I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
Social Innovation: General Mills Works With Famers in Idaho To Grow Sustainable Wheat
The sustainable future of wheat is very important to southeastern Idaho and a social innovation wheat pilot program in that region is now underway. The project is supported by General Mills which is working with Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a diverse alliance working to create opportunities across the agricultural supply chain for continuous improvements in productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being. The pilot involves working with about 25 growers to learn more about how their on-farm decisions impact yields and the environment. Farmers here are typically on a crop rotation cycle that includes the famous Idaho potato, sugar beets and wheat.
To track data from this social innovation initiative, the participating growers are using software called the 'Field Print Calculator.' It provides growers detailed reports on how they are performing against key indicators such as carbon emissions, soil loss, yield efficiency, water use and energy use. The resulting "field print" gives them a baseline to see how their operations compare to other growers in the region, across the state and nationally.
The participants are entering information for three growing years, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills, who provided an overview of the pilot and why sustainable agriculture is so important to General Mills says, "We want to be proactive, not reactive in how we source our ingredients. Our business relies on these natural resources, so we need to do everything we can to protect and conserve them."
Through the Idaho wheat pilot, it is hoped the use of the Field Print Calculator will both improve grower profitability and help preserve the earth's essential resources. Ray Tominaga is a second generation farmer in Blackfoot, Idaho. Ray's father founded the farm about 60 years ago. Ray sees a lot of potential in this social innovation program and believes it will give them a chance to improve their operation. Ultimately, the pilot will allow growers to share best practices in nutrient management, pest management and other farming practices that will lead to more environmentally sustainable and economical production of wheat.
General Mills is one of the largest food companies in the world and one of its goal's is to be among the most socially responsible food companies internationally. At the same time, General Mills has a vested interest in this social innovation wheat pilot. Southeastern Idaho is part of America's bread basket, set in idyllic scenery of abundant wheat fields that blanket the region, and is one of the largest producers of wheat in the country. Much of the wheat grown in Idaho is harvested and used in General Mill's famous household breakfast cereals such as Wheaties and Fiber One.
Photo Credit: General Mills Website