Carol Medeiros joined Whole Foods Market in 2001 at our Cherry Creek store in Denver and has been working on our produce and floral team ever since. You may remember Karen's Whole Trade roses post from last summer, sharing the story of the Ecuadorian Fair Trade certified flower farms that supply our Whole Trade Guarantee roses. Well, with Valentine's Day right around the corner, what better time to share an update on Whole Trade flowers with you? I was one of the Team Members to visit the Ecuadorian farms. I look back on these trips & consider myself lucky to have been a part of them - such a beautiful country, incredible product, wonderful people and inspiring stories. Over a year after the launch of the rose program, I am happy to report that the Whole Trade flower program continues to grow. Now, in addition to the roses (and calla lilies) from Ecuador, we have added Colombian product to the program! We journeyed to Colombia to visit Rainforest Alliance certified flower farms last year (Rainforest Alliance is one of our certifying partners for the Whole Trade Guarantee). There we found another great fit for the program- a farm committed to quality, people and the environment. Working with this farm, we added gerbera daisies, alstromeria & spray roses to the Whole Trade offerings with mixed bouquets soon following. Much like the Fair Trade roses and as a part of the Whole Trade program, we pay an additional percentage (called social premium) with each purchase of flowers we make. In Colombia, it is paid directly to local foundation providing health care, education and meals to the children of farm workers. The foundation (the kids!) The stories of the people behind these products are a constant reminder as to why this program is so compelling and so important. Just check out the pictures and quotes below. The social premium that Whole Foods Market has paid back to the communities producing our flowers - totaling over $200,000 since the launch of the program- is truly making a difference. This premium is in addition to the Whole Planet Foundation donation given with each retail sale …so this flower program is contributing to good things twice (three times if you count that everyone loves flowers!) And the final super cool tidbit? As part of our Whole Trade Guarantee Month you can win Whole Trade Flowers for a year! 10 winners will receive a bunch of Whole Trade Flowers every month for a full year…all you need to do is enter online before March 4th, no purchase necessary…now how can you say no to that? Here are some stories straight from Ecuador, enjoy and thanks for reading! Alfredo Monta - farm worker on Fair Trade farm for 6 years "To be able to work on a Fair Trade farm has permitted us to secure benefits that normally we wouldn't have, for example, acquiring a hot water heater that allows us to heat water. Before we have to heat water in a big pot to bathe ourselves, and since there are nine people in my household, we have to boil water many times, and could only bath at most twice a week. Now we have the hot water heater which is much better. We only have to watch that we don't run out of gas in the tank and we have hot water all the time. We can bath every other day or every day if we want to. Also, the people that had electric hot water heaters see a significant savings in their energy consumption, and are able to use the money that used to go to the electricity bill for other basic necessities of the family. In our community there are quite a few people that work at Agrogana which is a Fair Trade farm. For that reason, the benefits are more palpable because we can observe how the quality of life for the people has improved with the different projects started by our joint body." Martha Chuquiana - farm worker on Fair Trade farm for 7 years "The best benefit that we have received from Fair Trade is the capacity building given to our children in reading and English courses. The English course for my daughter represents a higher level of learning for her, and through that we've seen a stronger commitment to her studies. If we had to hire a private teacher, we definitely couldn't have been able to do so, since money is limited for us. Thanks to the English courses, my daughter has been able to overcome a little bit her shyness. In what we see as a benefit to the community, we have directly felt the work of the joint body that administers the premium as they work on community projects this year including donating desks to the school where our children attend. Not only the children of the workers of Agrogana which is a Fair Trade farm has benefit, but rather all the families that have a child in that school." Soraya Falcon - farm worker on Fair Trade farm for 6 years "To work at a company that has Fair Trade certification has permitted me to improve my quality of life and that of my family. Before (the Fair Trade premium), when I left work I arrived home to wash my families clothes on the rock (in the stream) every afternoon and eventually into the night. This caused me, in addition to physical exhaustion, pain in my hands from spending so much time with my hands in cold water. I didn't have much time to help my children with their homework because I was spending the afternoon washing clothes. Now that we could acquire the washing machines, thanks to the Fair Trade premium, things have changed. I can spend my time with my family; I can help my children get their homework done and help them study, and the pain in my hands is gone, thanks to the fact that I don't have to spend much time with them in cold water. I think that not everyone can (access this benefit) due to the high cost of those washing machines, we achieve the purchase thanks to the micro-credit project that we have through the join body, and thanks to the premium that we receive for the sale of Fair Trade flowers. In our community the people really didn't have the possibility to access washing machines. Thanks to Fair Trade, we are the pioneers in improving our system of washing clothing, preserving our health in the future, and improving the quality of life of the whole family."