Wholesum, an Arizona-based grower-shipper of fair trade, organic vegetables, has released its annual impact report. The document highlights the company’s efforts in 2022 related to four focus areas, which include organic integrity, responsible agriculture, fair trade impact, and advancement towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of gender equality and responsible consumption and production, according to a news release.
“Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand,” Ricardo Crisantes, chief commercial officer for Wholesum, said in the release. “We are constantly seeking and implementing new ways that we can achieve greater impact at our farms.”
In 2022, the farms experienced several notable milestones stemming from new implementations and capabilities. According to the release, these highlights include:
ACHIEVEMENTS IN ORGANIC INTEGRITY
- Wholesum continued its production of growing exclusively organic, expanding operations by 6 acres of energy-efficient greenhouses built in Sonora, Mexico.
- An expanded integrated pest-management program led to the production of 960,000 lady bugs in an in-house lab; the insects help deter pests such as aphids.
- Wholesum launched an endeavor producing organic pepper and cucumber seeds in-house on its new organic seed farm.
- It partnered with two new growers, contributing a total of 263 acres of organic production and 64,709 labor hours to manual pest control, showcasing a commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices.
MILESTONES IN RESPONSIBLE AGRICULTURE
- The company recirculated 30.2% of irrigation water used in its Arizona farm, an improvement from the 16% that was recirculated in 2021 after implementing a more robust water cleaning system that kills bacteria but re-feeds nutrients to the crops with compost tea for greater biological activity in the plants.
- The farm grows organic tomatoes on the vine, beefsteak, cocktail and heirloom tomatoes, bringing the U.S. sustainably grown products for local programs.
- Installation of new solar panel systems to displace 36% of the energy used at Wholesum’s Nogales, Ariz., distribution center. This number is expected to increase in 2023 as the panels are used to the fullest.
FAIR TRADE IMPACTS
- The company celebrated 10 years of certification through Fair Trade USA.
- Since Wholesum’s inception through the end of 2022, the program generated $9.1 million in community development funds that have gone back to farmworkers to invest in projects that address needs such as access to education, nutrition, health care, infrastructure and recreation.
- Last year Wholesum celebrated with a companywide festival highlighting impacts through employee testimonials, unveiling a new mural and local vendor participation.
PROGRESS ON U.N. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
- The company launched new preventative health clinics, which were set up to address gender-specific issues within the farm community.
- Wholesum made significant strides by ensuring that 72% of its packaging material in 2022 was renewable. Implementing closed-loop systems like RPCs and CHEP pallets extended the life cycle of the remaining 28%.
- Looking ahead, the company aims to assess the effect of these initiatives and explore sustainable alternatives for nonrenewable sources, pursuing a greener and more environmentally conscious approach to packaging their produce.
“We are very proud of the work we do and acknowledge areas of opportunity for the future,” Crisantes said in the release. “Our dedication to excellence remains at the core of our mission, and we are excited to continue making a positive difference in the lives of our stakeholders and the community we serve.”
The full report can be downloaded at wh.farm/trade-resources.