Avena Purity Protocol Farmers
Avena Foods Limited was set up in 2008 by a group of pedigreed seed growers who understood the dietary challenges that people with celiac disease face and the benefit they might receive from eating pure, whole grain oats. The system that was developed was based on a ‘Start Safe, Stay Safe’ philosophy where pure oats were seeded, and their purity maintained as much as possible throughout the growing, harvesting, transporting, and milling of the crop. These gluten-free oats and oat ingredients were fully traceable, right back to the farmers and their fields.
Fast forward to today, Avena Foods remains anchored in strong partnerships with farmers while also operating a dedicated gluten-free facility with state-of-the-art equipment and exemplary food safety and quality management programs.
The relationship with farmers goes far beyond the purchase of oats. From the beginning, Avena farmers have helped shape the ‘Start Safe, Stay Safe’ approach that is Avena Purity Protocol. Each is committed to providing the highest quality of nutritious pure oats for those who require a gluten-free diet, where even the smallest amount of gluten can cause an allergic reaction. Avena Purity Protocol requires diligence and an ability to focus on details. Excellent communication is key.
Once a year, Avena farmers, as well as procurement, food quality and safety, and sales and marketing teams, get together for ‘Grower School’. This event fosters mutual respect and furthers the shared understanding of what we each do and the system that is Avena Purity Protocol. Other events held during the year include farm visits, a barbeque, and an annual golf tournament.
Customer relationships are key to Avena Purity Protocol. Avena farmers are more than happy to share their seeding or harvest experience. Customers appreciate time spent on the farm whether it be standing in a field or riding on a combine.
GROWING WITH AVENA FOODS
Ken McDougall operates McDougall Acres, a 101-year-old family farm located just east of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Ken spoke of his relationship with Avena over several years. He also described just what is involved in farming under the Avena Purity Protocol system.
McDougal Acres have three fields where Purity Protocol Oats are the only cereal in the three-year
cropping system with pulses, lentils or peas, and an oil seed, canola, filling out the rotation.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GROW FOR AVENA FOODS?
The Avena Purity Protocol is much more than just growing gluten-free oats. The program is designed to minimize the risk of cross contamination with gluten-containing cereals at each step of the process.
What does a typical year look like as an Avena Purity Protocol Farmer?
Step 1: Communication is key. The Avena Grain Procurement Team will begin by reaching out to farmers after harvest and start contracting acres for the next crop year. Once contracted, the Avena Grain Buyer is the main point of contact and will provide support and tips for success throughout the entire crop year.
Step 2: With the support of the Avena Grain Buyer, the farmer will need to plan for the best outcome:
- Selecting the field and planning crop rotations are extremely important. The land must be free of gluten-containing cereals (barley, rye, wheat, etc.) for a minimum of 2 crop years for it to be considered suitable for growing purity protocol gluten-free oats.
- Selecting pure pedigreed seed from recommended pure seed providers is the beginning of ‘Start Clean, Stay Clean’
- Timing of seeding pure oats and harvesting purity protocol oats must also be considered. Seeding early means the oats can be harvested before other crops which will minimize the risk of cross contamination, especially when the farm does not have dedicated equipment.
- Keeping the fields clean. With wind drifts and wild animals, there will be a risk of cross contamination of foreign seeds. Our farmers diligently keep their fields cleans by rogueing. It is a term used for walking fields to look for “rogue,” or foreign plants, then removing them from the field. This will prevent the foreign plant from maturing and possibly getting mixed together with the pure oats when harvesting. It is important to note that starting with pure gluten-free seeds does not guarantee the final product will be free of gluten-containing cereals. Therefore, it is recommended that farmers diligently assess and maintain of their fields.
- Keeping the equipment clean, especially if dedicated equipment is not used. Gluten-containing kernels as well as allergen crops, like mustard and soy, can be lodged inside the cracks and other tight areas of the equipment and can contaminate the product. Grain dust is also a concern and has been found to be a source of gluten contamination. Proper cleanout of equipment such as augers, combines, trucks and hopper trailers, storage bins, and even the soles of shoes can prevent the risk of gluten cross contamination.
Step 3: Each year, as the oats are near the maturation stage, CFIA-trained 3rd Party Crop Inspectors will visit each Avena farm and assess the fields based on the Avena Purity Protocol standards. Specifically, the crop inspectors will look for proper and clean field boundaries, field cleanliness, and plant health.
Step 4: Time to harvest with clean equipment. Avena Foods prohibits the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant. This means no glyphosate is used on the Purity Protocol Oats.
Step 5: After the Purity Protocol Oats are harvested, the farmer will need to prepare multiple samples. Avena Foods will require samples throughout the harvest and cleaning process for approval prior to delivery. Samples will be inspected at the Avena Foods Regina facility and analyzed at a 3rd Party Accredited Lab. All samples will be graded for quality (colour, size and moisture) and analyzed for seed purity, allergens, and storage toxins.
Step 6: Delivery to Avena Foods is by appointment only and is scheduled by the Avena Grain Procurement team. Ensuring hopper trailers are properly washed out and cleaned is key to a successful delivery. Each hopper must be sealed with the assigned Avena trailer seals. Each delivery must have the trailer loading document which will contain traceability information. If the delivery meets all Avena Foods’ quality requirements, the grain is accepted. If not, then the grain is rejected and will be taken back to the farm.
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