Working with Whole Foods
This grower has nothing but good things to say about working with one of the country’s biggest sellers of locally grown produce.
Dick had heard and read about Austin, Texas–based Whole Foods’ standards for produce. “I knew we had the quality blueberries and the berries would be a good fit with a company like Whole Foods. I just figured they were too big to work with a small farm like ours.”
Dick was surprised to find just the opposite. The retailer’s emphasis on locally grown produce means they often seek out smaller growers operating near their stores. As a result, Dick says, Whole Foods not only works with small farmers but goes several steps farther to help them maintain high quality, fair prices and even acquire loans to help farmers grow their businesses. The retailer also allows small producers to do product demonstrations in stores and encourages its employees to visit the farmers.
“What’s amazing about that,” says Dick, who hosts events for Whole Foods staff on his farm, “is that they actually come and spend an entire day out here. We teach them about our blueberries and farming in general, and they can then use that information to help sell our products and other farmers’ products.”
Now after 8 years, Dick, who also works with other retailers, sells a majority of his fresh blueberries to Whole Foods, as well as several of his packaged foods. “That propaganda about Whole Foods working with the farmer is true,” says Dick. “They know my wife, my kids, my farm. They help educate their customers about the benefits of buying from the small farmer, even if our produce may cost a little more. It is,” he attests, “the most unusual relationship between a grower and retailer.”