WHOLE FOODS LOANS $2.5 MILLION
AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market here has announced that its Local Producer Loan Program — designed to help small growers and independent artisan food producers expand their businesses — has provided $2.5 million in low-interest loans to growers and producers nationwide. Since the program's inception in early 2007, it has given 50 loans to businesses throughout the U.S. Another 20 applications are currently pending. A release announcing the milestone noted that the program has awarded fixed rate, low-interest loans ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 to businesses ranging from organic vegetable farms and grass-fed cattle ranchers, to heritage turkey growers and natural body care products makers. Recipients must meet Whole Foods' quality standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan.
CHIPOTLE EXPANDS LOCAL SOURCING
DENVER — Chipotle Mexican Grill, the fast-casual burrito chain based here, has announced plans to expand its use of local produce. Beginning this summer, each of the chain's more than 860 restaurants will purchase at least 35% of its supply of at least one in-season bulk produce item from local farmers, a 10% increase over last year. The company expects to have more than 25 local farms in its network supply romaine lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onions and/or oregano. Similarly, the company has pioneered the use of naturally raised meats for chain restaurant operations, and during the past several years, Chipotle has phased out the use of dairy products produced with artificial hormones, and steadily expanded its use of organic beans — from 10% in 2004 to more than 25% from 2007 on. “From a culinary perspective, we are using the very finest seasonal ingredients available, and hopefully creating even more demand for locally grown food,” Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle, said in a release.