Southface’s annual Visionary Dinner is right around the corner. In advance of the October 1, 2014 gala, Southface Operations Coordinator Amber McFarland sat down with Whole Foods Market Regional Vice President of Purchasing Stephen Corradini to talk about the relationship between Whole Foods Market, the event’s legacy partner, and Visionary Dinner Chef Keith Schroeder, founder and CEO of High Road Craft Ice Cream.
Whole Foods Market generously donates ingredients for Visionary Dinner, which our celebrity chefs use to create a culinary masterpiece.
How did you first learn of High Road Craft Ice Cream?
I heard about High Road about four years ago after a colleague of mine met them at a farmer’s market. We got excited about the brand and were very interested in getting their product into our stores in pints, which were not available at that time. I got in touch with Keith Schroeder and went down to his old facility to discuss the Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program and how it might help them begin selling their product in pints.
What is the Local Producer Loan Program?
It’s a program that Whole Foods started about seven or eight years ago that provides loans to small growers, producers, manufacturers and distributors to spur the local food economy. Today we have about $30,000,000 set aside for loans and here in the southern region, we have given just short of 20 loans to date through the program and we’ve got another 10 loans in progress.
The first loan we gave to Keith was for pint packaging and we’re in the process of working on another loan with him right now for additional expansion.
How does the Local Producer Loan Program benefit the community?
Fundamentally, the program provides growth to small businesses which means everything from job creation to additional tax revenue to a more vibrant local economy.
Everyone is well aware of how much this country’s food systems have changed in the last sixty or seventy years. The Local Producer Loan Program provides a way for Whole Foods to partner with food producers throughout our region to restore some of the vibrancy at the local grower and manufacturer level that was lost when our food systems became more industrialized.
How does a consumer know they are purchasing a product from the Local Producer Loan Program?
When you’re in a Whole Foods store, look for shelf tags that say “local,” which we define as either coming from the state in which the store is located, or coming from within 150 miles of the store. Local Producer Loan recipients will have these “local” shelf tags on their products that will have a special logo to indicate that they are a part of the program.
We have great relationships with our loan recipients and they are often in our stores for product demos so that they can get to know the people in their community one-on-one. Speaking of in-store demos, another Visionary Dinner Chef, Thorir Erlingsson of The Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University, will be hosting a demo at the Whole Foods Market located at 650 Ponce de Leon this Saturday, September 20, from 2:00-4:00 pm.
Where can we learn more about the local producer loan program?
Check out the Local Producer Loan Program page on the Whole Foods Market website.