselves. This direct trading model requires significant daily attention from a team at our national produce office but it allows us to pay EARTH more and lets us maintain a true direct connection to this farm. EARTH's profits from its sales to Whole Foods Market support the scholarship fund and university operations. This is most definitely a different banana and you will only find it at our stores. Learn more: EARTH Foundation, EARTH University, Rainforest Alliance

Turbana/Uniban - Urabá, Colombia

Unibangrower Turbana is the brand and US-based distribution company of Uniban, SA, a company owned by independent Colombian banana growers in the northwestern Urabá region of Colombia. Uniban was founded in the late 1960's when disagreements with multinational banana companies led a group of Colombian growers to seek direct access to export markets. They made their first direct sale in 1969 and have never looked back. The Urabá region was particularly affected by the decades of armed conflict in Colombia, but Uniban growers never stopped producing and exporting bananas. Their dedication kept a local economy and legitimate employment options alive during a very difficult time. As a group, they give back to their communities through a foundation that they fund with a donation for each box of fruit they export. More recently, many Uniban growers have implemented the Fair Trade certification, making Uniban one of the largest producers of Fair Trade Certified bananas in the world. We buy Turbana's Fair Trade Certified fruit for our Whole Trade program. According to a report we recently received from Transfair USA, our purchases of Whole Trade bananas from Turbana during 2009, "generated $268,677 in premium dollars for community development projects and $139,712 in above-market returns to farmers to support eco-friendly farming techniques, including conversion to mechanical weed control and the elimination of the use of over 300,000 gallons of herbicide preparations." Those premium dollars are managed by workers at each farm who have chosen to fund housing, education, microloan and community development projects. This is our second year purchasing Whole Trade bananas from Turbana. They have proven to be a valuable partner with a quality product. They are Whole Trade worthy all day long. We hope this is the beginning of a long-term relationship. Learn more: Turbana, Uniban, Transfair USA MattRogersMatt Rogers manages our banana and pineapple programs and serves as team leader to our semi-nomadic clan of produce and floral field inspectors. He joined Whole Foods Market after spending three years in Costa Rica coordinating a broad partnership between Whole Foods Market and EARTH University. When not reading field reports or working to increase Whole Trade produce supplies, Matt can be found trying harder and harder to get out of cell range on foot, boat, bike or ski.
Category: Whole Trade

 

