Customer and Farmer Appreciation Day 2023 Event

Third Annual CAFAD in the books!

Over 100 people, including farmers, commercial food and beverage manufacturers, researchers, civil societies and Avena staff, gathered under a tent at Avena’s Rowatt, Saskatchewan facility for the third annual Avena Customer and Farmer Appreciation Day (CAFAD). The presentations, discussion and friendly chat were focused on the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices that would enable Canadian prairie farms to thrive for generations to come.

The day began with a tour of experimental field plots demonstrating intercropping, cover crops and new varieties of oats, chickpeas, lentils and peas. The plots are a joint project between Avena, Bob’s Red Mill, Danone Canada, Field to Market Canada, HIPPEAS, Ninth Avenue Foods, Old Dutch, Only Oats, Protein Industries Canada, South East Research Farm, TheoryMesh, and Warburtons. Several plot partners were on hand at CAFAD to network with farmers and talk informally about their products and companies.

Later in the day the group heard first-hand about ‘Living Lab’ field trial projects where commercial food manufacturers supported farmers in implementing field scale trials of the regenerative agricultural practices of intercropping and variable rate seeding. Willmar Farms partnered with Bob’s Red Mill and Avena. Rosengren Farms partnered with HIPPEAS and Avena.

“Avena is committed to bringing farmers, commercial food and beverage manufacturers, as well as researchers and civil societies together – to explore and learn about the worlds in which we each operate, and how together we can begin to impact sustainability,” said Mike Gallais, Avena Director of Procurement.

Michael Ferguson, Colin Rosengren and Lana Shaw are all members of the Avena Sustainability Advisory Panel (ASAP), which was formed following CAFAD 2022, to continue discussions on accomplishing sustainability goals. Other members include Mike Gallais, Co-Chair (Avena), Margaret Hughes, Co-Chair (Avena), Barbara Lee-Budin (Avena Sustainability Coordinator), Jean-Marc Bertrand (Danone Canada), Todd DeKryger (Nestlé North America), Julia Person (Bob’s Red Mill), Lynnell Pomedli (Seed Source), Markus Weber (Field to Market Canada) and Jannatal Ferdous (University of British Columbia).

Margaret Hughes, Avena VP Sales & Marketing, congratulated Avena farmers for being some of the best in the world when it comes to sustainability.

“Much of what we’ve done in sustainability up to this point, with our three-year Field to Market Canada project, has been about the farmers and showing the incredible progress they’ve been making,” she told CAFAD. “Now it’s time for Avena to look more closely at what we’re doing in terms of our emissions, our community involvement and our governance,” Margaret said. She said the advisory panel is helping Avena to form a five-year ESG policy.

Margaret reported on another exciting first for Avena. Nathan Pelletier and Jannatal Ferdous of the University of British Columbia’s Food Systems Prism Lab in Kelowna, BC are calculating Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for Avena’s pulse and oat ingredients. The LCA of Avena’s pulse ingredients will be the basis of a peer reviewed publication, the first of its kind in the world.

The LCA quantifies the carbon footprint of an ingredient and may be included by manufacturers in the calculations used to determine the carbon footprint of their product. Avena also intends on working with commercial companies to use the LCA information to educate consumers on the sustainability of these ingredients.

New at this year’s event was a fun and interactive market section under the tent where participants could sample and learn about products from Avena and the corporate partners who made the day happen.

Avena displayed information about Farm2Kitchen, a Regina Food Bank project with Avena’s Purity Protocol farmers that has delivered thousands of bags of oats to schools and food bank clients.

Plant-based mayonnaise and ranch dressings made using the new Avena Best Pulse Visco Enhancer NB, were available to sample. The egg replacer and Avena Purity Protocol oat flour were also highlighted in blueberry/banana muffins, prepared by local gluten-free chef Joe Oddo.

The day before CAFAD, HIPPEAS food technologist Majestic Lewis-Bryant walked the ‘Living Lab’ fields with Colin Rosengren and Avena’s Mike Gallais. Representatives from Nestlé North America and Only Oats also joined the Rosengren farm tour. The group was also able to tour Avena’s new state-of-the-art oat facility.

“You can see what we’re trying to do here,” said Gord Flaten, Avena CEO, wrapping up the day. “We’ve been talking to our customers. They’ve been talking to consumers, who are asking for environmentally friendly food products. So we’re making connections and looking for practical answers.”

“We really appreciate partnering with people like Lana  Shaw [South East Research Farm], Regan and Michael Ferguson [Willmar Farms], and Colin Rosengren, to experiment and share ideas,” Gord went on to say. “We are optimistic about this plant-based, sustainably produced, whole food market that we’re in. We think its going somewhere and that’s why we’re investing in it.”

Wherever you may be in your sustainability journey, our team is ready to connect, share and explore opportunities to partner.

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