When it comes to Valentine's Day and roses, it's hard to think of one without the other! We've been thinking about them a LOT around here...not just how beautiful they are, but more importantly 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! Here's how one flower worker describes the benefits of Fair Trade for his family: My name is Segundo Polibio Chancusig Yánez. I am 36 years old. I was born in Pilacoto, Guaytacama. I studied in elementary school in my neighborhood, but couldn't finish my studies because my parents didn't have much money. I began working as a bricklayer after leaving school until I was 18 years old when I had to fulfill compulsory military training. My wife and I have two daughters, Eslendy who is 10 years old in 6th grade and Yessenya who's three years old and in pre-kindergarten. Eslendy dreams of becoming a doctor and she's a very good basketball player. She also likes to dance. My other little one is Yessenya can actually dances better than her older sister. Our greatest desire is to be able to give our little ones an education and see them achieve a professional career. I have worked in other rose farms as well, and none of them had a certification. They paid us the minimum wage, but we didn't earn overtime or other benefits. I've worked at Agrogana since May 2007 and the environment is much better. As workers we have access to multiple projects. We now have a hot water heater in our house and we can acquire rice, oil and other food items at wholesale prices, which they deduct in very small quantities and without interest from my paycheck. Something else that is very important to my family is the English courses that the children of workers can take. They pick up the children in a bus at the house then return them after class. My daughter Eslendy began English and reading courses this year and is happy since she was able to improve her grades at the school she attends. We have very interesting and large projects planned for the future. It's the dream of the workers to complete them. For example, we have thought about a housing cooperative that would help us a lot. And another Project would be to give us the opportunity to finish our high school degrees. All of these projects depend on the quality and acceptance of our roses in the Fair Trade market-that determines whether the premium will continue to grow and if we can improve our quality of life and benefit directly in our homes. So, anytime you find yourself thinking of roses, think Whole Trade and become a part of the budding community for "knowing where it's growing!"