Whole Story

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Flowers Uncut: A Whole Trade Story

By Nick Heustis, February 2, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Nick Heustis

An avid lover of food and travel, Nick Heustis has worked for Whole Foods Market for 12 years and is currently the Associate Marketing Coordinator for the Northern California region. For six days in January, Nick and a group of Whole Foods Market team members traveled to South America, visiting farms, meeting growers and seeing firsthand the benefits of our Whole Trade® flower program.

Read part two, An Elite Community and part three, Social Responsibility at 10,000 Feet.

Flowers are a symbol of celebration and emotion; they convey feelings, life and vitality. They add color and warmth to our homes, and at the other end of the supply chain, they provide jobs, homes and community for the people who grow, harvest and package them.

For six days in January, a group of Whole Foods Market® team members traveled to South America, visiting farms, meeting growers and seeing firsthand the benefits of our Whole Trade® flower program. It was a wild ride of planes, buses, cars and missing iPads, and through it all we were inspired by the people, the culture and the practices that create some of the most impressive flowers I have ever seen.

This will be the first of three posts, with the hope of sharing our journey with you.

Throughout this trip I was continually reminded of how lucky we are, where so much we take for granted is an ambitious dream for others. Our Whole Trade program guarantees fair wages, sound environmental practices and improved working conditions.

It also provides a 10% premium over the cost of the flowers (pre-shipping) that goes directly into important community programs. It was through the investment of these premiums that we saw the most visible and enduring impact for the workers.

A few extra dollars per case of flowers turns into buying first homes for families, sending children to school, creating art programs, providing necessary medical and dental treatments and an overall elevation of the quality of life far beyond the norm.

Speaking of norms, if you’ve ever traveled with produce people you’ll understand when I talk about the one day we were able to sleep in, until the late hour of 7am! The world of flowers starts early and it’s an engaging combination of art, science, business and community.

For those of us outside the produce industry, it was amazing to see the amount of work required behind the scenes to produce even a single flower. Entire greenhouses dedicated to the trials of potential new varieties, varietal buds spliced onto time-tested root stock, water and soil management, and the ongoing preservation of the blooms along every step until they reach our stores.

The timing of our visit was the perfect opportunity to watch the farms preparing for their busiest season of the year, Valentine’s Day. Some of the farms will almost double their staff during the next few weeks just to handle the volume and you can feel the activity building in the air.

This year, I encourage everyone to share their love with flowers that support the Whole Trade communities of growers, to give the gift that makes a difference. Check back tomorrow as we look at the specific community programs of Elite Flowers in Bogota.

In the meantime, leave a comment below by Valentine’s Day telling us how flowers made a day better for you or someone you care about and we’ll donate a dollar for every comment to the Elite Flower Foundation as our way of sharing the love.

