Brand muesli Pure Elizabeth is into regenerative farming this month with one of their most popular products, Ancient Grain Granola, now reaching Whole Foods with regenerative ingredients. It is the start of a collaboration with the Colorado-based company crazy farminga non-profit organization that helps companies like Purely Elizabeth collect the data needed to ensure regenerative agriculture has the impact it claims, and connects companies to growers.
“I’ve always been interested in nutrition and that’s why regenerative farming excites me,” said Elizabeth Stein, founder and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. “So now we’re working to connect the dots between nutrition and regenerative agriculture.”
Mad Ag’s Elizabeth Candelario adds to this correlation, “While there has always been common sense in recognizing that healthy soil is the foundation for growing healthy crops, there is increasing scientific data proving that regenerative agriculture can be nutritious and delicious. produce food.”
Mad Ag is working to build on this data by working with farmers and conducting long-term studies with a few selected farms.
In addition to sourcing regenerative organic coconut oil and sugar from Sri Lanka and Java, Indonesia, respectively, Purely Elizabeth partners with farmers in Montana and Idaho to source 5% of their oats. Ultimately, Stein wants to get that percentage to 25%, sourced from an assortment of regenerative organic farms. But in the next three years she wants to go even further and source a third of all ingredients from regenerative organic sources.
While some farms are already going organic, such as their oat supplier in Montana, others may not be. So there is a learning curve and a transition period, Stein explains.
By partnering with Mad Ag, Stein not only gets more data about what’s happening at the farm level, but farmers also get the support they need.
“The regenerative revolution in agriculture depends on brands committing to buying from regenerative (which we believe are also organic) farms. Farmers will not grow what they cannot sell,” explains Candelario. “Buyers are absolutely crucial to encourage farmers to switch from conventional to regenerative agriculture. Buying crops from regenerative farms (and from farms in transition) allows farmers to diversify their rotations and invest in biodiversity, which improves many of a farm’s ecological functions, including carbon sequestration, water quality, insect diversity , plants, birds and much more. more.”
In addition to literature reviews and farmer interviews, Mad Ag will also conduct in-depth on-farm research, monitoring several factors over a 10-year period: soil health; biodiversity between crops, livestock, plants, birds and insects; regenerative practices; and nutritional quality of ingredients (testing for antioxidants, polyphenols, proteins and amino acids, mineral content and more).
While the regenerative “tent” has different definitions of what exactly regenerative farming is, Candelario says Mad Ag certainly pushes farmers to go organic, arguing that organic farming is not only beneficial for soil health, but also for their wallet.
“At the upside, they benefit from higher price premiums for their crops and direct trading opportunities with buyers, such as Purely Elizabeth, which provide additional benefits in terms of long-term relationships and buyer stability,” she says. “Ultimately, organic farmers are not relying on synthetic inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, but are leveraging the benefits of cover crops for fertility management and increasing biodiversity to support beneficial insects, all of which leads to reduced costs and better soil health. We want our farmers not to have to buy and import synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and of course GMOs.”
A study even noted that organic farmers can earn more than conventional farmers in certain cases. So despite the popular narrative that organic farming is not financially viable, Candelario argues otherwise.
For Stein, working with Mad Ag was an added bonus given their emphasis on research and data supporting regenerative claims. She hopes that other companies will follow suit and that the commitment to regenerative agriculture will deepen into the food industry. And while they are both aware of the greenwashing already taking place with regenerative agriculture, they are optimistic that data-driven models, rooted in certifications and documented practices, will prevail.
For Stein, regenerative farming is part of a wider story with Purely Elizabeth. She also works with Planet FWD to map their CO2 emissions as a company in 2024 and then work on reducing them as much as possible.
Speaking to grocery buyers, she notes that some supermarkets and chain stores are very interested in regenerative agriculture. But even if the marketing didn’t dictate it, she says she’d be committed to it. “It’s essential, in my perspective.”