RANDALL'S ISLAND, N.Y. (September 5, 2007) Whole Foods Market, the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, is sponsoring Farm Aid 2007: A HOMEGROWN Festival as part of its company-wide commitment to support local agriculture. This year, the Company will host a booth at the music festival to raise awareness of its new Local Producer Loan Program, which provides up to $10 million annually in low-interest, long-term loans to small agricultural producers and food artisans.

The Local Producer Loan Program is open to producers near the company's stores throughout the United States. As of August 2007, 18 producers had received a total of $809,500 through the program. Two recent borrowers are located near the site of Farm Aid 2007:

  • Red Jacket Orchards™, in Geneva, New York, is a third-generation family farm that has been producing fruit with passion and integrity since 1958. The Nicholson family business produces apples, summer fruits, berries, and juices and has been selling to Whole Foods Market for seven years. Their loan is being used to shield high-density apricots, white cherries, and Japanese plums under a high tunnel in order to protect these delicate crops from the elements.
  • Upper Meadows Farms™, in Montague, New Jersey, has been certified organic since 1991, growing from 4? acres to their current 153 acres. They have approximately 12 acres of vegetable production plus gradually expanding fruit production, as well as a variety of livestock. Their loan is funding construction of a packing and preparation building to help them improve their efficiency, preserve the quality of their products, and add higher value products to their sales.

“It is Whole Foods Market's intention to help finance local agriculture all over the United States,” said John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. “We are going to 'walk our talk' with financial support for local, small-scale agriculture. We believe this financial assistance can make a very significant difference in helping small growers flourish across the United States.”

The loans assist small producers in growing their businesses with affordable interest rates of five to nine percent. The program has other attributes geared to small producers: loan application paperwork is minimized, administrative fees range from $0 to $65, there are no penalties for early repayment, and loan life may be from a few months to ten years.

“Participation in Farm Aid 2007: A HOMEGROWN Festival will allow us to reach those farmers who are in need of the most assistance,” said Jenny Brown, Associate Program Coordinator. “We will have the opportunity to provide information about the Local Producer Loan Program and the many other ways Whole Foods Market supports local agriculture.” These efforts include hosting farmers markets at stand-alone stores, refocusing in-store marketing to highlight locally-produced products, and hiring regional staff focused specifically on sourcing local products.

Interested producers can learn more about the Local Producer Loan Program at the Whole Foods Market website, www.wholefoodsmarket.com/loans.

About Farm Aid Farm Aid's mission is to build a vibrant family-farm centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid's work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family-farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $30 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the current system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.