General Mills has secured a US sourcing agreement with Gunsmoke Farms to convert 34,000 acres of conventional farmland to certified organic acreage by 2020.
The farm, located west of Pierre, South Dakota, will now grow certified organic wheat and other organic rotational crops. General Mills will use wheat grown at the site to make Annie’s pasta products.
As part of the agreement, General Mills has partnered with Midwestern BioAg (MBA) to provide on-the-ground mentorship for the farm operators to advance leading regenerative soil management practices.
Upwards of 3,000 acres of pollinator habitat will be planted throughout Gunsmoke Farms in cooperation with the Xerces Society. Such habitat is said to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and protect game and songbirds.
General Mills chief supply chain officer John Church said: “Investing in such a big acreage transition is a first of its kind for General Mills and is another step in growing our organic supply chain.
“We continue to seek ways to partner with land owners to make organic ingredients more accessible for existing and innovative new foods that our consumers have grown to expect.”
In 2016, General Mills announced a similar transition agreement with Organic Valley to help dairy farms convert to organic dairy production.
Carla Vernón, president of the Annie’s operating unit, said: “We recognise that agriculture practices contribute to some of today’s most pressing sustainability challenges, and we are hopeful that regenerative agriculture practices can provide large-scale solutions for restoring healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem.
“Our brands like Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, and Epic are committed to improving soil health by supporting farmers to adopt and advance regenerative farming practices. Together with growers, we want to revive our ecosystems, reduce levels of global greenhouse gases, and produce food to sustain a growing population for generations to come.”
MBA will offer on-farm skills-based learning programmes, which will serve as a regional educational hub for farmers to learn how to implement organic and regenerative agriculture practices. Gunsmoke Farms is owned by TPG, a private investment company.
Gary Zimmer, founder of MBA, added: “Gunsmoke Farms is a unique property with special challenges and opportunities for how to scale organic farming.
“We crafted a specific rotation and soil-building programme to allow this property to be farmed organically at this scale. This involves tools and practices like mixing together wheat and legume crops to build nutrient-dense, carbon-rich soil.”
General Mills said it expects its natural and organic portfolio in North America to reach $1.5 billion in net sales by 2020.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018