MINNEAPOLIS — Gunsmoke Farms, a supplier to General Mills, Inc., has received organic certification from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organics Program, General Mills said on Sept. 17. Gunsmoke Farms, a 34,000-acre farm near Pierre, SD, was managed conventionally for more than 30 years before transitioning to organic over the last three years by using regenerative agriculture practices.

General Mills entered a partnership with Gunsmoke Farms in 2018 and agreed to invest in the transition to organic, which takes three years under USDA rules, and then source organic wheat from 10,000 acres for Annie’s Mac & Cheese pasta products. The transition to organic included a three-year prohibition from using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and giving a plan on how the land will be used.

Annie's organic mac and cheese from General Mills“General Mills has been on our soil health journey since 2016, and working with Gunsmoke Farms solidified our belief that regenerative agriculture can be a transformative lever for farmers to be a part of the climate solution,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer for Minneapolis-based General Mills. “This type of long-term, direct contracting is unprecedented for General Mills and the industry. If we truly aim to be a force for good, our role is to give farmers the tools to be more resilient — both environmentally and financially.”

Gunsmoke Farms now plants cover crops in a diverse crop rotation to keep a living root in the ground year-round and to minimize tillage. The farming system grows spring wheat, winter wheat, alfalfa, oats, peas and Kernza. Cascadian Farm, a subsidiary of General Mills, has used Kernza, a perennial grain that is a wild relative of annual wheat, in its Honey Toasted Kernza cereal.

“General Mills has made an important commitment to fight climate change, protect our ecosystem and foster good soil health by elevating the importance of agriculture and working with farmers to incorporate more organic practices,” said Laura  Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the Washington-based Organic Trade Association. “Their work with Gunsmoke Farms in South Dakota to convert thousands of acres of conventional farmland to certified organic acreage is an example of that commitment.”