Well, here’s a nice personal confluence: my wife and I (Storm Cunningham) have been eating Lundberg brand organic rice almost exclusively for many years.
Simultaneously, I’ve been championing the “regenerative organic” trend ever since my first book, The Restoration Economy, which came out back in 2002. In that book, I pointed out that organic agriculture is good, but destroying an endangered wetland ecosystem to create an organic farm is bad. Likewise, regenerative agriculture is good, but using techniques that restore the soil to create unhealthy food is bad. The ideal then, is regenerative organic farming.
Now, on March 6, 2023, Lundberg Family Farms, a leading grower of organic rice and maker of many popular packaged rice and rice snacks, announced that it is the first U.S.-grown rice brand to offer Regenerative Organic Certified® Rice.
As part of its sustainability efforts, the company has also set a goal to certify all the organic rice Lundberg grows by 2027.
“Lundberg Family Farms has always aspired to, in my Grandpa Albert’s words, leave the land better than we found it,” said Bryce Lundberg, Vice President of Agriculture and third-generation farmer at Lundberg.
“We’re grateful that we were able to achieve certification, which validates that our farming practices align with Regenerative Organic Certified® standards. We believe our family has been farming regeneratively for generations by prioritizing the health of our soil and supporting the ecosystem around our rice fields,” he added.
While there is currently no regulatory or legal definition set forth to claim regenerative practices, it is widely acknowledged that prioritizing soil health is a foundation of regenerative farming.
Certifying bodies are beginning to emerge, including Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), to create standards like Regenerative Organic Certified® to substantiate such claims. Lundberg chose to work with ROA to certify its Regenerative Organic White Basmati Rice.
Lundberg’s regenerative practices for its Regenerative Organic White Basmati Rice include (but are not limited to):
- Restoring Soil Health: Lundberg treats the soil like a living thing by feeding it a diverse diet that includes compost and cover crops, which can help sequester carbon, restore nutrients to the soil, reduce weeds, and prevent erosion. This results in an estimated ~100,000 lbs. of organic matter per acre.
- Restoring Watersheds By Reusing Water for Multiple Benefits: Agriculture depends on water. However, California rice farmers use water for more than growing rice. The region’s heavy clay adobe soil holds water like a bathtub so it can be recycled. According to the California Rice Commission, 40% of the water used to grow rice is recycled. Some of the water even returns to rivers and streams, where zooplankton from the fields can help healthy salmon grow.
- Restoring Wildlife Habitat: Rice fields replicate California’s once-abundant wetlands and provide habitat for 200+ species. Each winter, Lundberg floods a portion of its fields to provide habitat and nutrition for wintering waterfowl, whose feet press rice straw into the soil, which can help it decompose the straw and turn it into mulch for the next year’s crop.
As early supporters of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), Lundberg participated in the development of organic standards and believes that, similarly, the development of regenerative organic standards will help hold the industry accountable and build consumer trust.
“Regenerative systems are often context-specific, and certification should not be treated as one-size-fits all. Each region and crop will need to implement different standards based on soil type, weather conditions, ecosystem and crop needs,” said Craig Stevenson, CEO at Lundberg.
“Lundberg is working closely with certifying bodies like ROA to develop standards for California-grown rice. We recognize the urgency and importance of this certification effort and our goal is to certify all the organic rice Lundberg grows by 2027,” he concluded.
Its first certified product, Regenerative Organic White Basmati Rice, has been certified by the ROA, and will be available at Whole Foods Market nationwide and Lundberg.com starting on April 4, 2023.
All images courtesy of Lundberg Family Farms.