WFCF CARE : People & Community

As human beings we want to connect with others in a more meaningful way, whether this is through online communities or in person, we crave it.  Over the last several years our community at Where Food Comes From has grown.  Our community has brought individuals from all parts of the United States together sharing their perspective and knowledge of the food industry.  With the help of these individuals, we’ve been able to educate you about the importance of food production, their sustainable practices and recently, we’ve taken a stance on “Sustainability” and what we believe it means.   Our third pillar of the CARE program is People and Community, because farmers and ranchers know that without their families, their employees and their local, rural communities, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

Every farmer and rancher who participates in CARE becomes a part of our team. If you’ve been reading our weekly blog, you’ve actually met some of them!  This is one way we highlight the excellent work and due diligence that they put forth.  They obtaining CARE certification, they exhibit all of the pillars that encompass CARE; Animal Husbandry, Environmental Stewardship, People & Community.  Every meal has a story and we are here to help you discover it.

Part of that discovery is understanding every element from point of origin to plate. This is why we bring these stories to the forefront and give you the behind the scenes view of farms and ranches.  Certification happens at every level from animal husbandry, environmental standards, to the welfare of the employees.  Part of our pillars within every standard of CARE, is ensuring the health and safety of every individual.  This ranges from compensation, benefits, work conditions, and opportunity for growth.  Farmers and ranchers count on these individuals to provide the highest care for the animals around the clock. So, it’s important we take care of them as well whether that’s an employee or a family member.   Many of the CARE farms and ranches have generations of family farming experience, but, some of them are first generations.  Either way, these farms and ranches also work toward planning for the next generation.

Understanding the importance of People & Community means helping a fellow farmer build a fence, donate food to the local schools, 4-H and FFA organizations or providing support when a natural disaster occurs.  CARE represents a community of farms and ranches that are committed to doing the right thing and understanding each other’s challenges.  They lean on each other when they need it.  When you’re a part of CARE, you’re part of an entire life-long community providing better food options for generations to come.

WFCF CARE : Environmental Stewardship

Our planet, and each of our environments evolve over time.  While farmers and ranches take from the ground, they are also very cognizant to give back to it.  It’s like a work of art, or science, in a sense.  Something that grows into something greater than when you started. With every proverbial brush stroke something new is created, that is greater, more detailed and more thoughtful than what was there when the artist began.  Here at Where Food Comes From, you could say we support our own type of art, and science – food production.  So, this week we continue our look into the Where Food Comes From CARE sustainability standard by discussing the second pillar of CARE: Environmental Stewardship.

Last week, we looked a little deeper into Animal Husbandry, the first pillar in our CARE standard. However, the health and conditions the animals are raised in isn’t the only important aspect of food production, and you – consumers – are looking for more from the food you eat. This is why the second pillar of CARE is Environmental Stewardship.

According to the latest census, consumers are three, sometimes four, generations removed from food production.  So, it’s easy for consumers to have a hard time understanding what goes into the job that farmers and ranchers hold so much passion for.  It’s a science.  Literally.  Producers must understand their soil and water health for their animals, but also to keep their land improving, and they’re eager to keep learning!  Alexis Budde, a WFCF Customer Verification Specialist (CVS) Regional Manager, says most of her producers attend seminars or events on a regular basis to ensure they are learning as much as they can to improve their environments as well as their operations.

One way that farmers and ranchers exercise environmental stewardship is by continuously trying to decrease their carbon footprint.  They all have some sort of grazing management plan in place.  Rotational grazing, which means they move their cattle from pasture to pasture to ensure it doesn’t get overused, is a very common practice.  “But, grazing management is more complex than just cattle rotations.  It includes diversity of vegetation, understanding how rotations affect not just the quantity of pasture grasses but also the quality, controlling erosion and weeds to improve grass diversity.  Most of these grazing plans also include plans for increasing wildlife presence for biodiversity. “ says Kelly Crymble, a CVS Regional Manager for WFCF.

The processes they develop turn into long-term strategies that they use as continuous improvement goals on their operation.  However, the farmers and ranchers that we partner with don’t just stick to the norm, they go outside the box by pushing the standards related to sustainability.  In fact, last week, one rancher told us he uses a drone to check his water sources across 30,000 acres instead of driving so he can reduce emissions!  And, many, many producers have moved to solar and wind power to run their wells for water as well.  They all say they choose efficient vehicles or equipment based on the specific task they are doing.  They do this not only to reserve energy sources, but to lesson the impact on their environments.

