OAKLAND, Calif. (June 6, 2013) – Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in North America, and Whole Foods Market  teamed up to strengthen services to farmers and workers with the first-ever Fair Trade Produce & Floral Summit. Held in April in San Carlos, Mexico, the summit brought together 115 farmers & farm workers from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru as well as nonprofit organizations like Root Capital, Pro Mujer, Banamex's Financial Education Department, Improve International, and Grounds for Health.
“Fair Trade USA and Whole Foods Market share a common goal of empowering Fair Trade farmers and farm workers to fight poverty through trade and we are committed to ensuring certification is as impactful and relevant as possible,” said Hannah Freeman, Director of Produce and Floral for Fair Trade USA. “We’re proud to partner with Whole Foods Market to significantly improve the lives of produce and floral producers across the globe.”
Strengthening Farming Communities
The goal of this Summit was to bring Fair Trade farmers, workers, administrators, and committee members together to share best practices, successes and challenges for managing Fair Trade Community Development Premium projects. Some of the topics discussed were:
- Microfinance & Financial Education: loans for micro-enterprises, training and support
- Health & Healthcare: child healthcare, cancer screenings for women, dental care, water & sanitation
- Education: music programs, scholarships, early development daycare
- Housing & Community: land purchases, housing plans, reforestation programs
Deepening the Impact of Fair Trade for Newly Certified Farms
For many of the participants, this was the first time they were able to meet and interact with other produce & floral farmers and workers from different countries. Experienced attendees were able to mentor and share their experiences with recently certified farms.
Maria Elvia Almachi , 32, who works at the Agrogana  flower estate in Ecuador, provided invaluable knowledge about the impact Fair Trade has had on her community and how her fellow workers democratically choose to allocate their premiums.
“We were happy to help those new farms navigate the fair trade system and help them avoid problems by sharing our good and bad decisions when we developed our premium projects,” said Maria Elvia Almachi, Agrogana. “It was also good to learn from the experiences of others, which can help us generate better ideas for new projects and expand our horizons in new project areas.”
Imports of Fair Trade Certified produce and flowers have continued to grow across nearly every source country and product, resulting in imports of more than 112 million pounds of fresh produce & 8.8 million floral stems in 2012, a combined 48% increase for the category over 2011. Between 2011 and 2013 alone, 10 new products were made available to U.S. consumers. Much of this growth was driven by Whole Foods Market and an increasing demand by consumers for sustainably produced products.
“We are proud to work with Fair Trade USA to support programs that are improving the quality of life for farm workers around the world,” said Carol Medeiros, Associate Global Produce Coordinator at Whole Foods Market. “By hosting this summit, Fair Trade USA has not only provided a forum for growers, business owners, farm workers and more to share best practices in ethical production, they’ve created a support network that all of the attendees can lean on as they launch new projects in their home communities.”
About Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between companies and their international suppliers to help ensure that farmers and workers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities. Fair Trade USA also educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farming communities with the tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.fairtradeusa.org  for more information.
About Whole Foods Market®
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com , NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company's motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company’s more than 73,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 15 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2012, the company had sales of $11.7 billion and currently has more than 340 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.