CHICAGO (Sept. 12, 2007). Violent storms in late August have led to the decimation of a number of organic and family farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Whole Foods Market Midwest has joined a remarkable collaboration of farmers, nonprofits, restaurants and natural food cooperatives to implement a multifaceted, region-wide effort to assist these farmers, some of whom have lost use of several fields due to soil contamination and topsoil runoff. Specifically, 26 Whole Foods Market Midwest stores, located in MN, IL, NE, MO, WI and MI, are accepting donations from customers. In addition, the Company's Midwest region is donating $25,000, and matching up to an additional $10,000 in customer donations.
“This flooding is a tragedy, not only for these farms, but for the country as a whole, since a large portion of organic production comes from these areas,” states Bobby Turner, Midwest regional vice president of purchasing for Whole Foods Market. “We vow to do our best to help these farmers as much as possible.”
Working with the Sow the Seeds Fund and Sustain, the Company is accepting customer donations in $2, $5 and $10 increments. Similar to Whole Foods Market's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, the donation is added to the customer's bill, enabling customers to pay with credit and debit cards to encourage participation.
Due to USDA regulations and food safety concerns, the Company placed a temporary moratorium on products from all flooded farms. However, in a matter of days, the Company was able to visit each affected farm and determine what of each farm's products are safe to sell. This quick action enabled all of the farms to continue selling at least a portion of their products, helping them carry on their business as they continue to assess flood damage and initiate cleanup efforts.
“We were very pleased by how quickly Whole Foods Market moved to help these farmers,” comments Mark Muller, program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and coordinator of the Sow the Seeds Fund. “This collaboration demonstrates that when local farmers are hit with hardship, Whole Foods Market and many others in the Midwest food system are community advocates for safe, healthy foods from local farms.”
In addition, stores in highly affected areas are enlisting Team Members to volunteer on local-area farms that need help with cleanup and harvesting. The Company sees this as an extended opportunity to help local communities. For example, Whole Foods Market Madison Team Members are volunteering this Saturday to help Avalanche Farms with harvesting.
“This is a great example of how Whole Foods Market strives to help our local communities,” states Paul Sigmund, Whole Foods Market Madison store team leader. “We're willing to do whatever we can. Volunteering is an excellent way to help our neighbors, but it also enables our Team Members to do more, as many have asked for additional ways they can help.”
The Company is also working on additional relief efforts. Each store's prepared foods department is incorporating their products into recipes, since early harvest means the farmers have an abundance of foods that need to be sold quickly. In addition, some stores within the region are planning a Community Support Day, where 5 percent of one day's net sales will be donated to the farms. For more information, visit www.sowtheseedsfund.org.
About the Sow the Seeds Fund The Sow the Seeds Fund (www.sowtheseedsfund.org) is a project initiated by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). IATP promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy. For more information, visit www.iatp.org.