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The fruits of local labour that stocks an American organic supermarket giant have returned home, providing one Hawke’s Bay community with greater access to fresh produce.

Te Aranga O Heretaunga Marae in Flaxmere welcomed John Walker and Edmond LaMacchia from Whole Foods Market and David Posner from Awe Sum Organics this week.

The supermarket chain (encompassing more than 300 stores) stocks organic New Zealand kiwifruit and apples, and believes in giving back to the local communities that work to produce their stock.

In Hawke’s Bay, JM Bostock organic apple workers were chosen as the recipients of the Fair for Life grants, specifically the Flaxmere Community Gardens and Garden in a Bin project.

Flaxmere council member Henare O’Keefe said the funding, a percentage of the apple’s US sales, would allow the gardens to expand and the community to be healthier.

“It will enable us to kick our community garden up to the next level,” he said. “We will be able to employ people and purchase an inground irrigation system.”

The 5.3-hectare gardens never close, and locals can take whatever they need. Garden in a Bin supplies families with an apple bin filled with organic soil and seeds to grow their own produce at home. “It is not only great for Flaxmere, but great for the district,” said Mr O’Keefe.

Mr Walker said the Flaxmere project added to an international register of Fair for Life recipients, part of the company’s socially responsible beliefs.

“It is important to us that funds go back to not only the community but the actual workers in the farms,” he said. “Another element is that the decision how those funds are used is not made by us – it’s made by those same people.”

Mr Posner said the visit reinforced benefits of New Zealand staying GE free, with an increasing international demand for organic food. “I have been saying for a number of years what an opportunity to keep New Zealand GE free,” he said. “You’re an island all surrounded by water and the biggest threat everybody else has in the world is once the GE crops are planted everybody else gets them from the drift, whether they planted them or not.”

The Fair for Life scheme is run by independent certification company IMO, and its tick of approval verifies a company is socially accountable and trades fairly in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations.

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