Valentine's Day and roses go hand in hand. And around here we've been thinking about not just how beautiful they are, but about what our Whole Trade Guarantee™ roses give back to the communities where they are grown. Grown in the Ecuadorian Andes by a group of Fair Trade certified farms, these "blooms with benefits" help to cultivate better working conditions and equitable wages for the farms' workers. For each case of Whole Trade roses purchased by Whole Foods Market, an additional percentage is paid directly to worker groups from each farm who collectively decide how to use the money. Some development projects have included education, training, scholarships, health care and housing. Growing conditions for roses can be finicky at best, and Ecuador has come to be one of the more popular growing environments due to its 10,000 feet elevation, proximity to the sun and its cool nights. The flower industry started there around 20 years ago and currently gives direct employment to more than 70,000 people, with indirect employment going to another 210,000 people. While on average the entire country holds an unemployment rate of 8%, there is very little unemployment in the regions where the flowers business has developed. Through our journey with Whole Trade roses, we are learning more every day about the farms, their workers and the flowers they produce. The opportunity to share the splendor and beauty that flowers convey while simultaneously helping others…I can't think of a better way to celebrate Valentine's Day!