My name is Dawn McLaughlin and I’m an associate coordinator for the produce team at Whole Foods Market®, and I have the privilege of overseeing the floral departments in our Midwest region. Recently, I was one of a lucky few who had the opportunity to visit our Whole Trade® flower farms in Colombia and Ecuador.
I knew this trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and would inspire me, not only in my work, but in my life. However, I truly underestimated the extent in which I would be inspired. I’ve always known that working for a company like Whole Foods Market would give me an opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives, but those lives seemed so far away and so distant. On this trip, I made a real connection.
When we arrived, we toured the farm facilities, and then the housing facilities that the Whole Trade Guarantee helps to fund. The housing is very basic, but the workers who own the apartments are proud of the homes they've made.
My coworkers and I were warmly invited into their homes and they talked to us about how grateful they were to have so many opportunities. One of the most touching experiences for me was meeting Luz, who was so gracious and generous with all she had. My eyes filled with tears because in that moment I truly understood that the smallest action — something as simple as buying roses — gives someone pride, dignity, and most importantly, a home for her precious family.
After touring the facilities, we visited the site of the new grade school that will open in August which the Whole Trade Guarantee program helps fund. We stepped out of the bus and there they were — about 25 students, smiling and singing. What a moment that was! And after the ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking ceremony for the new school, we talked with farm workers who were able to go back to school as adults to finish their high-school education.
The Whole Trade Guarantee program is not only bringing beautiful flowers (and produce and other products) to the United States, but it’s bringing homes, education and a sense purpose to people’s lives. Never, ever, have I met a group of people who took so much personal pride in their work! One worker, Flora, mentioned to me how wonderful she thought it was that the flowers she loves and adores are being loved and adored on the other end. And they certainly are.
We couldn’t keep the Whole Trade Guarantee program going if it wasn’t for you, our customers, recognizing that our mission is much greater than the average grocery store’s. What we are doing as consumers, and what I am doing in my work, is literally improving lives with every purchase. It was an odd feeling, really, to be thanked on the trip because Whole Foods Market shoppers are really the ones who should be thanked!
I bought roses when I got home and smiled warmly because I knew the hands that picked them. With the next Whole Trade flower purchase you make, whose face will you see among your flowers?