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The Perennial Blog

Relationships in Our Food System

 We’ve been imagining what a thriving food system looks like. One where people and the planet are respected, where health is prioritized, and where everyone has access to good food. We believe relationships are how we get there, and that Kernza’s relational nature can be a tool in building it. We want to lay out our thinking below, share how it’s informing our next steps, and ask if you’ll join us in our work.

Our society mistreats humans and our planet. We see consumers and workers, not mothers and friends. ​​We enjoy cheap food and convenient products and pay no mind to the toll they take on the earth, in the form of polluted waters and eroded soil. Our society operates at such a scale that it’s easy to not worry about the person or ecosystem far away that we’re damaging. The systems we live in very efficiently dehumanize and devalue others.

Relationships humanize. It’s much easier to care about pollution when it’s your beloved lake or backyard park. When we have a relationship with someone or something, we can build trust and respect. We believe we need more relational systems in our society to heal our relationships with nature and between humans. This needs to happen in all areas of society, and we feel well positioned to do this work in business and in food. 

We all eat. Despite what you might think when you look at the modern food industry, our daily calories are often our most intimate connection to the natural world. We put plants and animals inside our bodies, while we sit in communion with our friends and family. Food is a keystone part of our lives to build deeper relationships.

Local food movements have championed the idea of knowing your farmer. They’ve built localized food systems in many areas, and grown relationships across regions for some groups in society. But, local food is yet to really address scale or food processing. Many local shoppers who have relationships with bread, vegetable and meat producers still buy foods in the center aisles of grocery stores - pasta, crackers, chips, sweets - and usually this is from brands owned by large corporations. 

What would our food system look like if relationships were at the center? What would our economy look like?

The Land Institute, the Kansas nonprofit that co-leads the development of Kernza and perennial agriculture, has a compelling mission: When people, land, and community are as one, all three members prosper; when they relate not as members but as competing interests, all three are exploited. By consulting Nature as the source and measure of that membership, The Land Institute seeks to develop an agriculture that will save soil from being lost or poisoned, while promoting a community life at once prosperous and enduring. 

With perennial agriculture, and the first perennial grain crop, Kernza, there is an opportunity to build a new food system. One where relationships between people and ecosystems are centered. You are a part of the movement for perennial agriculture. You’ve cooked with Kernza, shared it with your community, and learned about natural climate solutions. However, it’s still a small group of people working every day to bring perennial food systems into being. 

We’ve built a small business that processes grain and sends delicious, climate positive products out the door. But our vision for perennial agriculture is much bigger than that, and so we’re looking to restart our relationships with all of you. 

We believe now is the moment to reimagine our food system. And we believe Kernza, and other regenerative crops, are an incredible tool and opportunity to do it. But, we obviously can’t do it alone. So, we’d like to pull you deep into this work, open up our doors and share our experiences, and see where we can go together. 

How?

First, we’re excited to start sharing more of our work. Let’s pull back the curtain on what it looks like to reimagine agriculture: 

  • How do you price this entirely new crop?
  • How do we account for the value of ecosystem services?
  • How is Kernza processed into food?
  • What’s not working right now?

Second, we want to embark on an ambitious project over the next year: let’s figure out where Kernza shines in food, together. We have a compelling, flavorful ingredient. We know we can make many wheat based products from it. But, where can we put Kernza so that we all want to eat way more of it? Only by making Kernza a central component of our diets can we hope to increase acres, and scale an agriculture that heals our relationship with nature.

So, we’re going to launch a wide variety of prototypes over the coming months - ready to eat (or cook) foods made from Kernza. Crackers, bars, cereals, cookies, and more. These will be small batch, single release products. We’ll go batch by batch, and we’ll be seeking out your thoughts, feedback, and ideas as we go. Do you like version A or B more? Let’s talk about it, work on it together, and figure out where Kernza fits in our diets, and on our plates. 

Where will this take us? We hope that it will expand our community of early adopters and champions bringing Kernza to the world. We think it will help figure out the best uses of Kernza. We also think it will serve a strong first step in launching  a complete, delicious, climate-positive, AND relationship-based Perennial Pantry.

What do you think? Will you join us in this journey?

The Perennial Blog

The Perennial Blog

Perennial Agriculture is a big vision to change the way the world grows most of its food. This vision is wrapped up in supply chains and economics, relationships and culture, philosophy and food science. 

Our goal is to build a new food system rooted in Perennial Agriculture, in partnership with a broad community of eaters, cooks, advocates, and growers. 

As we grow towards that goal, we're sharing our ideas here. Dig in:

Natural Climate Solutions

Kernza is a natural climate solution. What does that mean?

Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration, and improved land management strategies that help remove carbon from the air while also keeping our air and water clean and our soil healthy and productive. These solutions are practical, effective, relatively inexpensive, provide numerous economic benefits to landowners and communities, and can be implemented on a wide variety of different kinds of land. 

Our partners at U.S. Nature4Climate are sharing stories of natural climate solutions that are gaining momentum. Watch the video above telling our story of working with The Land Institute to bring Kernza into the world, and read more here

Will you help us increase Kernza's impact on our world? 

Please send this video to a friend today, and share why you're excited about Kernza.

Want to try Kernza out in your kitchen? Try it out here!

Want to learn more? Explore other stories of natural climate solutions:

Breeder Lee DeHaan in a Kernza greenhouse

Photos credited to Alita Films