Anke Buhl and Gero Leson, Vice President of Special Operations at Dr. Bronner's, recently toured La Falize, where they learned more about the farm's history, La Falize's long commitment to environmentally-friendly practices and more about their regenerative plans.
La Falize started implementing organic practices in the late 1990s because the nitrate levels from farming with chemical fertilizers were so high that their water was hazardous for human consumption. Now the water is safe and drinkable, but in the process of going organic, they learned many more interesting lessons, van Haute says.
They began to diversify their crops. Not just growing row crops for reselling to large distributors but also concentrating on specialty market garden crops of fruits and vegetables like ancient varietals of tomatoes and high-end strawberries, cherries and asparagus sold to chefs and consumers. They also planted a vineyard, a successful experiment proving that high-quality wine could be grown in Belgium.
All those years of learning, experimenting and pursuing new markets for their farm products led La Falize to realize the need for farmers to shorten supply chains and establish closer relationships with companies that buy their farm products, van Haute says.
"I want to be able to sell my cereal crops to a baker directly, rather than go through a middle man," van Haute says. "This partnership with Dr. Bronner's is inspiring to us. It is going beyond and disrupting the food system we're currently in."
Working directly with their own supply chain, with sister companies and smallholder farmers in countries like Sri Lanka, Ghana and India, Dr. Bronner's have expanded their thinking. For example, Dr. Bronner's has a limited-edition chocolate bar, developed after they realized the farmers supplying their fair-trade and regenerative organic palm oil were also growing cocoa and needed a better outlet for it, she says.
Helping their supply-chain farmers adopt regenerative organic practices has enabled a more reliable living for their smallholder farmer supply chain, a healthier planet and been a "source of inspiration for new products," Buhl says.