Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: GoodSam Foods
The three-year-old maker of snacks, coffee and other ethically sourced foods is aiming to show that brands can source from regenerative ag systems; but it will require a real commitment to
working with rural communities who, for too long, have been left behind by the modern food system.
has become a buzzword in recent years. An agricultural system that improves soil
health, sequesters carbon, and improves ecosystems of course sounds promising;
but so far, it has yet to be implemented as a broad-scale solution across supply
chains, particularly those of large food companies.
GoodSam Foods — a three-year-old company
producing snacks, coffee, and other ethically sourced products — is aiming to
show that there is a way for brands to source from regenerative agriculture
systems; but it will require a real commitment to relationship building and
working with rural communities who, for too long, have been left behind by the
modern food system.
“There is a real opportunity to support smallholder, indigenous farmers who have
been doing this work for generations,” GoodSam founder Heather Terry told
Terry and her team initially started by working with indigenous communities in
Colombia, finding that many communities were already using regenerative
practices — because, as is often the case, traditional
is, by nature, regenerative. What GoodSam offered was access to new markets —
but that alone was not enough.
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“Showing up the first time is always suspicious, especially a place like
Colombia,” Terry says. That’s because other companies and nonprofits have been
there in the past, and made promises that they did not fulfill. “It has taken us
years to build the relationships we have now, through continuity showing up and
delivering what we say we are going to deliver. That type of commitment is what
GoodSam now sources for several communities in Colombia and Kenya — all of
which, Terry hopes, will be partners for years to come and allow them to scale
up their impact.
Why does GoodSam’s model matter? Because our food system, controlled by a few
large global corporations, is not sustainable. We can now see that clearly due
to the global food
by the war in Eastern
Our dependence on a few specific crops for so much of our processed food — such
as wheat, sunflower
— is perilous. Lose one or two sources — such as Ukraine and Russia —
and the whole world feels the pain. Those crops are, too often, grown in
— which come with their own host of problems for the environment.
“Over the years, millions of hectares of fertile forests, savannahs, peasant
farmlands and pastures have been cleared to make way for sterile plantations
growing only a few chemically dependent varieties of commodity crops. The result
is a catastrophic loss of soil organic matter,” said a 2021
from the non-profit, GRAIN.
There’s another issue that GoodSam hopes to address that isn’t getting enough
attention — rural livelihoods. Many smallholder farmers around the world are
suffering from the current system, in which just a tiny fraction of what
consumers in places such as the United States and Europe pay for
actually goes to those who grow it. For example, of what we pay for a cappuccino
at a cafe, a paltry three
goes to coffee farmers — many of them are in poverty.
It is something that I saw myself while visiting coconut smallholders in the
Philippines and Indonesia — so little of what we pay for premium
products such as virgin coconut oil makes its way to producers. Because of the
inability to earn a living wage, many farmers weren’t even bothering to re-plant
coconut trees — preferring to abandon production in hopes of a better life in
“About 70 percent of the world’s food comes from smallholder farming systems,”
Terry says. “What we’re seeing is that the kids who would take over those farms
are leaving. If we don’t do something about that, we’re going to be in big
trouble in the next 20-30 years.”
Here’s the problem: If too many farmers — many of whom come from
multi-generational farming families — don’t pass on their knowledge, skills and
land to their children, there will be less coconut, coffee, and other common
commodities grown in the future. This will only increase the power of industrial
farming, reduce biodiversity, and put our food system at even more risk of
Terry believes the solution is to make farming, via regenerative
a viable future that future generations want to participate in. Otherwise, we’ll
be even more reliant on an industrial system that is failing our planet.
One issue that has been a consistent challenge when it comes to ensuring
sustainable practices in complex, local systems is quantitatively measuring
impact. GoodSam knows that it’s having an impact through the changes that the
team can observe firsthand, in the villages and communities in which they
operate. But getting more data will help further show the benefit of a
“We want to do more measuring soil, dealing with air quality, water
conservation; and start to really look at the picture more holistically,” Terry
says. “I’m really looking forward to proving out this point — that this is the
future of the food system.”
GoodSam is aiming to release impact reports twice a year going forward, and
Terry hopes big brands are willing to learn from the experience of GoodSam, but
also other small and medium companies such as Dr.
In the past year, we’ve seen companies including
make bold commitments to regenerative ag. But for those efforts to succeed, they
also need to commit to building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.
“Do we want to keep farms? Do we want to invest in the health of the planet? Or
do we want to keep stripping the system, just to pay a cheaper price?” Terry
asks. "It'll necessitate a major corporate mindshift, away from business as
Published Jul 6, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Nithin is a freelance writer who focuses on global economic, and environmental issues with an aim at building channels of communication and collaboration around common challenges.