Responsibly Grown in Action
Stories on some of our farmer partners who work hard to protect the environment and human health.
Guácimo, Costa Rica
When EARTH University acquired its first campus in 1990, the parcel of land included a 325-hectare banana farm. For an institution dedicated to sustainable agriculture, the banana farm presented a problem. “The banana operation raised a lot of questions about environmental impact,” explains EARTH graduate Erick Aguilar Vargas, “but they decided to face that challenge as an opportunity.”
As bananas develop, the fragile fruit are wrapped in blue plastic bags to protect them from insects. At harvest time, the bag is removed and the banana stalk, with its multiple bunches of bananas, is sliced from the tree.
Traditionally, used plastic was buried in a field and the banana stalks were tossed in the river. Sometimes the stalks carried pieces of plastic bag, which clogged the rivers and threatened aquatic life.
“One of the keys to the success of our recycling program was to be part of the change,” Erick explains. EARTH worked with the producer of the plastic bags to help develop an alternative. Now the used bags are repurposed to wrap palettes of banana boxes and prepare them for shipping.
“In the case of the stalks,” Erick concludes, “we separate the plastic bag, and one part of the stalk goes to our banana paper plant. Another part goes to making organic fertilizer that we return back to the banana field.”
Responsibly Grown recognizes EARTH University’s accomplishments in waste reduction, water protection, farmworker welfare, pest management and much more.
Lady Moon Farms
Chris and Tom Beddard founded Lady Moon Farms in 1988 with five acres in Pennsylvania and a dream: Growing healthy organic food for their kids and community. “Organic farming is about letting nature lead, it's about biological diversity and social justice,” Anaïs, their daughter explains. “It's about healthy soils leading to healthy people and a happy planet.”
After more than two decades, their family business has expanded to locations in Florida and Georgia, but they've stayed true to their vision.
“As we’ve grown, our carbon footprint has grown too, and we’ve had to think of ways to address that,” explains Anaïs. To that end, the Beddards installed solar panels on the packing house at the Pennsylvania farm where they grow organic tomatoes, greens and a multitude of other veggies for Whole Foods Market®. “We started this before solar panels were even cool, and now they produce 20% of our total energy consumption on our Pennsylvania farm.”
Responsibly Grown recognizes Lady Moon Farms’ efforts in energy conservation, farmworker welfare, pest management, pollinator protection and many other areas. “There are varied practices,” Anaïs concludes, “that come together and create a holistic approach to growing healthy food.”
John Lyman’s family has been farming the same piece of land since 1741. For more than two hundred years, they’ve maintained “a tradition of taking good care of the land and passing it on to the next generation,” John explains.
For John, that means working with other growers to learn new farming practices that help protect soil, wildlife and human health. As a proud member of the Eco Apple network of farms, John has spent years refining Lyman Orchards’ pest management practices and reducing pesticide use.
For instance, to safeguard their fruit from apple maggots, Lyman Orchards uses red, spherical sticky traps that resemble apples. By placing the traps around the borders of the orchard, they’ve been able to intercept the insects and thus avoid spraying for them.
John sees Responsibly Grown as an opportunity to discover new ways to be good stewards of the land. He’s evaluating things like energy consumption and thinking about conservation techniques. “Responsibly Grown gives us the opportunity to further tell our story to Whole Foods Market® shoppers and an incentive to continue to look for innovative ways to improve our growing practices.”