U P F R ONT | FO OD & DRINK
RESPONSIBLY GROWN Introduced in 2014, the Responsibly Grown program defines “responsible” growing in broad terms. The certification includes:
Waste reduction, including reducing packaging and recycling farm materials such as plastic and oil.
produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “We felt we Responsibly Grown needed a framework so that we could have a consistent looks at each farm’s progress conversation with our suppliers about all these issues.” in key areas of More than 100 suppliers have signed on to the sustainability. program. Those interested in being considered pay a subscription fee and fill out an online questionnaire. Then Whole Foods Market decides whether to include them. If a supplier doesn’t meet requirements, the fee isn’t charged. Whole Foods Market and its partners validate the information using a combination of certificates from third-party audits and may request additional information as needed. Rogers notes that all organic produce and flowers are automatically labeled “Responsibly Grown,” and conventional produce can also qualify, but the program is not tiered with levels or higher marks. The program has evolved since its launch in 2014. In mid-2016, Whole Foods Market got rid of a set of “good-better-best” indicators in favor of a single Responsibly Grown banner in the store. “It proved to be a bit much for people to try to understand, so now we have made it simple. Now it either is (responsibly grown) or it is not,” Rogers says. More recently the company announced that, based on recent research, it would expand its list of prohibited pesticides. Some growers say that is the kind of change that makes their participation in the program worthwhile. “When we as farmers find something that works, we tend to be satisfied with that,” says Jon Esformes, CEO of Sunripe Certified Brands, a produce grower in Palmetto, Fla. “This program always evolves. If they say you have to stop using a certain chemical after a certain date, then that forces us to find better alternatives. It helps us be better growers.”
GREEN LIVING | SPRING/SUMMER 2017
Ecosystems and biodiversity, which asks farmers to protect native species and sustain area wildlife by planting wildflowers that attract pollinators.
Farm worker welfare, ensuring workers have protective equipment and farms use third-party safety audits.
GETTY IMAGES; WHOLE FOODS MARKET
Soil health, which may include composting, crop rotation and scientifically advanced techniques to measure and enhance the nutrients in the soil.
Air, energy and climate, with efforts to track greenhouse gas emissions and use of renewable energy sources.