Austin, Texas (November 13, 2007) Whole Foods Market, Inc. (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, announced today it has reached a milestone with its new Local Producer Loan Program by administering more than $1 million in low-interest loans. Loan recipients include small-scale food producers and growers from 12 states. Among their products are agricultural crops, body care products, and artisan foods including nut butters, ice cream, granolas and cheeses.
“Local food growers and artisans have been vital to the success of Whole Foods Market during our 27 years in business. Today we are proud to emphasize our commitment to producers by announcing our first $1 million in financial support to 22 program participants,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder. “We believe the Local Producer Loan Program can make a very significant difference in helping local agriculture grow and flourish, and $1 million in loans represents just the initial phase of our efforts.”
The most recent loan recipient is Don Lunsford of 3L Farms in Durham, N.C. Lunsford worked as a golf course superintendent before deciding to return to his family's farming roots. In operation since 2002, Don is most proud of growing good quality and consistent products; he has dreams of expanding the business to include shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes. Named for the “3 Lunsfords” in the family, 3L Farms will use the loan money to build a greenhouse for hothouse tomatoes.
“I've never been able to obtain the finances to expand my small business until Whole Foods Market started this program,” Lunsford said. “With the new greenhouses, my goal is to be into production with tomatoes by May of next year.”
Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program aims to strengthen the company's partnership with independent and small-scale local growers and food artisans. The Company has committed $10 million annually to these low-interest loans. Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market's quality standards, use the funds for expansion, and have a viable business plan. Loan amounts are between $1,000 and $100,000 with low, fixed interest rates currently between 5% and 9%. Applications and additional information are available at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/loans.