Pineapples are a very important fruit. Like mangoes, pineapples help bridge the gap between the end of the domestic hard fruit season (think apples and pears) and the beginning of the soft fruit season (peaches and nectarines).
Pineapples are also important because they pair well with spring dishes, like ham and fresh fruit salads. But pineapples are especially important at Whole Foods Market® because over the last two-plus years we’ve been able to transition our buying so that most of the pineapples we bring in meet our Whole Trade® Guarantee.
That guarantee is our commitment to the highest standards of ethical trade, environmental stewardship and quality. No matter where you shop, these days most of the fresh pineapples sold in the US come from Costa Rica. Costa Rica has better growing conditions and the cost of land is far lower than in Hawaii, the pineapple powerhouse of previous years.
As a result of this shift pineapple production in Costa Rica has increased significantly; from just 27,000 acres to well over 100,000 acres in the past 10 years. In fact, pineapples have overtaken coffee to become Costa Rica's second-highest grossing export crop, behind bananas.
As the planted areas in Costa Rica increase, so do the concerns over the environmental and social impact of the industry.
Our first step is to source as much organic crop as is available. By converting a significant portion of our pineapple supply to organic, we eliminate the use of many of the agrochemicals that have become so controversial in pineapple production.
Organic production uses pest control methods that have less of an environmental impact. For example, instead of using toxic and persistent chemical herbicides to control weeds, organic growers cover their beds with a physical barrier, typically a thin plastic sheet. Additionally, this method maintains soil moisture and drastically reduces erosion.
And the Whole Trade Guarantee allows us to go beyond the benefits of organic with:
- Third-party certification – All of our Whole Trade pineapple, whether organic or conventional, are certified by either Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade USA. These certifiers ensure that the farms meet very specific environmental and/or social standards.
- Investing in communities, research and education – For every box of pineapples we sell, Whole Foods Market makes a contribution to support farm-worker communities in Costa Rica, or to support sustainable-agriculture education and research. On Fair Trade Certified products, the contribution flows directly to the workers at the farm, who use the money to fund community projects such as day cares or education centers. On Rainforest Alliance Certified products, we make the contribution to our friends at EARTH University to support their scholarship fund and their research on responsible pineapple production.
All of our Whole Trade pineapples are a variety known as MD-2. This variety is renowned for its sweetness and lower acidity.
Virtually all of our organic pineapples are grown by Corsicana Farms, near the town of La Virgin in the northeastern Costa Rican province of Heredia. Founded in 1991 and with more than 3000 acres under cultivation, this Fair Trade-certified farm is widely considered a model for organic pineapple production.
Pineapples are a very land-, labor- and time-intensive crop. A single piece of fruit takes 18 months or more to grow. Harvesting, sorting and packing this large, heavy fruit is a difficult and painstaking task. This makes the job of producing this wonderful fruit in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible all the more important.
Whole Foods Market salutes those who have gone above and beyond to produce pineapples with a purpose and to our customers who buy them. We’d love to hear why Whole Trade pineapples are important to you. Let us know in the comments.
Many thanks to Matt Rogers and Rodrigo Velasquez for contributing to this post.