Local Producer Loan Program FAQ

What is the Local Producer Loan Program?

Through the Local Producer Loan Program, Whole Foods Market lends money to small, local, independent producers to help them expand their businesses. We have completed loans to organic vegetable farmers, a heritage turkey grower, a nutritional protein bar maker, a maker of body care products, and many others. The program is driven by the eleven regions of Whole Foods Market, with support from the Local Producer Loan Program office in Austin. The loan program strengthens producers' relationships with our regions and supports the development of specific products (including organic and animal compassionate products) that we would like to include in our stores.

Here is a description of the program as originally announced in John Mackey's blog in June 2006:

"We have set up an annual budget of $10 million* to promote local agriculture (especially animal agriculture) wherever we have stores through long-term loans at low rates of interest. Select Regional and Store Buyers will be empowered to extend these loans to help support smaller scale agricultural entrepreneurs. This money will be used to help local producers of grass fed beef, goat milk dairies, organic pasture based eggs, animal compassionate dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, sheep, pigs, etc. Some of the money will also be used to help support local vegetable farmers as well. It is Whole Foods Market's intention to help finance local agriculture all over the United States. We are going to 'walk our talk' with financial support for local, small scale agriculture.

"We are inspired by the initial success of our Whole Planet Foundation's work with micro-credit loans in developing world communities that we trade with. We see that these small loans are making a huge difference in the lives of more than 500,000 impoverished entrepreneurs in 59 different countries. We intend to do a similar thing to support local agriculture wherever we have stores. We believe this financial assistance of $10 million* per year can make a very significant difference in helping local agriculture grow and flourish across the United States and in parts of Canada and the U.K. as well. Each year we will make an additional $10 million* available for loans. Also as the loans are paid back, we will recycle the returned capital back into additional loans. Over time this will result in a very positive and strong multiplier effect on local agriculture."

* The Local Producer Loan Program now funds up to $25 million in loans to independent businesses.

How do I apply?

After learning more about the program, start and complete an application online. You will be contacted if we need further information.

What type of producer is a good recipient for a loan?

Desired attributes:

  • Be a local producer of a high quality product (required)

  • Be expanding or broadening production, as opposed to starting a new venture or simply covering existing operating expenses

  • Be located within a few hours' drive time of one of our stores

  • Be an organic or animal compassionate producer

  • Have an existing, positive relationship with Whole Foods Market

What size are the loans?

We target borrowers needing $1,000 to $100,000. Please note that start-up businesses and applicants with low credit scores are limited to $25,000. Please see the program details page for more information.

What will the interest rates be?

The current range is 5% to 9%. As the current Prime Rate is 3.25%, we feel that our rates will be attractive to most farmers and small businesses. The different Whole Foods Market regions make the ultimate decision as to the rate each applicant receives. We do recommend that potential borrowers explore all of their options in order to ensure that they choose the loan program that is best for them.

Why are we charging a $65 processing fee?

The fee covers the cost of Whole Foods Market obtaining a credit report and eventually processing the loan documents. It is only charged to producers whose applications are approved for further review.

Are there closing fees?

The Local Producer Loan Program does not charge closing fees, prepayment fees, or any other fees beyond the initial $65 processing fee.

Do the producers have to be exclusive to Whole Foods Market?

No! We do not require exclusivity of our loan recipients.

Where does the money for the loans come from?

Funds for the Local Producer Loan Program come directly from Whole Foods Market, not from any 3rd party.

Is there an application deadline?

No, applications are accepted at any time. Learn more about the application procedure.

Does Whole Foods Market provide grants?

No, the Local Producer Loan Program does not provide grants.

I do not currently sell to Whole Foods Market. Am I eligible for a loan?

If you produce a product that meets the Whole Foods Market Quality Standards, you might become a Whole Foods Market supplier and be eligible for a loan. Please visit our Vendor Page and follow the directions for submitting your product to our regional buyers. While loan recipients are not required to sell to us, all products must meet our Quality Standards and first be approved for potential sale through our stores.

How is the Local Producer Loan Program different from the Whole Planet Foundation?

While the Whole Planet Foundation also facilitates small loans, it is distinct from the Local Producer Loan Program. The Local Producer Loan Program is a part of Whole Foods Market and provides low-interest loans to local producers in the United States; funds are disbursed by the regions and come out of their annual budgets. The Whole Planet Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides grants to organizations that provide micro-loans to individuals living in areas in the developing world which provide products for Whole Foods Market. Currently, Whole Planet is operating in more than 55 countries including the US. The Whole Planet Foundation was initially funded with $570,000 raised through a Global Five Percent Day held on October 25th, 2005. On that day, five percent of all customer purchases at every Whole Foods Market in North America and the United Kingdom was set aside to establish the Foundation. Whole Foods Market has promised a donation of one million dollars annually to ensure the continuation of the Foundation's work, and we anticipate future donations from other corporations and individuals.

I have a question that's not covered here. How can I contact you?

Please feel free to contact us via email.