WFCF CARE ranchers truly believe that in order to provide a better product and to not only leave the land the way they left it, but leave it better, that they “have to do more with less.”

Waste is another concern when it comes to being good stewards of the land our farmers and ranchers cultivate.  Think about the amount of trash you personally produce; you’ve probably found ways to reduce it through recycling and purchasing items that can be reused.  Farmers and ranchers who CARE are finding ways to manage and optimize their waste.  On a farm you can reduce waste in several ways; by using specialized water filtration, reducing runoff, and utilizing manure as a natural fertilization.

At the end of the day, farmers and ranchers that have made it their livelihood to produce your food try each and every day to take care of the land.   They understand that without the land, they can’t do what they love and you wouldn’t have food on your table.  The land will remain long after we are gone, but it’s important that we are leaving it in the best possible shape for future generations.  CARE helps farmers and ranchers communicate with consumers that the products with the CARE seal are doing what they can to give back.

Learn more about CARE by visiting our website, you’ll even find a few of the ranches that sell their beef (more coming soon!) direct-to-consumer as well as catch some of the Storybit videos we have featured this year.  Tune in for next week’s blog as we introduce you to our third and final pillar of CARE: People & Community.

 

Pictures featured: 
Five Dot Ranch (2) and (3)
Eagle Rock Ranch (1) and (4)

WFCF CARE : Animal Husbandry

Did you know that 65% of consumers prefer to eat proteins from animals raised in humane conditions?  What about the fact that 54% of consumers feel that meat should only come from farms that practice sustainable agriculture?  But, how do consumers know if that was the case?  Well, 39% of consumers scan a meat package for certifications before they buy.  Do we believe that most producers are doing the right thing?  Yes.  But, consumers are now three, sometimes four, generations removed from agriculture.  So they don’t know know any farmers or ranchers directly, and they aren’t taking our word for it anymore.

By creating the Where Food Comes From CARE Standard we knew it gave farmers and ranchers a way to communicate their story with the consumers that are looking to buy their products. Farmers and ranchers support the same values we do, and without them none of this would be possible.  They strive to be as transparent as possible with consumers in hopes to gain their trust.  Remember, it takes a village and we want you to be a part of it.

If you’ve been reading our blogs, then you know we’ve taken every opportunity to help promote farmers, ranchers and growers in the food industry.  We believe in helping them tell their story to consumers.  Our CARE values are rooted in a firm belief that farmers and ranchers are stewards of their natural resources and part of that stewardship means the care of their animals and people. This is why the first pillar of the Where Food Comes From CARE standard is Animal Husbandry.

Those hardworking individuals spend day and night with their animals to ensure they are happy, content, and healthy throughout their lifecycle.  Basically, out there living their best life. Each of our standards – BeefCARE, DairyCARE, PoultryCARE, and PorkCARE – include specific requirements regarding the care of each animal.  If you’ve never been on a farm you are probably wondering what exactly that means.  Some of the things we look for include access of food and water for the animals, animal spacing and even how they are transported from one location to the next.  All of those aspects matter when it comes to keeping the animals healthy.

Think about it this way; in your own environment the food you eat and the safety guidelines you follow directly affect your health and the same holds true when we look into the health and wellbeing of animals.  Farmers partake in animal care training to ensure they are following practices to ensure the safety of the animals in addition to their health.  We do the same as humans.  Nurses train to take care of us and farmers train to care for their animals.   It’s a good feeling knowing there is transparency when it comes to your food.  When you see the CARE label on your food, you can trust that the animal was well cared for and that claim was verified by a third-party verification provider, us, at Where Food Comes From, Inc.

So, the reason we CARE, well that’s quite simple, the health and well-being of others.  You see, as our community continues grow, that’s more people spreading the word and adopting sustainable practices.  This journey might have started because of the vision of our two founders, but it’s because of farmers and ranchers who strive for a sustainable future that it is the beginning of a food revolution.  If you want to learn more about Where Food Comes From CARE, you can check out our site.


Statistics reported from the “Power of Meat 2019” and Midan Marketing Segmentation 2.0 Research.

WFCF Storybit: Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op

Close your eyes and imagine these colors; alluring corals, pristine white, and luscious reds.  Both beautiful and calming to the mind. Can you think back to a time when you received an arrangement of flowers or walked past a colorful bouquet and how it made you feel?  It probably put a smile on your face or made you feel good inside.  To keep you in the spirit, we are brightening your week with incredible arrangements from the Alaska Beauty Peony Cooperative.

The Story
Five peony farmers founded the Alaska Beauty Peony Cooperative in December 2013 with a goal of creating sustainable cut flowers.  They knew setting themselves apart from others in the flower industry would be key.  With the help of shared marketing resources, infrastructure and education in the Homer area they “grew,” no pun intended, into a sustainable flower farm.

Their growers cooperative now includes eleven family owned farms. That’s five generations that actively participate in the co-op operations today.  Several of the farms are even located on homesteads established prior to Alaska’s statehood.  Needless to say, these farms have been around for a while.

These farmers are dedicated to bringing you premium peonies all through sustainable practices.  That means they follow specific farming practices including using chemical-free design techniques.  Being sustainable isn’t only for food practices, but flowers too!  Whether you’re planning for a wedding or need some flowers for that special someone to brighten their day, Alaska Beauty Peonies Co-op has you covered with sustainable options. To learn more about their varieties you can visit their website.

Certified American Grown Certification
All of the farms are American Grown Certified. That means they follow specific practices and policies to ensure everything is grown and processed in the United States. Where Food Comes From conducts the audits for all Certified American Grown flowers. By partnering with a third-party verified program, Alaska Beauty Peonies Co-op is able to provide the trust you need when purchasing flowers with specific claims.

Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op is also a member of the California Cut Flowers Association and Alaska Peony Growers Association. In addition to the mentioned certifications, the growers are considering Salmon Safe, Sustainably Grown and Organically Grown certifications.  They want their product to be identified with the high standards associated with these locally grown labels because they know that is important to those that purchase their flowers just as much as it is important to them. 

Why Certify
There is a growing consumer trend for brands to carry specific certifications as consumers start to seek them out when they purchase all types of products.  This means certain grocers are very interested in supplying their stores with brands that carry these certifications. Alaska Beauty Peony is considering additional sustainability certifications to acknowledge practices that they already implement today. Their plants benefit from cover crops, use of animal manures, and the gifts of the local marine environment where fish by-products and kelp, are used extensively to feed their flowers. They believe these certification programs help tell you the story of farmers and what they represent.

How to Order
Alaska’s cool summers and midnight sun aid their farmers in cultivating peonies of extraordinary size (6-8″ blooms!) with intense color saturation. They are able to supply farm fresh flowers starting in late June through early September (the longest harvest period for fresh cut peonies in North America) and they are the only source for fresh cut peony stems in late Summer. They harvest at the mature bud stage, so their flowers travel well through the cold chain. They ship flowers direct to doors across North America and can-do air cargo for large orders.  To check out their floral inventory or to place an order, check them out online, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram at @alaskabeautypeony.

WFCF Storybit : Five Dot Ranch

  Saddle up, this week you’re in for a treat as our next WFCF Storybit feature takes us to Five Dot Ranch in Susanville, Cali.  This isn’t your typical family ranch, because, not only do they raise cattle, but they also have their own butcher shop and restaurant located in Napa Valley, Cali. At their restaurant, The Cookhouse, they do things a little differently. You pick it, they grill it! That’s right, at their restaurant you pick any fresh cut from their meat case and they grill your pick just for you.  Locals even have the chance to buy beef and take it home for themselves.  So while you’re thinking of planning your next trip to Napa, let’s dive into the story of the Swickard Family and Five Dot Ranch.

The Story

In order to get to the beginning of the Swickard family’s long history and tradition when it comes to cattle, we have to look all the way back to 1852 to get it. Traveling by wagon across the plains and the Rockies, the Swickard’s landed in California in 1859 with 250 head of cattle. Their story continued to evolve over the decades as the ranch they established was continually passed down to the next generation.

In 1949, Jack Swickard would have his turn, at the age of 15, to step in and help care for the cattle and the ranch. Jack was one of the youngest purebred Hereford breeders in the nation. If that wasn’t enough, Jack was also the youngest commercial breeder in the Santa Clara Valley. He was quite the local celebrity. He took over the ranch and put the Swickard Ranch on a path to success. Along with the success of the ranch, Jack was also expanding his family. After marrying Margret Hangstabeck, they had two sons, Tim and Todd. In 1959, the family would soon be on the move north to Susanville, California. Jack planted new roots and started the Five Dot Land and Cattle Company in Lassen county, now full of Angus cattle as well. Within four years of Jack starting with 200 registered Hereford cattle, his brother, Tom, joined him. Together they developed successful herds and land operations.

In 1994, Todd, