FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Feb. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- South Florida beekeeper David Rukin is the first recipient of a low interest rate, long-term loan from Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, as part of a company-wide initiative supporting local agriculture and food producers. Rukin is participating in Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program, through which the company intends to provide $10 million annually in loans to promote local agriculture in areas where it has stores. "I have been supplying honey and other bee products to Whole Foods Market for years, and I am excited about using these funds to expand my business," said Rukin. "I appreciate Whole Foods Market's willingness to partner with small-scale producers like me." Rukin will utilize the funds to buy equipment and supplies to add crystallized honey to his product line. Crystallized honey offers consumers a spreadable, nonfat alternative for topping breads and bakery products. At rates of five to nine percent, the interest rates currently offered through Whole Foods Market's pilot program to small agricultural producers like Buzzn Bee are lower than those they would generally receive from a bank. The program has other attributes geared to small producers: loan application paperwork is minimized, administrative fees range from $0 to $65; there are no penalties for early payment; and loan life may be from a few months to ten years. "Whole Foods Market greatly values local producers like David Rukin," said Juan Nunez, Florida regional president of Whole Foods Market. "We have carried Buzzn Bee products since 1997 when we opened the first Whole Foods Market stores in Florida. The loan program is a terrific example of how we work with producers to create win-win-win situations, providing benefits not only for the company, but for our suppliers and shoppers, as well." The Local Producer Loan Program is part of Whole Foods Market's renewed commitment to local agriculture. This includes hosting farmers markets at stand-alone stores, refocusing in-store marketing to highlight locally- produced products, and hiring regional staff focused specifically on sourcing local products. "Whole Foods Market's intention is to support local agriculture all over the United States," said John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. "We are going to 'walk our talk' with financial support for farmers and other producers in close proximity to our stores. We believe this financial assistance of $10 million a year can make a very significant difference in helping local agriculture grow and flourish across the United States." Interested producers can learn more about the Local Producer Loan Program at the Whole Foods Market website, http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/lplp.html . About Whole Foods Market(R) Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com ) is the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket and America's first national certified organic grocer. In fiscal year 2006, the company had sales of $5.6 billion and currently has more than 190 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Harry's Farmers Market(R), and Fresh & Wild(R) are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Whole Foods Market employs more than 41,500 team members and has been ranked for ten consecutive years as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine.
SOURCE Whole Foods Market