25 Comments

Comments

Fair Trade says ...
“generated $268,677 in premium dollars for community development projects and $139,712 in above-market returns to farmers to support eco-friendly farming techniques, including conversion to mechanical weed control and the elimination of the use of over 300,000 gallons of herbicide preparations.” Such great news, fantastic work, my respect to you and the great work you do... a whole world of positive difference...
02/26/2010 6:06:52 AM CST
Jeri Rogers says ...
Way to go Matt. How about opening a store in Yardley, PA
02/26/2010 6:43:52 PM CST
alv1000 says ...
I love bananas from St.Lucia. They taste like they have honey in the banana. Would love to see those offered somewhere.
02/27/2010 8:22:29 PM CST
Ashley says ...
Since learning about the horrible conditions commercial bananas are grown under, I've never bought another. If I can't get to Whole Foods, I always buy organic ones, but the Earth University bananas are definitely my favorite! There's just something special about them. :)
03/02/2010 5:43:44 PM CST
Pauline says ...
Thank you for the informative article - Whole Trade Guarantee is our commitment to quality, the environment and ethical trade with partners in developing countries. I will no longer hesitate about buying fruits and vegetibles from other countries now that I understand Whole Trade Guarantee to quality.
03/03/2010 6:50:14 PM CST
Marian says ...
I am so proud of Whole Foods' nationwide effort to support Fair Trade bananas! I live about 70 miles from the nearest Whole Foods store and drive there about once a month to 'stock up'. Bravo! Keep up the good work!
03/03/2010 9:30:47 PM CST
Ty says ...
I get Turbana apple bananas at Publix but it doesn't say Fair Trade on them.
03/03/2010 10:21:05 PM CST
Laura G says ...
This is wonderful. I have always heard it is "not necessary" to buy organic fruit with thick skin, and this would be a great article to send people who tell me that. Consumer choices affect so much. I do have a question, though: I noticed in the store that there are Fair Trade bananas and Organic bananas. Are the Fair Trade bananas also organic and vice versa?
03/05/2010 6:37:47 AM CST
Gaye Ruttura says ...
The more I learn about Whole Foods and what you really represent I am determined to shop exclusively at your stores. Your commitment to quality food, the environment and supporting growers in developing countries, in particular Earth, is impressive.You are truly a market of conscience and integrity and I applaud you!
03/07/2010 8:10:59 AM CST
Catherine Ewan says ...
Matt, You look like you're having a grand time and you always were a top banana with us. Please bring a Whole Foods Market to New Bern, NC. We'd love to taste your delicious food. Hope all is well with you. Catherine and Dick Ewan
03/10/2010 7:40:58 PM CST
Tracey Mousley says ...
Way to go Matt!!!!! If only everyone was so globally minded. This is the power of the human race ....To help and uplift eachother and work together. My brother in law is a Neurologist from Columbia and my sister and nephew have had alot of time to enjoy this beautiful country. My daughter in high school has an exchange student friend from Cali.
03/13/2010 8:15:49 AM CST
TDore says ...
I'd like to see "apple bananas" from Hawaii. I just had my first one this week and it was just wonderful. I know there are great products from all over the world, but a USA product that is so good would be a really good addition.
11/26/2010 9:42:12 PM CST
Russ says ...
I eat a lot of Bananas and I have to say yours are the best I have had from all the places I purchased Organic Bananas from this summer! Most of the bananas that I have been purchasing from other stores and markets have a strong taste of mold in the banana and I have been throwing them out, I am very glad to come across your Fair Trade organic bananas from Peru not only is there no taste of mold but they are one of the best tasting bananas I have had in a very long time. Please keep up the quality and I wish you had a store closer to Sedona, AZ.
08/25/2011 9:44:07 AM CDT
Roy says ...
I love Whole Foods and shop there nearly four to five days a week. I spend A LOT but it's worth every dollar. WF has the healthiest best food and supports a range of planet friendly causes. However, lately I have been buying my ORGANIC bananas at a competitors store. I don't like doing this but the new Free Trade organic bananas being sold at my WF in Wynnewood, PA are usually way too green. They often don't fully ripen the way they should. Is there anything they can do get more yellow organic bananas? While the previous organic brand may not have been Free Trade, they were yellow and not greenish blue. Nonetheless, I will most likely always be a loyal and devoted Whole Foods customer.
12/18/2011 2:44:59 AM CST
Roy says ...
Just wanted to thank you for taking prompt actions and notifying our Wynnewood PA store about those green organic bananas. Our store manager, Kesha, is the best! She went right to work, contacted the warehouse and fixed the problem. She's fabulous. We now have beee-uu-ti-ful golden organic bananas that ripen when they are suppose to. And I am buying bunches of them. If only every large corporation acted with the same sense of customer care and responsibility as Whole Foods the world would be a much better place. Thanks again. I LOVE WHOLE FOODS.
01/19/2012 4:49:33 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Roy Thank you for your support and loyalty. I apologize for your disappointing experience with the fair trade bananas. I'm passing your comments on to your local store. Thank you for reaching out since comments like these allow us to continually provide a better product to all of our customers. Cheers!
12/20/2011 10:30:10 AM CST
Jonathan Rosenblum says ...
You are to be commended for engaging in promotion of Fair Trade products. However, I have requested on two occasions that your Madison, WI store separate its signage and location of Whole Trade and non-Whole Trade bananas because the mixing of the two is confusing for consumers. You appear to be benefitting from the association with Fair Trade but make no genuine distinction and promotion of those products. You are misleading the average consumer who may see the sign and assume that the product they are buying is Fair Trade. Today, as on other days, there was no Fair Trade product but lots of other bananas and the Fair Trade sign. The store did make a clear separation two months ago and now has gone back to a confusing system. Moreover, the Madison store failed to display my consumer criticism on its bulletin board where every other request is displayed. You owe it to your customers and to the farmworkers you show on this web page in the Fair Trade settings to be transparent and serious in your product displays, and to allow all customers to see both commendation and criticism.
11/17/2011 9:33:07 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Jonathan Thank you for reaching out. We appreciate your concerns with regards to the signage and our Fair Trade bananas. I have sent your concern on to the contacts at the Madison store and someone should be in contact with you soon. We appreciate the opportunity to work with our customers towards a common goal.
11/23/2011 9:40:25 AM CST
Demi says ...
Thank you, Whole Foods, for bringing yellow bananas to both our Rockville and Gaithersburg, Maryland stores! I am now happily shopping for my weekly consumable fare at one store. The response time & the quality cannot be beat! I appreciate you & this is just one example of why I will always gladly shop at Whole Foods!
04/30/2012 6:27:55 AM CDT
Jerry says ...
I recently purchased "Fair Trade" bananas at the Chapel Hill, NC Whole Foods market. What a disappointment! The skins were thick and difficult to peel. Inside, the bananas had many rotten spots and the whole things was unappetizing. I think Whole Foods should concentrate more on providing quality products for their customers than pursuing a ideologically driven political agenda. I certainly won't be buying any more Fair Trade products.
11/05/2012 1:11:49 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JERRY - Thanks for sharing your feedback. Were you able to let your local store know about the bad bunch? I'm sure the store would be happy to switch them out for you as with any perishable product, sometimes an item can go bad. I hope that you are able to try out more Fair Trade products while not limiting these great products to the bananas you purchased.
11/06/2012 10:46:08 AM CST
J ibanez says ...
Do you know what the variety of bananas that are being grown and sold to Whole Foods? For example, Cavendish is the most widespread but there are other types out there like the baby bananas and the red bananas. What are those variety names? Thank you!
04/01/2014 5:39:50 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@J IBANEZ - We typically feature Earth University bananas but the variety and other vendors can differ between stores. Check with your local store to see what varieties they receive and for more detailed info you can reach out to Earth University directly at http://www.earth-brand.org/contactus.php.
04/02/2014 12:38:54 PM CDT
Diana Rowland says ...
I'd like to know why the bananas from Peru have small green spots on them. Thank you. Diana
07/05/2014 3:32:21 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DIANA - The only possibility I can think of is that the banana was not ripe. I would suggest checking with the store where you purchased these.
07/07/2014 2:41:14 PM CDT