Program aims to increase supply of regenerative organic oats while helping to build soil health and mitigate climate change
Leading organic cereal and snack brand Nature’s Path is partnering with Canadian Organic Growers (COG) to launch the Regenerative Organic Oats (ROO) program to increase the supply of regenerative organic oats. The program will allocate $100,000 annually to support a network of organic farmers through the process of achieving Regenerative Organic Certification® (ROC).
Measure carbon impacts of Regenerative Organic farming practices
Through this initiative, Nature’s Path aims to amplify regenerative organic practices through education and advocacy, advance the development of soil carbon sequestration methods, and help build an agricultural system that empowers farmers and consumers while mitigating climate change.
“We’ve been actively involved in looking at ways to reduce our impact on the climate,” says Jyoti Stephens, VP of mission and strategy. “This partnership gives us an opportunity to measure the carbon impacts of regenerative organic farming practices, while supporting farmers who are on the front line of helping address climate change through their practices.”
Nature’s Path was founded in 1985 by Jyoti’s parents, Arran and Ratana, and remains family-owned and independent with a mission to “leave the earth better than we found it.” The company makes breakfast and snack foods with organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Regenerative organic farming aligns with Nature’s Path’s mission as it builds on the strength of organic farming practices and adds standards for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness. These practices play a critical role in addressing the climate crisis as they enrich the soil, allowing it to capture more carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the ground.
Four organic farms in Saskatchewan, a major oat producing region, will participate in the ROO program including the 5,000-acre Legend Organic Farm. In 2020, the farm became one of the first to earn the Regenerative Organic Certification.
Stuart McMillan, Legend Farm’s manager and 25-year agriculture industry expert, sees more farmers joining the program.
“This pilot will provide opportunities for future farmers to get engaged with the program,” he says.
Regenerative organic training courses and consulting
Each farmer in the program will receive $5,000 to pay for the cost of the ROC certification or other costs that might result from the program, according to Jyoti. The remaining $80,000 will go to support Regenerative Organic Oats training.
Enrolled farmers will be provided with regenerative organic training courses, individualized farm management coaching and an opportunity to test out evolving soil carbon sequestering measurement tools. Additionally, each participant will enter a network of like-minded farmers to continue collaborating on the growth of regenerative organic farming.
Canadian Organic Growers will provide consulting to the farmers in the program.
Nature’s Path Regenerative Organic Certified Oatmeal
Nature’s Path’s now-retired organic program manager Dag Falck “led the charge” to connect the initiative to Canadian Organic Growers, according to Jyoti.
McMillan says one of the exciting things about the program is that Dr. Kris Nichols, Canadian Organic Growers’ senior scientist and pioneer in soil health science, will work with the farmers.
“She’s developed a whole set of achievable methods that farmers themselves can use to assess soil health,” he says.
“The regenerative organic movement in North America has been led by U.S. farmers and soil advocates, many of whom operate in climates less harsh than Canada’s,” Dr. Nichols says. “The ROO program is creating the Canadian content for this movement to better help growers in our conditions.”
An additional benefit of the program is that Canadian Organic Growers will publish an open-source manual for oat farmers who may be interested in obtaining Regenerative Organic certification or implementing regenerative organic farming practices themselves.
“Exciting innovations in the works”
The regenerative organic oats will be used in Nature’s Path products. In 2020, the company launched the world’s first Regenerative Organic Certified Oatmeal, made with oats grown on Legend Organic Farm.
Nature’s Path will launch three more products next year made from the regenerative organic oats.
“We have a few exciting innovations in the works, which will use the oats that Stuart is growing and potentially from some of the other farm participants, as well as other exciting ingredients,” Jyoti says.
Some of the other ROC ingredients that Nature’s Path will use include sugar from the Natíve Green Cane Project in Brazil, flax, and possibly chocolate.
Consumer awareness of regenerative organic is low, according to Jyoti. Nature’s Path conducted a consumer survey about regenerative organic when the company launched its first ROC product in 2020 and found no awareness at all.
However, at the time, there were little or no ROC products on store shelves. That is changing as more ROC products are being launched, and ROC was a leading trend at Natural Products Expo West this past March.
Jyoti thinks awareness is growing. “I think people are certainly becoming more aware about the connection between the climate and food, and the role that food and agriculture can play.”
Helping to mitigate climate change is one of the goals of the ROO program along with building the supply of domestically grown ROC oats, improving water and air quality, enhancing biodiversity, and improving flood/drought resiliency.
Will ROC certification be a big part of Nature’s Path products going forward?
“Time will tell, but it’s something that we want to lean into and take leadership on because we feel it’s the right thing to do,” Jyoti says.