On Tuesday, March 6th, 2018, General Mills announced its plans to create the largest organic crop farm in South Dakota. Gunsmoke Farms, near Pierre, is planing to convert 53 square miles to organic crops by the year 2020. These crop will supply General Mills’ line of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese.
In conjunction with the Oregon-based Xerces Society, Gunsmoke farms has agreed to take part in adding 100,000 acres of bee and butterfly habitat near crops. Gunsmoke farms will convert 3,000 acres of land into pollinator habitat.
Of course, this is a huge move that requires a lot of planning. Many things must be considered, like sustainability and the quality of the soil. This is why General Mills is teaming up with Midwestern Bio AG, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin. They are working to plan a soil building and crop rotation program that will lead to the maximum amount of sustainability.
Like many larger food companies, General Mills has bought smaller food companies while changing its own products to meet the demands for healthier, more organic foods. It bought Annie’s in 2014 for a sum of $840 million. General Mills hopes to double its organic crop acreage by the year 2020. It also wants to cut down on greenhouse gas omissions twenty-eight percent by the year 2025.
General Mills will measure the amount of progress that this program brings by looking at the quality of the soil, the crop yields and the extent to which communities are affected in positive ways.
As of now, there isn’t much organic agriculture in South Dakota. In the 2016 growing season, there were only 86 certified organic farms in the whole state, with a total of 115,780 acres. A little more than half of that organic land consisted of rangeland or pasture—not crops.