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Whole Foods Market(R) Lends $2.5 Million to Local Growers, Producers and Food Artisans
Date:5/26/2009

Natural and Organic Retailer Hits Milestone in Program to Help Local Producers Grow Businesses; More Loans Available Despite Nation's Credit Crunch

AUSTIN, Texas, May 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), the leading natural and organic foods supermarket, announced today that its Local Producer Loan Program has provided producers throughout the United States with $2.5 million in low-interest loans.

Whole Foods Market launched the Local Producer Loan Program and awarded its first loans in early 2007 with a commitment to fund up to $10 million in low-interest loans. The Company's goal is to make it easier for local and independent farmers, producers and food artisans to grow their businesses and bring more local products to market.

The Company continues to accept local loan applications from producers seeking to expand their businesses. Since the program began, nearly 50 loans have been made to businesses throughout the United States, with an additional 20 applications pending.

"Whole Foods Market is committed to helping grow local businesses, not only by providing access to these loans, but also by providing an outlet to sell their unique artisanal products," said Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global vice president of growth and business development. "We are thrilled to have assisted in the growth of local businesses nationwide. It's exciting to hit this milestone."

Local producers who have received loans include organic vegetable farmers, a heritage turkey grower, grass-fed cattle ranchers, a natural body care products maker and a host of other artisanal food producers. Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market's quality standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed low-interest rates.

Previous loan recipients have used their loans for purchasing more livestock, investing in new equipment, expanding production facilities, adapting to more sustainable practices or converting to organic production.

"We are so proud of both this program and the fact that even with the current economic situation we can continue to provide loans to our valued producers," said Jenny Brown, Local Producer Loan Program administrator. "We want our producers to know that we are more than a retailer - we are here to help them grow their businesses."

Among loan recipients is Phoenix-based Laughing Giraffe Organics, which produces gluten-free, raw, vegan granola and macaroons. The loan enabled company owner and founder Justin Baumgartner to increase production and move beyond selling only at a local farmer's market. His product is now sold in more than 100 Whole Foods Market stores across the United States.

"With the money we received from the Local Producer Loan Program, we were able to build a whole new kitchen and double our production capabilities, which allowed us to keep up with the pace of the growth in our business," Baumgartner said. "This money allowed us to grow, expand and be a viable company."

To view online video testimonials from Baumgartner and other loan recipients, and for other program details, visit http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/values/local-producer-loan-program.php.

About Whole Foods Market(R)

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (www.wholefoodsmarket.com), a leader in the natural and organic foods industry and America's first national certified organic grocer, was named "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" in 2008 by Health magazine. 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. Thanks to its 53,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine for 12 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2008, the company had sales of $8 billion and currently has more than 275 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market, Fresh & Wild(TM), and Harry's Farmers Market(R) are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Wild Oats(R) and Capers Community Market(TM) are trademarks owned by Wild Marks, Inc.

    Contact:
    Liz Burkhart
    (512) 542-0682
    Liz.Burkhart@wholefoods.com


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SOURCE Whole Foods Market
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