The Regenerative Farming Principles of CPGs [5 examples]

We’re living in the age of the conscious consumer. When people make spending decisions, they want to know their money supports products and brands that align with their values. One of the largest considerations is how our shopping habits impact the environment, so labels like “from regenerative farms” are growing increasingly popular. Here, we’ll answer some questions you might have about regenerative farming, such as: What is regenerative farming? Does it work? Can regenerative agriculture be profitable? Who’s participating? And more. 

Regenerative farming represented by a graphic symbol of a health cross circled by two arrows pointing clockwise. The graphic is overlayed onto a field of crops.

What is regenerative farming?

While there isn’t exactly a universally accepted definition of what it means to engage in regenerative farming, there are a few simple principles that you’ll typically find in practice. To learn more about how it works, check out our in-depth blog, So What is Regenerative Agriculture?

 

    • Soil coverage - Farmers will plant “cover crops” like mustard, rye, or buckwheat in their fields alongside their cash crops. These plants reintroduce essential nutrients to the soil. The physical presence of cover crops roots also provides shade, which increases water retention and roots that bolster the earth against erosion.
    • Continual planting - Cover crops are also planted when a farm’s cash crops are out of production. Conventional farms let the land go ”fallow” for long stretches of time between yields, which stagnates the soil. Continually going between cash crops and cover crops creates a cycle of vitality and increases the farm’s capacity for capturing carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Diversification - Regenerative farming detests a mono-crop. Growing the same crop in the same soil over and over again depletes the availability of nutrients in the ground. When you diversify what you grow, one crop can produce the nutrients needed by another.
  • Livestock integration - The separation of livestock and food crops is a relatively new practice. In the time before commercialized agriculture, farmers integrated the two. With animals grazing on cover crops and fertilizing the land with organic manure, you nurture the microbe biome within the soil.
  • Minimizing soil disturbance - Regenerative farms use no or low tillage, which is the practice of churning soil. With technology like seed drills, farmers can plant crops without disturbing the earth, which aids with water retention, lessens erosion, and—you guessed it—preserves vital nutrients.

 

Does regenerative farming work?

Taking care of the soil so intently might sound like it takes more work, diligence, and resources than conventional farming, so it’s important to understand if all that effort pays off for the farmer and the planet. If you want more information on the effectiveness of regenerative agriculture, read our blog, Is Regenerative Agriculture a Sustainable Practice?

Is regenerative farming profitable?

So, what do farmers stand to gain by adhering to regenerative agriculture practices? Going the comparatively uncomplicated route of conventional farming must be much easier. Well, it turns out that there are plenty of good reasons for farmers to hop on board with the movement:

  • Having healthy, nutrient-laden soil reduces the farmer’s reliance on expensive, unwieldy chemicals like fertilizer.
  • While studies show that regenerative fields have 29% lower output, those same fields generate much higher profit (78% higher, in fact).
  • Diversified, continually planted crops maximize a farm's ability to make profits more consistently, producing yields year-round.
  • Healthy, minimally tilled soil helps with water retention, which is especially important for frequently drought-stricken agricultural regions like Texas and California.
  • Consumers are eager for better-for-planet food products and are willing to pay a premium for foods labeled as such, contributing to the farm’s bottom line.

 

Does regenerative agriculture help the environment?

The food supply chain, from animal feed to CPG refrigeration, accounts for more than 30% of total carbon emissions. Is regenerative farming capable of reducing or even reversing the effects of climate change? The data we have so far looks promising:

 

  • Recent trials suggest that regenerative farming techniques can sequester (or capture) more than 100% of our annual carbon output. 
  • Conventional farming eventually depletes the land and makes it unsuitable for crop growth, meaning more and more land is required. Regenerative farms can continually achieve yields from the same plot. 
  • The fertilizers needed to sustain a conventional farm often run off into waterways, where they cause algal blooms that wreak havoc on local ecosystems. The soil on a regenerative farm doesn’t need to rely on such chemicals.
  • As mentioned above, untilled soil with cover crops aids in water retention, lessening water waste, which is (again) crucial for increasingly drought-prone areas.

 

Woman in grocery store inspects the label on a package of yogurt. A graphic of a carrot with the text "Farm Food" is meant to imply the label says the ingredients are from a regenerative farm.

How do CPGs make regenerative practices part of their brand?

Regenerative agriculture is not only a benefit to farmers and the planet; CPG brands can leverage the fact that their ingredients are sourced from a regenerative farm. More and more, consumers are telling companies that they want products that are good-for-you and good-for-the-planet—and they’re telling them with their wallets. 

