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5 Things We Learned at the Whole Foods All Access Staff Training Event

Did you know that Backyard Farms tomatoes are available in every Whole Foods market from Maine to New Jersey? If you’re a regular Whole Foods shopper, you probably already know that, but you may NOT know why so many Whole Foods staff members are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the different products they sell. In addition to the in-store training programs that all grocery stores provide their employees, Whole Foods goes a step further with their regional All Access staff training events. The Backyard Farms sales and marketing team had the pleasure of attending New England’s All Access event on Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16 at the Hilton Hotel in Woburn, Massachusetts.

In addition to manning our own table where we talked with thousands of store associates, we also walked around the sprawling network of tents that made the exhibit area feel like a music festival. We had a great time mixing and mingling with Whole Foods employees and brand representatives alike. We sampled all kinds of delicious food, met some wonderful people and learned a few fascinating things during our own All Access look behind the scenes of Whole Foods.

1. Whole Foods Team Members Are Some of the Happiest People on Earth

Case in point, the crew from the University store in Rhode Island in the photo above. While the cynics of the world will question their casual appearance, this was one of the most pleasant and engaging groups we’ve ever met. We were flattered by the compliments they had for our tomatoes and enjoyed answering their thoughtful questions about our greenhouse and how we grow. It’s clear that working at Whole Foods is more than a job for the vast majority of the team members we met and we suspect that “Thing 2” below is a big reason why that’s the case.

2. Whole Foods Respects Their Employees

Some of the best things we saw were the t-shirts employees received with uplifting messages about how much each team member means to the company. In addition to making each employee feel special, Whole Foods recognizes the collective efforts of store teams with an elaborate, jam-packed awards ceremony (congratulations to the Hingham, MA store for winning the Outstanding Produce Department Award!). And let’s face it, taking thousands of employees out of their stores for an entire day and bussing them to a hotel for a day of training is an expensive endeavor. That Whole Foods is willing to make this investment in their people says a great deal about their commitment to customer service.

3. Whole Foods Vendors Are as Passionate as Their Employees

As we roamed the tables and displays of brands sampling everything from apples to zinc infused lip balm, we were struck by how friendly and excited ALL the vendors were to be sharing their products with Whole Foods team members. We were especially pleased to see old friends like Emily from Love Beets who recently shared our Tomato, Beet and Cherry Caprese Salad recipe and make new friends in Roger from Roth Cheese who quickly agreed to use our beefsteak tomatoes in the sandwiches he was making with their remarkably creamy Prairie Sunset cheese. 

4. The Seafood Display Stole the Show

Sure, tomatoes are our business, but we love seafood as much as any Mainer. And we were absolutely blown away by the physical effort and dedication required by the guys from Pigeon Cove Whole Foods Market in Gloucester to set up their incredible display. When you’re buying perfectly presented fish filets at the store, it’s easy to forget how much labor is involved in catching them and bringing them to market. It’s also easy to forget how massive some species of fish are and how important it is to harvest them responsibly so future generations can enjoy them.

5. Kombucha is Awesome

There aren’t a lot of places to find a nice cup of fermented tea in Madison, Maine so we were a bit leery about trying it. Fortunately, the crew from Health Ade was every bit as passionate as all the other vendors and they gave us no choice but to give it a taste. “Game changer” was the first thought to come to mind. And while we hate to think what the greenhouse crew will think of us for falling in love with a fancy-shmancy drink like kombucha, we’ll be looking for it any chance we get.

We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at the Whole Foods All Access team member training event as much as we enjoyed attending it. If you have any questions about what we’ve shared with you, leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you. In the meantime, we hope that no matter where you do your grocery shopping, you take a moment to thank the hard-working store employees who keep the aisles organized and answer your questions. They deserve it!