Back in 2007 I wrote copy for signs and brochures about a new program at Whole Foods Market®, our Whole Trade® Guarantee. It’s a set of strict criteria for buying products from developing countries and ensures:
exceptional product quality
more money for producers
better wages and working conditions for workers
sound environmental production practices that promote biodiversity
support of poverty eradication via donating one percent of product sales to the Whole Planet Foundation®
As a long-time team member at Whole Foods Market (16 years and counting!), I was super excited to see us going even further in our efforts to do good in the world while doing business. I was especially intrigued by the “better wages and working conditions for workers” and was, honestly, a little skeptical about how this could happen. While I have tremendous faith in what we do as a company, I’m also the kind of person who needs to see something with my own eyes to believe it. So, from the moment I began writing, I dreamed of seeing workers’ lives transformed by the Whole Trade Guarantee.
Six years later, at the beginning of this month, I was fortunate to visit Finca Corsicana, a Whole Trade Guarantee partner in Costa Rica that supplies our stores with pineapples. I toured the farm, tasted the sweetest pineapple ever (right in the field!) and learned amazing things about how pineapples can be grown with respect for the environment and for the workers. (I also picked up a great shopping tip: Organic Whole Trade pineapples are ripe even if they look green because the treatment that turns them yellow on the outside is not allowed in organic production.)
And then my dream came true. I visited a newly constructed community center and met with a small committee of farmworkers. They were elected by about 350 of their peers to make that community center a reality with the accumulated Whole Trade dollars.The center is not just for the workers but for their families and community. So far, it comprises a learning center with four classrooms, a meeting and reception area, an administrative office and a covered outdoor dining/study/meeting space. Community members decided on the type of classes they wished the center to offer, and they range from English and computer skills to motorcycle maintenance.
The future of the center looks bright. Finca Corsicana donated the land so there is no debt, and the steady stream of Whole Trade dollars not only pays for monthly expenses at the center, but is accumulating for the next phase of construction, slated to begin in late 2014. They plan on building a gymnasium for the community and also to generate some income for the center when it’s rented out for private events. Following that, a daycare facility will complete the complex, providing a convenient, safe place for the farmworkers’ children while they are at work.I only speak Spanish un poco, but it was good enough to thank the committee and let them know how proud and happy I was to see with my own eyes (tear-filled at this point) the results of their commitment and ours.
I need no more proof that paying just a few cents more for pineapple can do something big for an entire community. Back at the office in Texas, I was able with complete conviction to sum up my trip with just three simple words in English: Whole Trade works!
Read more about Finca Corsicana in this blog post opens in a new tab from a Whole Foods Market team member who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.