When shoppers are given a choice between conventional products and those with sustainable ingredients, they’re drawn to those items with words like “sustainably sourced” or “from regenerative farms” on the label. These are some of the CPGs that have made responsible farming a big part of their brand and are reaping the benefits:

 

1. Simply Sunflower -  This sunflower oil company is one of the brands that Buffalo Market is most proud to distribute. As one of the leading food distributors of good-for-you and good-for-the-planet CPGs, we carefully select our partners to match our values. As part of its commitment to nurturing the farmland, Simply Sunflower's Nebraska farm rotates between corn, soybeans, wheat, and sunflowers. According to their CEO, “Farmer Al,” rotating crops comes with plenty of perks.

 

“Our crop rotation changes the insect cycle so we don’t use insecticides.” “Corn uses nitrogen and soybeans make nitrogen so our crops generate their own fertilizer.” Our crop rotation also helps soften the soil. Sunflowers have a six-foot tap root which naturally breaks up hard pans. This enables us to use a no-till farming technique and increase organic matter in the soil. “We’re able to diversify the land usage so natural microbes in the soil don’t die off.” “It also breaks down the weed cycle, offers protection from wind and water erosion, and provides grazing for cattle.” 

 

The farm even goes so far as to make their own biodiesel from fryer oil collected from local restaurants. Their machinery runs on clean fuel that doesn’t introduce toxic petrol exhaust into the environment. We’re thrilled to be one of the food distributors for this fantastic brand and look forward to working together for years to come. 

 

2. Simple Mills - Famous for its snacks and baking mixes, Simple Mills uses only natural ingredients that its customers already know by name. The company partners with regenerative farms and purposefully makes its products with diverse ingredients to contribute to crop diversity. From an e-pamphlet on their commitment to sustainable agriculture: 

 

“Simple Mills is committed to revolutionary food design that advances regenerative agriculture principles, elevates farmers, empowers eaters, and inspires peers so our food system can nourish people and our planet now and for generations to come. Simply put, we bake positive impact into the food we make.”

 

Simple Mills also supports its farming regions by investing in the local community and trading directly with farmers. The Chicago-based company started with its products in just four stores. Now Simple Mills has distribution in over 27,000 locations

 

3. Alpha Food Labs - Alpha Food Labs is known primarily for its range of ready-made plant-based frozen food items, but the company also acts as an incubator for new food and beverage brands. The first project under their umbrella is called Varietal. Varietal makes snacks called Crop Crackers with ingredients that are part of a crop rotation, so the ingredients for the cracker will change yearly. From the Alpha Food Labs website:

 

“Creating deliciousness actually doesn’t start in the kitchen, it starts on the farm, in the soil. Soil is where food, nutrition, and flavor come from, so the better you treat your soil, the better your food is going to be. There’s a ton of ways you can make soil healthier, but a crop rotation is one of the most tried and true ways to do it.“

 

By backing a project like Varietal, Alpha Food Labs broadcasts that they see a market for products with regeneratively-farmed ingredients. The company makes the case that by purchasing products like the Crop Cracker, consumers signal to farmers and CPGs that there’s a demand for responsibility-produced brands and goods. 

 

4. Alec’s Ice Cream - This Northern Californian CPG is the first (and only) ice cream brand that’s Regenerative Farming certified. Alec’s partners with ecologically sustainable dairy and sugar cane farms to source the ingredients for all of their ice cream products. According to the regenerative farming section of their website: 

 

“98% of our ice cream base ingredients are certified or verified regenerative, which means they are produced using holistic farming practices that actually reverse climate change. Through the use of cover crops and carefully managed grazing cows, regen farming is positively impacting the food we eat and the world we live in.

 

The company also points out that regenerative agriculture removes carbon from the air, where it’s harmful, and stores it in the ground, where it’s actually beneficial. The net gains from regenerative practices are formidable, which is why mass adoption of this agricultural methodology would positively impact the environment in such a big way.

 

5. White Leaf Provisions - We often say that a major reason we should care for the environment is for the sake of future generations. It’s no wonder, then, that parents would want the food they feed their babies to positively impact climate change. White Leaf Provisions is the first regeneratively farmed, organic, non-GMO, and biodynamic baby food brand to hit the market.


 

“We believe that being mindful towards the food we eat and the manner in which it is grown and produced allows us to be more in tune with ourselves and the world around us.”

-Meghan Rowe, Co-Founder & CEO, White Leaf provisions

 

When it comes to caring for their babies, we imagine many people would feel better at ease when they know the ingredients are farmed responsibly, reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, and making the planet safer for younger generations.



Food Distributors for Regenerative Farming CPGs

Each of the above brands and countless others are changing the way we think about agriculture and our relationship to farmland. The principles of regenerative farming have proven to be good for the soil, good for farmers, good for consumers, and good for the planet. 

As food distributors that specialize in working with mission-driven brands, Buffalo Market is the perfect choice to bring your regenerative farming CPG to stores. Brands choose Buffalo Market to help them identify their customers and keep their products consistently stocked and in front of the right audience. 

To learn more about how Buffalo Market is one of the leading food distributors in the country and how we can help you with your CPG or retail business, give us a shout today! 

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