General Mills taps South Dakota for huge organic farm

March 6, 2018

A 34,000-acre farm near Pierre will grow the wheat and other organic crops needed to make Annie’s pasta products for General Mills.

That includes the brand’s signature macaroni and cheese product.

The strategic sourcing agreement is with Gunsmoke Farms LLC, which is west of Pierre. The land will be converted to certified organic acreage by 2020.

“Investing in such a big acreage transition is a first of its kind for General Mills and is another step in growing our organic supply chain,” said John Church, chief supply chain officer at the Minneapolis-based company. “We continue to seek ways to partner with land owners to make organic ingredients more accessible for existing and innovative new foods that our consumers have grown to expect.”

As part of the agreement, General Mills has partnered with Midwestern BioAg to provide on-the-ground mentorship for the farm operators to advance regenerative soil management practices such as no till, crop rotation and cover cropping.

Approximately 3,000 acres of pollinator habitat will be planted throughout Gunsmoke Farms in cooperation with the Xerces Society.

“We recognize that agriculture practices contribute to some of today’s most pressing sustainability challenges, and we are hopeful that regenerative agriculture practices can provide large-scale solutions for restoring healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem,” said Carla Vernon, president of the Annie’s operating unit. “Our brands like Annie’s, Cascadian Farm and Epic are committed to improving soil health by supporting farmers to adopt and advance regenerative farming practices. Together with growers, we want to revive our ecosystems, reduce levels of global greenhouse gases and produce food to sustain a growing population for generations to come.”

Midwestern BioAg also will offer on-farm, skills-based learning programs, which will serve as a regional educational hub for farmers to learn how to implement organic and regenerative agriculture practices. Gunsmoke Farms is owned by TPG, a private global investment company with a long-term capital approach to socially and environmentally beneficial investments, according to a statement from General Mills.

“Gunsmoke Farms is a unique property with special challenges and opportunities for how to scale organic farming,” said Gary Zimmer, founder of Midwestern BioAg and author of “The Biological Farmer.”

“We crafted a specific rotation and soil-building program to allow this property to be farmed organically at this scale. This involves tools and practices like mixing together wheat and legume crops to build nutrient-dense, carbon-rich soil.”

General Mills taps South Dakota for huge organic farm

A 34,000-acre farm near Pierre will grow the wheat and other organic crops needed to make the Annie’s pasta product line for General Mills.

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