Take a stroll down the various organic isles in any major U.S. or Canadian supermarket, and you'll likely notice something peculiar.
There's often no lack of choices when it comes to selecting certified organic produce. Organic lettuce, onions, apples, and bananas are often in season. Certified eggs and milk too are available.
But reach for a box of certified organic cereal, rice, or other manufactured grain product and, well, your choices of brand and imaginative options begin to decline.
Sure, there's organic cereals and manufactured products on the shelf, but according to Kashi, the Kelloggs company known for its organic whole grain product line, there's not enough. Manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with demand for organic products.
And the folks at Kashi aren't the only ones that have noticed this trend. By 2014, manufacturers of organic grain products were already predicting a shortage. North Americans' demand for organic products was increasing, but many farmers weren't willing to certify their acreages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, less than 1 percent of U.S. farmland is certified organic.
The reason for this reluctance, says Kashi, is that it takes three long years for a farmer to transition a field to organic acreage in order to certify under an organic certification program. During that time, many such farmers aren't being paid on par with their efforts.
In 2016, the company rolled out a new initiative to help encourage more farmers to transition to organic farming. It connected with Quality Assurance International, an organic product certification organization and created a new transitional certification program for farms that hadn't yet met the benchmarks of certified organic farming, but were willing to do so.
According to Kashi, the project means that as of this year, there will be a 400 percent increase in the amount of acreage available for certified transitional organic crops. The company didn't say how many farmers that actually represents, whether the acreage is in North America or when these farms might attain their certified organic status, but the upsurge effectively creates a whole new line of products for Kashi.
The product line however, isn't organic, so it's unclear whether hard-core organic advocates will be willing to purchase the products while they are in the transitional organic stage.
Kashi has also been providing premiums to farmers that are willing to make the switch to organic. As of this month, the company says, those premiums will amount to roughly $1million in additional pay to transitional organic farmers.
Kashi also says it now has its products certified as non-genetically modified (GMO) and that " [all] Kashi products being made today ... are Non-GMO Project Verified."
As an example of that initiative, the company also announced the release of its latest cereal, Cinnamon French Toast, which is both non-GMO verified and a transitional organic-verified product.
In 2012, the company came under fire by some of its staunchest consumers when they learned that the company produced foods with GMO ingredients. Since then, Kashi has been working to regain ground with organic and non-GMO supporters; an effort that may have contributed to its push to broaden the availability of organic grains and other ingredients in its supply chain.
Images: Kashi Company
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.