PCC Community Markets Convenes Food System Leaders to Envision the Future of Regenerative and Organic Agriculture

2024 News

PCC Community Markets (PCC or “the co-op”) – the nation’s largest retail food co-op and longtime industry leader in public policy advocacy to support a sustainable food and agricultural system – hosted a landmark gathering of food system leaders to consider what’s next for regenerative agriculture. PCC’s Convening on Regenerative and Organic Food Systems was the first step in the co-op’s efforts to address this complex issue facing growers, producers and retail outlets. Currently inconsistently defined, regenerative agriculture (regen ag) is both a movement and a growing buzzword referring to the farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil health and biodiversity to counter climate change. PCC, along with the entire grocery industry, is observing a spike in unverifiable claims that products are regenerative or practice regenerative agriculture. The lack of industrywide standards means an increasing risk that unverified claims will undermine the integrity of organics or lead to greenwashed marketing and misled consumers.

PCC’s convening, held at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Seattle during February 2024, brought together a diverse grouping of stakeholders, including farmers, tribal leaders, government and policy officials, retailers and co-ops, nonprofits, and natural food brands. Thought leaders delved into the state of regen ag, encompassing its legacy in Indigenous practices and the relationship between regenerative and organic agriculture, with conversations extending out to the absence of standardized regenerative practices and label claims today. Some 85 participants representing 55 organizations explored the possibilities of collective action on the next frontier for food systems and climate resiliency.

“Tribal communities managed regenerative food systems for thousands of years across the Pacific Northwest before colonialism created the exploitative, extractive, industrialized, and commoditized food systems of today,” said PCC Community Markets Director of Purpose Mike Wenrick. “Exploring regenerative agriculture requires both learning from Indigenous practices and respecting their rights to and knowledge of land stewardship. Embracing regen ag in the spirit of Indigenous wisdom offers a pathway towards healing the land and how we eat.”

“It’s so important for our generation to reconnect with our ancestral roots,” said keynote speaker Valerie Segrest, a Native Nutrition Educator and enrolled member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. “Our task is to preserve and pass down these sacred recipes to secure success for future generations. Although we may not witness the success of our goals in our lifetime, embracing a generational perspective shift is fundamental to our journey.”


The future of regenerative and organic food systems

Regenerative agriculture is a growing movement aimed at rebuilding soil health, promoting biodiversity, and countering climate change. Additionally, it also includes significant components surrounding animal welfare and fair trade. At its best, a regenerative food system can change our food and fiber systems by drawing down atmospheric carbon, fostering healthier communities, increasing farm resilience, and reaping more abundant yields.

“Regenerative agriculture is at a critical crossroads, where inconsistent definitions could result in a loss of consumer trust and erosion of the value of the ‘regenerative’ label claim. We need to ensure that farmers following truly regenerative practices are not undercut by greenwashing competitors,” said Joe Dickson, Co-Founder and Head of Standards & Policy at Merryfield, speaking at the Convening. “PCC is taking a thoughtful and open-hearted approach to the issue, by bringing together a diverse and inspiring group of stakeholders to explore critical questions shaping the future of agriculture.”

“Humanity stands at the brink of planetary disaster, much of it directly attributed to our industrialized agricultural systems,” noted Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, another headlining speaker. “Layering regenerative practices on top of clearly defined organic standards is a powerful recipe for change that enables us to rewrite the script of how we produce our food and fibers to heal ourselves and the planet. With almost six million acres of Regenerative Organic Certified farmland to date, the ROA upholds the highest standard in the world for food, fiber, and wellness. Our farms ensure healthy soil, pasture-based animal welfare, and social fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers – because agriculture is directly connected to the vitality of the land, the strength of those that inhabit it, and the future that awaits it.”


Where do we go from here?

For decades, PCC helped to pioneer organic standards and has often set the bar for product quality standards. In 2022, PCC completed a two-year project to formally codify its existing standards. The Convening on Regenerative and Organic Food Systems is the co-op’s first step in examining how to manage regenerative label claims on products on its shelves.

“A defining characteristic of the co-op’s commitment to sustainability is our work to advance organic,” said Wenrick. “USDA Organic Standards ensure practices support our belief that people, animals, and waterways ought to be protected. For these reasons, we encourage a range of third-party verifications to safeguard organic, fair labor practices, animal welfare, climate friendly production and sustainable packaging. As we continue to learn and grow, we remain dedicated to evolving our product standards to be responsive to today’s opportunities in protecting our food system and planet. This convening of regenerative agriculture stakeholders marks the start of an essential, ongoing conversation.”

PCC is conducting a survey of convening attendees to coalesce stakeholders on common ground in the regenerative agriculture movement.


About PCC Community Markets

Founded in Seattle in 1953, PCC Community Markets (PCC) is a certified organic retailer and the nation’s largest community-owned food market. With an active membership of more than 115,000 members, PCC is committed to a triple bottom line that balances environmental, social and economic goals while reducing environmental impacts and giving back to its community. PCC is a haven for those who share a dedication to fresh, organic, seasonal food that is sustainably sourced from over 800 local producers, farmers, ranchers and fishers. The co-op’s mission is to ensure that good food nourishes the communities it serves, while cultivating vibrant, local, organic food systems. PCC operates 15 stores in the Puget Sound area, including the cities of Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle. Seattle stores are in the neighborhoods of Ballard, Central District, Columbia City, Fremont, Green Lake, View Ridge and West Seattle.

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