By Rhonda Brooks and Kinsie Rayburn
The choices people make at the grocery store are changing rapidly, causing big waves for the food and agriculture industries.
In a 2018 online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. shoppers, 75% said they’d be more likely to switch to brands that provide more product information, according to the report from Food Marketing Institute and Label Insight. That’s up from 39% in a similar study two years ago.
Supply Chain Demands
To analyze the wants and needs of the supply chain, Aidan Connolly, CEO of Cainthus and president of AgriTech Capital, surveyed the top 50 food purchasers.
“They were very interested in sustainability measures,” he says. “They want to know if GMOs were being used. They want to know how many gallons of water were used to produce 1 lb. of beef.”
Food companies are expecting producers to dig into how their products are grown and how they fit with the ethics and aspirations of the consumer, Connolly adds.
As farmers evaluate what sustainability means for their respective operations, Emily Johannes, director of sustainability for KCOE ISOM, encourages them to avoid getting caught up in the mishmash of terms such as regenerative agriculture, sustainability or soil health.
“These are all things that have meaningful, tremendous value,” she says. “But it all comes down to are you doing the practices that keep soil on your field? Are you doing the things that create more carbon or add more microbes?”
To stay ahead of the value chain’s demands for transparency, Connolly suggests farmers take these steps:
- Keep secure, written records of on-farm practices. This includes practices such as cover crops, conservation tillage, nutrient man-agement and precision technology.
- Research the products you use on your farm. “Farmers need to understand they will need not just to understand practices on their farm, but what happens at their suppliers, and the suppliers of their suppliers,” Connolly says.
- Develop a waste management plan. Include recycling practices or waste reductions.
- Monitor and record your annual fuel usage and any reductions. Track this over time.
- Monitor water use. Be sure to record the use of any moisture sensors or precision irrigation tools.
Document with Data
Some of these practices are ones you might already have implemented.
“Sustainability doesn’t happen overnight," Johannes says. "It’s an every day, every night, every season, every harvest, every year kind of thing. It’s not the sexy stuff, it’s more the digging in and getting it done kind of stuff.”
Connolly adds: “Remember, in future farming, data could be as critical as farming the land.” By documenting your stewardship practic-es and learning about new ways to practice conservation, you can help your farm remain competitive for generations to come.
To learn more about the history of U.S. conservation agriculture, visit TrustInFood.com/News