On a box of macaroni and cheese that will launch this month, the name of the farmer who grew the wheat used to make the pasta–Nate Powell-Palm, who has a farm outside Bozeman, Montana–is printed on the front. The manufacturer, Annie’s, Inc., wanted to highlight the fact that Powell-Palm is using regenerative farming practices, a series of steps that go farther than what’s required for an organic label–and that could help fight climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil.
“I think that’s a first in the industry: to offer a product on such wide distribution, available from a major manufacturer in the center of the store, where the family that’s about to enjoy the product can name the farmer, name the farm, and know the ingredients that are specific in that product that are using these very Earth-friendly practices,” says Carla Vernon, president of Annie’s.
The brand, which was purchased by General Mills in 2014, is already known for using organic ingredients. But it wanted to go further: Regeneratively farmed ingredients are farmed with a more holistic set of practices that can promote soil health, increase biodiversity, and pull carbon from the air.
On the Montana farm, Powell-Palm rotates his wheat crop with golden peas, which are also used to make the flour for the pasta, boosting the protein content. A diversity of crops makes the soil healthier than just growing wheat; wheat takes nitrogen from the soil, and peas help replenish it. Livestock also graze in the field on rotation, adding more nutrients to the soil with manure. The farm also uses cover crops rather than letting the soil sit bare after harvest, so the roots of the plants help hold carbon in the soil.
Annie’s will sell the mac and cheese as a limited edition product at the Sprouts chain of supermarkets this spring–only offering as much as was possible to produce with the yield from the Montana farm. It’s also selling a regenerative agriculture version of one of its snacks, “Organic Bunny Grahams,” bunny-shaped cookies made with wheat and oats from Casey Bailey, a farmer who works near the small Montana town of Fort Benton. But the brand sees the first two products as proofs of concept for its larger vision to scale regeneratively farmed ingredients across its business.
Read the entire article by Adele Peters in Fast Company here.
Learn more about Annie’s Soil Matters Campaign and products here.