Large companies are rarely seen as friendly towards the goals of organic farming. Luckily, there are some examples in which this isn’t the case. Beer producer Anheuser-Busch is aiming to aid organic farms by helping farmers transition from traditional practices to more modern, sustainable methods.
The brewery giant is not stopping with farmers, either–they plan to change their own business practices, as well. The company is promoting a new brand of beer that will be made using exclusively sustainable practices.
Anheuser-Busch plays a major role in local agriculture, working with as many as 1,000 local farmers.
“We are highly vertically integrated into agriculture,” says Jess Newman, the company’s director of U.S. agronomy. “We breed our own barely varieties, we direct contract our own seed, and bring it into our own seed facilities. We own grain elevators in three different states, and malt plants in two states. And, we brew our own beer and take it to consumers. It’s a complete ‘seed to sip’ process.”
This will affect the production of barely, rice and hops that are used primarily for beer production.
The company’s long term plan is to begin what is known as a contract for change. The project’s aim is to increase the production of sustainably produced barely: used in one of the beer brands created by the company. It is a growing brand, currently the sixth most-sold beer in the US, and the company hopes to increase its market share.
The sale of this beer was increased by 200% last year, and Anheuser-Busch invested heavily in the brand by featuring it in a recent Super Bowl commercial.
Anheuser-Busch hasn’t entered into this program alone. Instead, they have joined forces with Sustainable Food Lab: a non-profit organization working with local farmers and small businesses to help them transition to more sustainable methods of agriculture.
Elizabeth Reaves works for the SFL as a senior director for the agriculture and environmental projects, and she has taken on a major role in the work with Anheuser-Busch. “They understand they can play a role by providing a market for some alternative crops,” Reaves remarks.
SLF has done its homework on the state of the area’s agriculture. They have shared this research with Anheuser-Busch, as the basis for their future collaboration. The challenges are as follows:
Anheuser-Busch plans to enter into a long term relationship with farmers who address these particular concerns. This is to be done by providing insurance for the difficult transitional period, which could cause the most issues for farmers.
This is but one part of the process. Anheuser-Busch is a large company, so its support of the movement gives credibility to the concept of sustainable agriculture. It is always helpful when aid comes from a large, profitable institution.
The ultimate goal of the project is to allow farmers the chance to try out organic farming for themselves. The company should provide them with the resources necessary to experience how sustainable farming could be used, to set up a profitable and well-organized business. This will be done across Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota: the states where the majority of barley is produced.
Dan Lakey is one of the farm owners who will be involved in the program, dedicating a portion of his farm to organic production.
“We are always looking for new opportunities on our farm,” Lakey says. “For several years, we have been using less chemicals and fertilizers, and we are curious to see if our farm can grow organic crops.”
Beer brewery Anheuser-Busch is planning to work with local farmers to help them produce healthy beer by means of sustainable agricultural practices. This is to be done in collaboration with local NGOs, who will help set up the process based on their research. The goal is for the company to give much-needed credibility to sustainable farming practices, as well as supporting farmers in real and actionable ways.