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Growing the world’s most benevolent banana

Growing the world’s most benevolent banana

When is a banana not just a banana? When it’s an EARTH banana! It’s not just about our environmentally-friendly growing practices or our fair and safe working conditions. Profits from the sale of our bananas make it possible for EARTH to provide a world class education in sustainable agriculture, natural resources management and ethical entrepreneurship to young leaders from impoverished rural communities who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to go to college. So when you buy an EARTH banana you are impacting a young person, their family and their community for generations to come. We invite you to learn how we grow the world’s most benevolent banana…

Where do bananas come from?

Have you ever wondered where the bananas you eat come from? Or how they are grown? At EARTH University bananas are grown sustainably using innovative techniques developed at EARTH. In fact, our practices recently earned a compliance score of 100 percent on our most recent evaluation for the renewal of our Rainforest Alliance certification.

Unique in the industry, EARTH’s banana plantation is divided into several blocks, each with miles of forest in between. This protects biodiversity and lowers the presence of pathogens and pests, thereby reducing the need for chemical applications.

Bananas don’t grow from a seed. The banana plant is a large perennial herb. Today it is reproduced through tissue culture because it does not produce viable seeds. Using tissue cultured plants also helps to eliminate the possibility of introducing pests or disease into a new plantation. When the plant has grown out about 5 leaves and is 25 centimeters tall it is planted in rows in the field. During this time the plant needs lots of sun and water to grow to full size and produce its first flower which develops into a bunch of bananas.

All natural

On our plantation no herbicides are used. During planting we apply organic compost made here at EARTH. This compost is made using banana stalks and rejected bananas from our banana packing plant. In this mixture efficient microorganisms are also applied to accelerate the decomposition process, minimize disease and the presence of harmful nematodes (microscopic worms).

The banana plant grows and in approximately six months forms its first flower. In three more months the banana bunch will be fully developed and ready to harvest.

Green Bananas

Banana bunches are covered with plastic bags with holes that allow airflow to protect the growing fruit from insects, and to create a microclimate that helps their development. Instead of soaking the plastic bags in a chemical pesticide as is typical in the banana industry, our bags are soaked in an organic mixture of garlic and hot pepper, which acts as a repellent. At EARTH, we recently changed the color of the bags from blue to green to reflect this commitment to sustainability.

Twelve weeks after flowering the bananas are ready for harvest. Bananas are cut while still green. Meanwhile, a new shoot has started growing and this new plant will produce a bunch that will be harvested in eight months.

Each bunch is harvested from the banana plant by two workers. The plant is pulled down allowing one worker to support the bunch while the other cuts the stem from the plant. The worker then walks about 50 meters to the monorail and hooks the bunch onto the rail. When 100 bunches have been harvested, a banana train brings the bunches to the packing plant.

Packing a smile

Our packing plant is also located within our campus.

At the packing plant the plastic bag is removed. The bags are recycled to make corner supports to secure the pallets once the bananas are packed into boxes.

At the plant, bananas are pressure washed and bunches are cut off the stem. They are cut into smaller bunches and sent for a swim in a wash tub.

When they are completely clean, they are sorted by size and quality. Stickers are placed on each bunch of bananas, a worker applies an organic fungicide developed here at EARTH to the crown of each bunch,and finally they are packed in boxes of approximately 40 pounds. The boxes are then stacked on pallets and loaded into a container to be exported.

Upon arrival to the United States the pallets are put into a ripening room until they are bright greenish yellow and then they are distributed to Whole Foods Market stores throughout the country. And that is how we get an EARTH banana from the humid tropics of Costa Rica to your table.