A former Marine Corps Sergeant who served three tours in Iraq and founded a non-profit to help veterans transition into agriculture has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods Organic Markets, claiming the company nearly bankrupted his and his wife's organic farm.
Colin and Karen Archipley, owners of Archi’s Acres filed their lawsuit in federal court against the organic food supermarket chain for fraud, and breach of contract. According to the lawsuit, the Amazon-owned organic market chain suddenly stopped ordering organic basil from the couple's Escondido farm.
The couple's dream to own and run their own organic farm began in 2005, after buying three acres in north San Diego County while Colin Archipley was home from deployment.
They considered farming and agriculture, a therapeutic endeavor that Archipley could do to help cope with his time spent fighting in the Iraqi Invasion, Battle of Fallujah, and in Haditha.
“He had seen more than his fair share and had taken more than his share of losses and so farming was very therapeutic,” said Karen Archipley. “He kinda just took to the land.”
In 2012 the couple got the break they were hoping for.
Representatives from Whole Foods approached them with an offer to have the Archipleys produce basil for 60 of their organic food stores.
“They loved our basil and they said 'this is what we want to be the staple for Whole Foods,'" said Archipley. “They said we loved who we were and they love who we represented as veteran farmers, as small local farmers. I remember thinking how cool that was.”
According to the lawsuit, Whole Foods promised to purchase $573,000 a year of basil from the Archipleys. The organic grocer even agreed to lend the couple some of the money needed to buy the parcel next door and build a 28,000 square foot greenhouse.
The good news continued. In 2014 former First Lady Michelle Obama invited the couple to the White House and later helped plant crops in the White House garden.
Construction ended in 2017. However, much to the disappointment of the Archipleys the number of orders from Whole Foods also began to slow.
“As soon as our doors opened, the orders collapsed like a soufflé,” said Archipley. "Our dream shattered. Basically, they loved us until they didn’t.”
The Archipleys were unable to sell enough crops to pay for the expansion, resulting in the bank foreclosing on their properties.
Attorney Alex Papaefthimiou, one of the attorneys representing the family, said Whole Foods should honor the promises they made to the family.
“This case is, quite literally, a defense of the American Dream,” said Papaefthimiou. “Our clients, a local veteran-founded and community-oriented farm, are at risk of losing everything because they trusted in their partnership with Whole Foods. Whole Foods simply cast our clients aside with crippling debt after it had finished using them for its advertising campaign. We are committed to doing what we can to stop big business from taking advantage of good people.”
Whole Foods did not return a request for comment.