The relationship between EARTH and Whole Foods Market began in the late 1990s when Whole Foods opened its first stores in the Atlanta area. Whole Foods Market donated 5% of their one-day sales in those stores to the Atlanta-based EARTH University Foundation. Then Foundation Board Chair, Jane Black, invited Michael Besancon, former senior global vice president of purchasing, distribution and communications for Whole Foods Market who is now retired, to EARTH University.
Reflecting on that first visit, Michael comments that, “the campus was really impressive and the students and staff really blew me away. The commitment to sustainability, to entrepreneurship, to environmental and social well-being—it was and is something that I really resonate with.”
Michael saw an opportunity in EARTH’s commercial banana farm to form a long-term partnership with lasting benefits to EARTH and its students.
“This commercial relationship creates an ongoing source of revenue to support the school. More than this, it exposes EARTH to tens of thousands of homes in the U.S., which gives EARTH a platform for involving many people in their mission,” comments Michael.
Today, approximately 85 percent of Whole Foods Market stores carry EARTH bananas, as well as other EARTH University products dried fruits and co-branded coffee. In addition, in 2011 the sale of EARTH University products in Whole Foods Market generated $915,000 of net profits to support EARTH’s educational mission.
“When you are buying an EARTH University banana you are doing something that has a tangible effect on the people where the bananas are being grown,” explains Michael.