Whole Story

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Most Definitely a Different Banana

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

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

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 Matt 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.