Environmentalists Fight Climate Change...With Mac & Cheese?

"I think that’s a first in the industry..."

A farmer in Montana is fighting climate change with a classic American dish: mac & cheese.

According to Fast Company, Nate Powell-Palm has grown a wheat used to make the pasta for the famed mac & cheese brand Annie's, using a regenerative farming practice that "could help fight climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil."

"I think that’s a first in the industry: to offer a product on such wide distribution, available from a major manufacturer in the center of the store, where the family that’s about to enjoy the product can name the farmer, name the farm, and know the ingredients that are specific in that product that are using these very Earth-friendly practices," says Carla Vernon, president of Annie’s.

Though Annie's brand, purchased by General Mills in 2014, has always used organic ingredients, its use of "regeneratively farmed ingredients" has allowed for a "more holistic set of practices that can promote soil health, increase biodiversity, and pull carbon from the air." More from Fast Company:

On the Montana farm, Powell-Palm rotates his wheat crop with golden peas, which are also used to make the flour for the pasta, boosting the protein content. A diversity of crops makes the soil healthier than just growing wheat; wheat takes nitrogen from the soil, and peas help replenish it. Livestock also graze in the field on rotation, adding more nutrients to the soil with manure. The farm also uses cover crops rather than letting the soil sit bare after harvest, so the roots of the plants help hold carbon in the soil.

The product will be sold first in limited edition at Sprouts supermarkets along with a regenerative agriculture version of one of its snacks, "Organic Bunny Grahams."

In South Dakota, Annie's parent company General Mills is "helping farmers convert thousands of acres from conventional farmland to organic and incorporate regenerative practices like crop rotations and cover cropping."

Carla Vernon, president of Annie’s, says General Mills will support farmers as they transition to become organic.

"Farmers are anywhere on a spectrum of their interest and readiness," says Vernon. "But we’re trying to make sure that we also take time to understand what farmers need and where farmers are coming from, and what might be some of the barriers that make it difficult for farmers to move in this direction, and figure out if there is a way that with better understanding and better partnership, Annie’s can help to reduce those barriers, to remove those barriers entirely."

In 2015, General Mills promised to cut greenhouse gases by 28% come 2025.

"Annie’s can actually create activities and products that can boil those big goals down into something that people can really see as specific and see as achievable," says Vernon.


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