“The Perils & Promise of Building a Regenerative Supply Chain”
with Sara Harper from Grounded Growth
The types of organizations that make up Real Local’s membership are a diverse cross-section of the local food community. Our members consist of farmers, small local grocers, value added producers, restaurants, coffee shops, colleges, suppliers, marketers, non-profits, individuals, and small local businesses that value our work. We try to support all of our members with our focus centering around building a more sustainable and connected food system. Farmers using organic and regenerative agriculture practices are certainly a very important piece of that food system. For this month’s meeting we enjoyed hearing from Sara Harper of Grounded Growth about her journey into regenerative agriculture and her work with larger scale farms to take steps towards soil restoration and carbon sequestration. Much of the effort towards strengthening food systems becomes less relevant if we don’t take some steps to protect the Earth we inhabit.
Over the past 20 years, Sara has developed a deep expertise at the intersections of agriculture, climate change and corporate sustainability. Sara’s experience ranges from working as a legislative staffer on agricultural, environmental and other issues in the U.S. Senate, to working for the Environmental Defense Fund, to working as a sustainability consultant for U.S. national farm associations and global agribusiness companies in the private sector. She certainly has been around this work for a long time, and commented that she was working on legislation around regenerative agriculture and sequestering carbon 20 years ago before it was a hot topic!
Sara started on a broader scale with a definition of “regenerative” and some discussions around what that means in today’s world. She then dove into the topic of consumers, and how they are really who is driving so much of the change in accountability in our food system. She pointed to a study that found “Millennials drove brands to be purposeful, but Gen Z are demanding proof.” The research is showing that consumers want more transparency, and so brands are having to respond.
We then talked about the importance of soil health, no till farming, less herbicide and pesticide use and protecting the microbiome of the soil. Just like we must protect our gut microbiome, we must try to protect the integrity of our soils. She shared examples of what the farmers she works with are doing to take some important steps in the right direction – AND the measurable benefits they are seeing from their efforts.
Grounded Growth is serving an important role in this supply chain – they are acting as a connector between the farmer and the brands – providing education, support and story telling to both sides so the whole system is more transparent. Sara believes there is much connection between local agriculture and these larger scale regenerative farmers she is working with. She sees new opportunities to help each group emerge out of their respective supply chains with both parties focused on encouraging consumers to learn more about where their food comes from.
Thank you so much to Sara for spending the morning with us, to Karen Stephens for sponsoring our meeting, to Favour Cookie Company for the delicious treats, to all who joined us, and to St. Stephen’s Church for hosting us.
Next month we will be back at St. Stephen’s on Monday, April 6th with the Apple Cart Co. and CreativeMktGroup to tackle the topic of “Demystifying Marketing.” Thanks to NOPE (Natural Organic Processes Enterprises) for sponsoring our next meeting. We’ll sample a surprise collaboration between AR’s Hot Southern Honey and jiji Frozen Custard and enjoy coffee from the Cafe at St. Stephen’s.