Wholesum brings industry together to build Fair Trade project in Mexico

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. 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.

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