Category: Floral, Whole Trade




jenniferwlo says ...
Great job Nick! Thanks for sharing your story and photos - it's nice to learn where our flowers come from!
02/02/2012 5:28:02 PM CST
Corrinne says ...
Are pesticides used to grow flowers? Thanks.
02/03/2012 7:57:57 AM CST
Ellen Smith says ...
Receiving flowers, particularly fair trade or organically grown local flowers, is always a special treat for me. Even shopping at my WFM makes me happy, seeing the beautiful selection of blooming plants and bouquets. Love your floral department!
02/03/2012 9:37:20 AM CST
Lauren says ...
What a wonderful story. I didn't know about the Whole Trade flower program until this post. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I think after work I'll go buy some flowers from Whole Foods :)
02/03/2012 10:16:39 AM CST
Bridget says ...
My boyfriend brought me roses the night he asked me to officially be his girlfriend; I knew he was a keeper!
02/03/2012 12:28:02 PM CST
beth konny says ...
WoW! how amazing. I am going to treat my mother-in-law to a Valentine bundle!
02/04/2012 9:11:12 AM CST
Rebecca Lord says ...
As a past Floral specialist for Whole Foods, I had the opportunity to fullfill a passion of mine, which was working daily with the most beautiful flowers! I really miss it.
02/04/2012 12:56:08 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Corrinne Thank you for your question. All of our Whole Trade products, including the Whole Trade Flowers, are either Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade certified. Both of these independent certifiers ensure that very specific environmental standards are met. The links have all the info about the specific standards.”
02/06/2012 10:43:36 AM CST
Sandy N says ...
What a wonderful company, I would have never known that Whole Foods did such a thing. Anytime is a good time to give or receive flowers, just seeing their face brighten up is just awesome. Ive even sent flowers to my husband, for no particular reason - just because.
02/06/2012 12:18:26 PM CST
chad.lott@wholefoods.com says ...
This story is great. @Bridget- That's the sweetest story.
02/06/2012 12:45:16 PM CST
Brian says ...
looks like an awesome experience....thanks for taking the time to share it with us, Nick!
02/08/2012 4:31:46 PM CST
Diane Cardoso says ...
Having worked as a florist I can appreciate all the elements of production to bringing beautiful flowers to people who love them! Thanks for bringing flowers, especially roses, my all time favorite, to us at such an afforadable price. I will be bringing some home to enjoy!!!! HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO YOU ALL!
02/09/2012 9:06:49 AM CST
will moreno says ...
que viva Colombia! thank you for sharing this...great story to be told and i will.
02/10/2012 8:52:11 AM CST
Paula Ruhl says ...
It's nice to see something that I love, flowers, providing opportunities to help improve people's lives and communities! Wonderful!
02/10/2012 9:26:21 AM CST
Linda Beckman says ...
I like to keep a small vase of flowers next to my kitchen sink because their beauty makes me smile inside while doing dishes, etc.
02/10/2012 1:41:26 PM CST
Paola says ...
I fracture my knee last week, when I came back home my housband and my mother had bought a lovely orchidea that was standing there for cheering me up. Guess what? It did. Lovely story that from Colombia, thanks for sharing it with us.
02/13/2012 3:24:34 PM CST
Paul says ...
At the first of every month for the last 5 years, my boyfriend buys a rose and either hands it to a stranger, or just simply sticks them on peoples cars. One time we sat and watched a woman after she payed for her gas, she came out, and saw the rose. She looked shocked and confused, and then she cracked a smile, and I could tell it made her day. I then understood why he did it, it makes people smile.
02/13/2012 3:24:40 PM CST
Elena Reese-Arroyo says ...
I received one of the most beautiful bouquets I had ever seen 2 years ago. The place where I work had sent them to me on the anniversary of my 1st day on the job. They were a lovely reminder of how nice it feels to be appreciated.
02/13/2012 3:56:03 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Paul That is truly a beautiful thing. Please tell your boyfriend that we appreciate his kindness. Hopefully more people will be inspired to do things for the simple pleasure of making people smile. Happy Valentine's day to you and your boyfriend!
02/14/2012 9:24:16 AM CST
Lisa Beche says ...
Flowers give my family such a loving, happy, colorful feeling; it completes our cozy home. I will be supporting Whole Trade; see you all today in Boca!
02/14/2012 10:16:30 AM CST
Meredith says ...
On the occasions I splurge and purchase flower arrangements, I apprecaite that they breathe a new life into the room where they are displayed.
02/14/2012 2:56:18 PM CST
Emily says ...
Wonder story from a responsible company with a conscience! I love gardening and bringing flowers and nature indoors. It breathes life into a space. I don't live near Whole Foods to be able to shop there but I love what you're doing!
02/14/2012 5:25:53 PM CST
Lisa Quinn says ...
As a Customer Service TM in one of the Massachusetts stores, I had the opportunity to help out in our Floral Dept for a few days leading up to Valentines' Day. While not typically a "flower person", I was impressed with the quality and variety of product that the store offers, and the passion and knowledge of the TMs. Certainly, the big draw for the holiday was the "Double Dozen" roses - strategically promoted on sports talk radio stations! I didn't get why the Whole Trade roses were that much more expensive - now I know. While alot of our customers are value-driven, they're also compassionate enough to be willing to pay a little more when they know it's for a good cause.
02/15/2012 7:56:51 AM CST
Norma says ...
Your blog warms my heart. Thank you for sharing your experience.
02/17/2012 9:06:11 AM CST
Mary says ...
I loved your flower story! This was not Valentine's Day, but Mother's Day and the first time my adult son brought me flowers when he took me to lunch. It meant a lot! I don't know if he bought them at WF , but I now know that buying flowers helps the workers in Bagota far more than I ever realized. Thanks! Mary
05/31/2012 2:53:13 PM CDT