General Mills’ 34,000-acre Gunsmoke Farms receives organic certification
Published: October 6, 2020
Category: Organic News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
General Mills recently announced Gunsmoke Farms has received organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Gunsmoke, a 34,000-acre farm outside of Pierre, South Dakota, had been managed conventionally for more than three decades before its transition to organic over the last three years using regenerative agriculture practices. The combination of cover crops, a diverse crop rotation, keeping living roots in the ground year round and minimizing tillage were instrumental in restoring the land to a holistic farming system that now grows spring wheat, winter wheat, alfalfa, oats, peas and Kernza.
In 2018, General Mills engaged in a sourcing arrangement to transition the land to organic. The agreement stated the company would partner with Gunsmoke Farms to invest in the transition and then source organic wheat from 10,000 acres for its Annie’s Mac & Cheese pasta products. The process of certifying the land as organic involved a three-year prohibition on the use of synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and pesticides, and a detailed plan for how the land will be used in the future. The farm is now certified as organic.
For more than 30 years, Gunsmoke Farms was farmed with no diversity and experienced declining soil health. General Mills has learned about the importance of crop rotations, minimizing tillage, incorporating biodiversity, and maintaining cover crops through its work with The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership, and other collaborators all focused on improving the soil quality of our agricultural working lands.
In the future, the farm managers will work to develop plans for 3,000 acres of pollinator habitat to encourage thriving above and below ground biodiversity. Well-planned pollinator habitat can invite beneficial insects to agricultural landscapes and help a variety of species, including bumblebees, squash bees, honeybees and butterflies. Such habitat can also improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and protect game and songbirds.
General Mills is the second largest U.S. producer of natural and organic foods with brands including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, EPIC, Muir Glen, and Liberté. In fiscal 2020, the company’s natural and organic portfolio in North America was more than $1 billion in net sales.
Source: General Mills