The U.S. Needs More Organic Farmland—Kashi Has a Plan

September 25, 2018
by Nicole Gulotta for Thrive Market
The U.S. Needs More Organic Farmland—Kashi Has a Plan

Less than 1 percent of farmland in the United States is organic. Really. We were surprised, too, but we’re happy to report that Kashi isn’t just lending a hand, it’s starting a movement to help farmers transition from conventional to organic agricultural practices.

Less than 1 percent of farmland in the United States is organic.

Kashi created the Certified Transitional program after visiting with farmer Karen Lubbers outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, a few years ago. There, the team learned about obstacles facing farms looking to swap conventional farming methods for organic:

  • A strenuous three-year transition process
  • Financial investments for new business plans, loans, and insurance
  • Having to adhere to organic standards while selling crops at lower, conventional prices
  • A non-existent market to recognize these crops
  • Not having as much to sell (since yields will be smaller at first)

After hearing Karen’s struggles, Kashi was inspired to build a solution that both met the farmers’ needs, and made organic products more accessible for consumers, too. “We wanted to use our scale to do something powerful to promote sustainable agriculture—for everyone, and for the long term,” said Jeanne Wilson, Associate Director of Brand Marketing.

“We wanted to use our scale to do something powerful to promote sustainable agriculture—for everyone, and for the long term.”

So the company developed the Certified Transitional program. In addition to supporting farms at every stage of the process, here’s a closer look at other ways the Certified Transitional model is helping improve our agriculture systems.

Kashi Transitional Farmer

1. Setting a standard

Kashi partnered with Quality Assurance International (QAI), an independent, USDA-accredited organic product certifying body, to establish certification requirements for its program. QAI worked to develop guidelines for the three-year transition period, requirements for processors to separate transitional crops from conventional and organic, and a system for verifying on-the-ground transitional farming practices that enable land to become eligible for organic certification.

“Our hope is that the collective use of the Certified Transitional protocol—across multiple companies and industries—will speed the switch to organics at a much larger scale than Kashi could accomplish alone."

“Our hope is that the collective use of the Certified Transitional protocol—across multiple companies and industries—will speed the switch to organics at a much larger scale than Kashi could accomplish alone. Kashi, together with QAI, invites other brands to explore and adopt Certified Transitional sourcing,” Jeanne said. This new label symbolizes goods produced at the highest standards, and helps consumers support farms along the way.

2. Commanding higher prices for crops

“During the three-year transition, farmers use organic practices but aren’t paid organic prices. Certified Transitional creates a market for these crops during the three-year window, and a new way for farmers to command slightly higher prices for their crops in transition during that time, giving farmers the financial assurance they need to make the switch,” Jeanne shared. Through Kashi’s involvement, farmers have received over $1 million in premiums (above and beyond what they would be paid for conventional crops).

3. Empowering consumers

To spread the word, Kashi features farmers on the back of its packaging and in digital channels like its blog, which tells the transitional farms’ stories. “With an understanding of Certified Transitional, people are empowered to support the transition to more organics by voting with their dollar at the store. In the long run, this support will enable companies like Kashi to purchase more organic ingredients and provide more organic products back to our consumers.”

When you’re shopping, be sure to look out for the green Certified Transitional logo when you're shopping!

Kashi Certified Transitional Packaging
Kashi recently launched two new products made with ingredients from transitional farmland:

  • Dark Cocoa Karma: This was the first Certified Transitional product to hit the market, and Kashi will always make this cereal—a scrumptious blend of shredded wheat biscuits, cocoa, and a hint of cinnamon—with wheat from transitional farms.
  • Chewy Nut Butter Bars: Made with Certified Transitional ingredients like dates, almond butter, rolled oats, and almonds, it’s a perfect on-the-go snack for work, school, or weekend adventures.
  • Cinnamon French Toast Cereal: This cereal is made with Certified Transitional corn, which means every cinnamon-y spoonful helps support farmers. Bonus: Each serving has 5g of fiber and 14g whole grains

The Future of Certified Transitional Farming

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The capacity for creating more organic farmland is growing every day. “We’ve loved seeing the positive reception of Certified Transitional over the years from the industry, consumers, and other brands, and we’re excited to see more companies considering Certified Transitional and other initiatives that work to move the market forward,” Jeanne said. Kashi is particularly interested in continuing the conversation on how existing initiatives like Non-GMO Project Verified, Regenerative Agriculture, and USDA Organic can support each other. “We want more brands on board somewhere in this continuum and, rather than looking at one as better than the other, all of these certifications create positive momentum for people and planet health.”

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This article is related to: Sustainable, Farming, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Brands

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