Farmer-Casey-in-grains-feature
Apr 13, 2018 • By

How Annie’s is working differently in Montana

A new sort of farmers market just arrived in the northern plains of Montana, and Annie’s is proud to be part of it.

For the last eighteen months, we’ve been working with organic grain farmers, Casey Bailey and Nate Powell-Palm, to create limited edition Annie’s items – Honey Bunny Grahams and Elbow Pasta & Cheddar – made from organic crops grown on their farms.

We’re excited to share a film we made with Casey and Nate to tell their stories and show why we’re all so hopeful that the food industry can evolve to both feed and save the planet.

These products are a first for all of us.

This is the first time that Annie’s has partnered directly with farmers to source identity preserved organic ingredients grown using regenerative agricultural practices. And, it’s the first time Casey and Nate have shared their own, grain-based products with their local community!

Annie's-2018-limited-edition-products

Annie’s Limited Edition Organic Honey Bunny Grahams and Elbow Pasta & Cheddar. Made with organic ingredients grown by Casey Bailey and Nate Powell-Palm on their Montana farms.

As of last week, both items are on shelf at Sprouts stores, where they’ll be available exclusively as supplies last.  

At Annie’s, we’re committed to saving soil through regenerative agriculture, which protects and intentionally enhances natural resources and farm communities. Our partnership with Casey and Nate is an important step in our journey.

Leaders in Montana’s organic movement, Casey and Nate have long been advocates for low input, sustainable farming. Now, they’re determined to build on the strong foundation of organic to improve soil health and create more diverse, resilient ecosystems through regenerative agriculture.

They cite climate impact as a reason to be excited about regenerative agriculture. By sequestering carbon in the soil, regenerative practices provide a hopeful solution for reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Casey's-cows

To grow the organic crops for our limited-edition Annie’s products, Casey and Nate followed three key regenerative principles:

  • Minimal soil disturbance. Keeping soil covered and reducing tillage helps build healthy soil and prevent the loss of carbon and other key nutrients.
  • Managed rotational grazing. Grazing animals play an important role in a regenerative ecosystem, keeping soil healthy through their hoof action and manure.
  • Extended crop rotations. Planting a variety of crops improves nutrient cycling and helps break weed and pest cycles. Over time, increased diversity leads to healthier soil and more resilient crops, which in turn lessens the need for external inputs.

Each of our new products contains a blend of two organic rotational crops: wheat and oats in Bunny Grahams and wheat and peas in Elbow Pasta & Cheddar.

Our relationships with Casey and Nate have changed the way we think about food and farming. Food is what connects us to each other and to the planet. To realize a more regenerative food system, we need to shift from a farming system that competes with nature, to one that works with nature to feed planet for generations to come.

Likewise, we need to work differently with farmers, elevating their role as innovators and partners.

Annies-team-members-with-nate

Farmer Nate Powell-Palm gave Annie’s team members, Liz Houghton (Sourcing), Ali Kelley (Marketing) and Shauna Sadowski (Sustainability), a tour of the land he farms outside of Bozeman, Montana.

The direct-farm network we’re developing in Montana is one example of how we’re seeking to drive positive impact in local farming communities. Our partnerships with Casey and Nate are different from our other sourcing agreements: they are multi-year, to provide stability, and multi-crop, to encourage diversity.

We’ve committed to make planting decisions together, in advance of each planting season, choosing rotational crops that deliver positive taste and ecological benefits.

Nate-holding-wheat

Farmer Nate Powell-Palm shows off the organic wheat he grew for Annie’s Limited Edition Organic Elbow Pasta & Cheddar.

Because impact is so critical, we’re working with Casey and Nate to understand how regenerative farming practices lead to measurable outcomes, like soil organic carbon. To that end, we’ve developed a user-friendly scorecard tool, which we’re implementing in combination with on-farm soil measurements.

For many of us at Annie’s, the limited edition organic products we created with Casey and Nate are the most special items we’ve ever launched. More than just food, these Bunny Grahams and Elbow Pasta & Cheddar represent our vision for a more regenerative future.

We are thrilled to share them with the world.

Regenerative-agriculture-shifts

Regenerative agriculture calls for a different approach to farming, highlighted in this panel from General Mills’ Food Matters booth at Natural Products Expo West 2018.

At the same time, we urgently need to do more. We’re already working with Casey and Nate to reach more people through our next round of products. And, we’re expanding our farmer network to introduce regeneratively-grown ingredients across more of Annie’s foods.

We believe the food industry can evolve to both feed people and save the planet. When you look at it that way, we’re just getting started. As eager as we are to expand our impact, we have a lot left to learn.

All of us as eaters have a role to play in realizing a more regenerative food system.

We hope you’ll join us on the journey!

Learn more about Annie’s limited edition products and regenerative agriculture work at Annies.com.

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