Sustainable Agriculture

Vegetables’ Collapsing Supply Chain

The farm-to-table movement has taken the country by storm — and it’s even more accessible than a six-course feast at a Michelin starred restaurant. Supporting local farms has become mainstream, encouraging consumers to shop at farmers markets and buy locally. New agriculture companies are even bringing farms closer to the population, so you can find family farms in your backyard. Innovative companies are engineering and building farms closer to population centers, so you can have super fresh produce that’s just a short drive from your supermarket. That means that you can buy affordable, organic, non-GMO, heritage veggies that remind us what our planet is really meant for – supporting life.

Better for the Environment

The local food movement is growing, and that’s in part because buying local produce is better for the environment. More and more Americans want to know where their food comes from. They shop at local farmers markets and subscribe to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Locavores are taking over and the local food movement shows no signs of slowing down.

Buying organic from your local farmers market is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Transporting food requires the use of trucks, boats, and planes. These transportation vehicles burn fossil fuels and emit CO2, contributing to global warming. Local, organic farms don’t rely on synthetic or petroleum-based pesticides or fertilizers, use less water and contribute significantly less soil contamination from runoff.Local farms also help collapse the supply chain by shipping their products shorter distances, often 100 miles or less.

Fresh Vegetables Near Me

Farmers markets make shopping locally easier than ever. At these communal spaces, local farmers gather to sell their farm products directly to consumer. This cuts overhead costs and creates a community around agriculture. To get local produce straight to your home, consider signing up for Community Supported Agriculture programs. At these direct-to-consumer programs, a customer buys a share of a local farm’s harvest. You’ll then either pick up your CSA box filled with local produce at a communal location or it will be delivered straight to your door. Other direct to consumer programs make eating locally simple, like pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands, and gleaning programs, where consumers harvest crops that are left in fields after harvest.

Family Farms Near Me? Not Exactly …

Even in areas where farmland is hard to come by, we’re finding new models for farming that make it possible to grow produce in densely populated cities.If you live in a densely populated city, it might be harder to find local farms. But new companies are changing the way we farm, making it easier to enjoy fresh produce without the mileage. How are they bringing farms to cities? By utilizing indoor farming techniques. Plenty, a San Francisco startup, has built an indoor, urban farm in a warehouse using 20-foot towers filled with fresh kale, herbs, and veggies. Aerofarms is doing the same thing across the country in Newark, New Jersey. A 70,000-square-foot former steel factory is the setting for their urban farm. They produce about two-million pounds of baby greens annually without sunlight, soil, or pesticides. These vertical farms grow crops in cities with all the benefits of local farming without the negative consequences.  

Disappearing Buzz: General Mills New Honey Nut Cheerios Box

save the bees

When a big food brand steps up to run an overly-environmental campaign (if there is such a thing), consumers beware. Because when that brand misses the mark, folks line up to hand out an instantly ugly report card across social media.

However, when the grades are good, shrug, success is much quieter. That’s why we wanted to take a moment to cheer General Mills for its #BringBackTheBees campaign. Mixing marketing and activism—whether political, social or environmental—is always a tricky task. Honey Nut Cheerios found success by backing an awareness-oriented re-brand with action.

Honeybee Colony Collapse

Between the spring of 2015 and the spring of 2016, American beekeepers lost an average of 44% of their entire colonies. While honeybee colonies have been in decline since World War II, media coverage has ramped up in recent years via news stories, documentaries and even memes. (Remember that video of Eli Manning looking stunned and unhappy after brother Peyton won the Super Bowl? A viral caption read: “when ur brother wins the super bowl but then u remember that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate”).

General Mills kept it simple. Buzz – their iconic cartoon bee – has long been the mascot for Honey Nut Cheerios. Honeybees are disappearing, so General Mills made Buzz disappear. On their cereal boxes, the mascot has been replaced by an eye-catching white cutout—an easy, awareness-building move.

Still, it’s hard to keep the public’s attention these days. The news cycle just keeps getting faster. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget about the bees who pollinate the fruits and vegetables that you’re planning to munch on this summer. General Mills used Honey Nut Cheerios’ household name to remind people of a cause they’ve likely (excuse the pun) already heard some buzz about. While it’s hardly cut-and-dry proof, Google searches about the plight of honeybees have been on a broad uptrend this year. We give General Mills at least partial credit.

Had General Mills just removed Buzz from its boxes, I would have expected some accusations of greenwashing (like this article from investing website The Street, suggesting the campaign is merely an attempt to remedy soft cereal sales). But #BringBackTheBees isn’t just a cereal box repackaging effort; it’s a complete campaign. Again, that’s why it’s worth applauding. The company’s website includes easy-to-follow information about the decline in honeybee colonies and a clear explanation of how General Mills is helping. The company plans to plant around 3,300 acres of bee habitats on its oat farms by 2020 and gave out free wildflower seeds to its customers. In all, it gave out 1.5 billion seeds—ten times its goal!

The lesson here is as simple as this campaign is: Brands can’t simply dip a toe into activism. If you try to vaguely link your mascot or product to a movement, you’re going to get burned. It reeks of co-opting something important purely for profit. Consumers and critics alike won’t be impressed. But, if you draw a clear line between your brand and an issue consumers care about and back up your campaign with action, you just might enjoy the same quiet success Cheerios has.