Flowers Uncut: A Whole Trade Story

Learn about the impact of Whole Trade™ flowers from a team member ’s South American trip visiting farms, meeting growers and seeing the benefits firsthand.

An avid lover of food and travel, Nick Heustis has worked for Whole Foods Market for 12 years and is currently the Associate Marketing Coordinator for the Northern California region. For six days in January, Nick and a group of Whole Foods Market team members traveled to South America, visiting farms, meeting growers and seeing firsthand the benefits of our Whole Trade® flower program.

Read part two, An Elite Community opens in a new tab and part three, Social Responsibility at 10,000 Feet opens in a new tab.

Flowers are a symbol of celebration and emotion; they convey feelings, life and vitality. They add color and warmth to our homes, and at the other end of the supply chain, they provide jobs, homes and community for the people who grow, harvest and package them.

For six days in January, a group of Whole Foods Market® team members traveled to South America, visiting farms, meeting growers and seeing firsthand the benefits of our Whole Trade® flower program. It was a wild ride of planes, buses, cars and missing iPads, and through it all we were inspired by the people, the culture and the practices that create some of the most impressive flowers I have ever seen.

This will be the first of three posts, with the hope of sharing our journey with you.

Throughout this trip I was continually reminded of how lucky we are, where so much we take for granted is an ambitious dream for others. Our Whole Trade program guarantees fair wages, sound environmental practices and improved working conditions.

It also provides a 10% premium over the cost of the flowers (pre-shipping) that goes directly into important community programs. It was through the investment of these premiums that we saw the most visible and enduring impact for the workers.

A few extra dollars per case of flowers turns into buying first homes for families, sending children to school, creating art programs, providing necessary medical and dental treatments and an overall elevation of the quality of life far beyond the norm.

Speaking of norms, if you’ve ever traveled with produce people you’ll understand when I talk about the one day we were able to sleep in, until the late hour of 7am! The world of flowers starts early and it’s an engaging combination of art, science, business and community.

For those of us outside the produce industry, it was amazing to see the amount of work required behind the scenes to produce even a single flower. Entire greenhouses dedicated to the trials of potential new varieties, varietal buds spliced onto time-tested root stock, water and soil management, and the ongoing preservation of the blooms along every step until they reach our stores.

The timing of our visit was the perfect opportunity to watch the farms preparing for their busiest season of the year, Valentine’s Day. Some of the farms will almost double their staff during the next few weeks just to handle the volume and you can feel the activity building in the air.

This year, I encourage everyone to share their love with flowers that support the Whole Trade communities of growers, to give the gift that makes a difference. Check back tomorrow as we look at the specific community programs of Elite Flowers in Bogota.

In the meantime, leave a comment below by Valentine’s Day telling us how flowers made a day better for you or someone you care about and we’ll donate a dollar for every comment to the Elite Flower Foundation as our way of sharing the love.

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