AMADO, ARIZ.— To close out National Volunteer month, Wholesum™ celebrates the completion of their third Fair Trade support project – Healthy Start Los Janos. Key customers, partners and industry friends came together to build a kitchen at the local kindergarten in the Wholesum farming community of Los Janos, Sonora, Mexico. The kitchen will serve no-cost nutritious meals for the students, addressing an impending need identified by the workers.
Thirteen volunteers from partner retailers and distributors including Natural Grocers, Albert’s Organics, City Market Co-op in Vermont, Central Co-op in Seattle, Fresh Point and Resource Group Solutions traveled down to Los Janos to build the kitchen from the ground up. “My experience was eye-opening. It made me see how the co-operative effort of management, labor and customers can positively impact the lives of workers, and their families, throughout the world,” commented Bradley Foletta, Commodity Manager of TPE/Lipman Family Farms, who through his volunteer experience realized the impact of Fair Trade on the community and its development. “A small amount of money per box, when collectively applied, can make the difference between a happy, productive workforce dedicated to achieving excellence and one that is dissatisfied, distracted and inefficient, leading to higher costs and inferior product.”
The project was divided into two construction phases spanning from late March to mid-April. Through team work and hard labor, volunteers built the kitchen and restored one of the classrooms at the school. They laid down the floor, built the walls, and installed roofing in the new facility and engaged in activities such as cement making, brick laying, wiring and painting. Each phase also consisted of two educational days where participants toured the Wholesum greenhouses, learned about the Fair Trade projects and engaged one on one with the Fair Trade committee members. Volunteers also received guided support from Fair Trade USA staff who aside from helping with the construction project also provided valuable insights about the program.
Despite the hard work in the Sonoran Desert heat, volunteers were enthusiastic about experiencing ethical sourcing at its origin. “To provide a healthy kitchen for the Los Janos community kindergarten was a heartful and humbling experience. I have a personal connection to Fair Trade as a result and deeper understanding for what it means to vote with ones’ dollars,” stated Cassi Heale from the inventory and maintenance team at Organically Grown Company, who also sent volunteers for each phase of construction.
Since 2016, Wholesum has teamed up with the Fair Trade committees at its farms to support projects that provide resources and facilities to empower kids, youth and families in the worker communities. Many of these projects incur significant costs and labor. For Wholesum, this is an opportunity to engage at a deeper level with its workforce and partners and truly live its mission of building better futures through healthy, flavorful produce. To help cover the costs Wholesum™ adopted the school and reached out to donors for additional support for construction materials. Thanks to generous donations from Wholesum’s suppliers, F&A Freight, Milleniumsoils Coir, Agri Packing, Ferreteria Jordan and Ferre-Electrica El Raquet, the project came to life.
“I can’t thank our volunteers and donors enough for the coming together to support our local community.” says Ricardo Crisantes, Chief Commercial Officer of Wholesum. “It is amazing to see our industry friends and partners become deeply connected to the mission of Fair Trade and work hard to deliver on that mission.”
The kitchen will have a meaningful impact in the community of Los Janos. It will be a source of relief for parents and assurance that their children will obtain daily healthy meals in a safe and comfortable environment. The kitchen will serve 28 of the community’s children in the 2018-2019 school year and will continue to provide healthy meals to students for years to come. The Healthy Start kitchen will open its doors in late spring to welcome the eager and enthusiastic kindergartners of Los Janos.
Wholesum, third generation family-owned and operated farms based in Southern Arizona are growers and distributors of Fair Trade, organic produce. With over 90 years of farming experience, Wholesum has been dedicated to continuous improvement along the supply chain through responsible sourcing, twenty plus years of organic growing, equitable labor practices and environmental protection. They are also pioneering in the fair trade movement as the first Fair Trade Certified farm in the US and partner with organic growers with the same mission and commitment. Through a combination of greenhouse and open field production, Wholesum provides a year-round supply of high quality organic vegetables and berries. More information is available at www.wh.farm.