Sustainable Food Production and Regenerative Agriculture

We are committed to supporting producers whose practices enhance the health of our land, air, and water, while providing the healthiest and most nutrient-dense food options for us.

Food Isn’t What It Used To Be

When you consider what today’s food supply looks like, it is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago things were drastically different. All produce was grown organically, farm animals were pastured and raised on their natural diets, and foods were much more nutrient dense. Just 100 years ago most foods were produced locally in the United States, within smaller living communities. Farming was a way of life. But that all changed in the 1940s with the so-called “Green Revolution.” During the Green Revolution, irrigation infrastructures were created, plant geneticists began hybridizing seeds, petroleum chemicals were introduced to kill bugs and weeds, and the factory-farming model began. Today modern agricultural methods rely heavily on the use of toxic petroleum-based chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and confinement of animals. Genetically-modified crops, such as corn and soy, form the base of this system. They are grown using massive amounts of chemicals and then fed, along with antibiotics, hormones and other pharmaceutical drugs, to animals in confinement. The GM corn and soy also go on into our processed foods as ingredients in everything from soda to bread to microwave meals. The whole system culminates in highly processed, packaged foods that fill American grocery stores and bellies.

At Natural Grocers, we are leaders in what we like to call, the “Good Food Revolution” (GFR). The GFR is about taking back our food supply! We want to know where our food was produced; we want to know how the land, animals, and humans involved in production are treated along the way. We want foods that nourish our bodies and support optimal human health. In summary, we want to support a sustainable model of food production, which means taking what we need to live now, without jeopardizing the health of our environment and the potential for people in the future to meet their needs.

We do this by participating in the development of a sustainable food system through our dedication to unsurpassed food quality standards. It is because of our dedication to sustainability that we sell only USDA certified organically grown produce.   All animal products sold in our stores come from producers using the highest standards in animal husbandry and grazing programs. Our dairy products come from pasture-based dairies rather than confinement dairies. We support smaller producers and serve as a small business incubator for many local food start-ups and family-owned organic farms, to whom we supply know-how, advice, and opportunity. This is what the GFR is all about and this is what we are committed to at Natural Grocers.

Regenerative Agriculture

One way we encourage the Good Food Revolution (GFR) is by supporting farmers and ranchers who employ regenerative agricultural practices. Regenerative agriculture takes organic even further by employing agricultural practices that enhance the health of our land, water, and air quality. Regenerative agriculture starts on the ground level using techniques that support healthy soil biology. By building healthy soil, regenerative agricultural practices restore the carbon cycle, which in turn reduces environmental carbon dioxide levels, halts land desertification, increases biological diversity and restores nutrients to the soil and our food.

Restoring the depleted carbon pool in agricultural soils is essential to enhancing agronomic productivity for feeding the world population and to improving the environment”

Rattan Lal, in Cows Save the Planet by Judith Schwartz

Soils hold more carbon than the atmosphere and all the world’s plant life combined—and can hold it longer in a more stable form.”

– Dr. Christine Jones, Soil Ecologist

“If we improve 50% of the world’s agricultural land, we could sequester enough carbon in the soil to bring atmospheric CO2 back to pre-industrial levels in five years.”

–Ian Mitchell-Innes, South African Rancher and trainer in Holistic Land Management, from Cows Save the Planet by Judith Schwartz

Regenerative agricultural practices eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and provide optimal humane treatment and welfare for animals through managed pasture grazing programs. At Natural Grocers, we are committed to supporting producers who see themselves as stewards of the land and recognize this very important interrelationship between soil, plants, animals, the environment and humans. We make every effort to partner with the very best producers so that we can offer the healthiest and most sustainably-produced food to our customers.

Environmental Impacts of Our Industrial Food Production Systems

It is a sobering fact that how food is produced affects the health of soil, plants, animals, the environment and ultimately humans. Large corporate industrial agricultural practices are literally destroying our land, lakes, rivers, and oceans as well as contributing to untreatable, antibiotic resistant infectious disease in animals and humans. Read more…

The Consequences of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

Although efficient at producing lots of inexpensive meat, concentrated animal feed operations, or CAFOs, carry a heavy toll. They are environmentally unsustainable, directly cause health problems for animals and humans, and they have hidden costs not reflected in the price tag at the supermarket.

Environmental costs of concentrated animal feed operations

Health dangers of industrial animal factories

Hidden problems of industrial agriculture

Regulation and political protection of industrial agriculture

How to Support Sustainable Food Production

Probably the single biggest threat to the corporate industrial model of agriculture is the organic movement. Look for meat, produce, and packaged foods bearing the USDA Organic label. You might pay a little more, but not always. Either way, you get the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting family farms and ranches whose food production practices are enhancing the land, water, and air and that you are helping to build smaller, healthier local economies.

When buying animal products, know where your food comes from and how it was produced. Be aware of misleading label information. A label like “USDA Inspected” has no bearing on whether an animal was produced under CAFO conditions; it only speaks to the visible quality of the meat and the food safety practices in the slaughter house.

Worse yet, the USDA-approved marketing claim “All Natural” on meat means that nothing was added to the meat after slaughter, but says nothing about how the animal was raised or fed. Products may be labeled “grassfed,” when an animal has been fed grass or forage for a month or two, and then finished on grain-feeding for the remainder of its life in a CAFO.

The best way to understand how animals are raised is to contact the retailer, processor, or rancher and ask. Read the fine print on the labels carefully, what is left off the label is often most important. Companies will make every possible positive claim they can, but don’t usually risk getting caught making completely untrue statements.

At Natural Grocers, we inspect the farms and ranches that raise the animals whose meat and fresh dairy products we sell. We see first-hand how much pasture is available and whether cattle are in fact eating on the range or not. We also see if chickens and turkeys are completely caged or have room to peck and scratch. We request written confirmation of how the animals are raised from birth to harvest and ensure that safe, sustainable, and humane practices are followed. All of our meats and fresh dairy products are from animals raised without the dangers and hidden costs of the CAFO system. Remember that the true cost of real food is usually higher than the fake stuff. But, you can rest assured when buying sustainably-raised healthy meat that the price reflects the cost of doing things right over the long haul.

When you choose to buy food and other products grown and produced in a fair, healthy, responsible and sustainable way, you make a huge difference. Corporate agriculture will produce whatever you will buy; so vote with your pocketbook. Stay informed, ask questions, make wise choices, and be loud and proud about your practices.


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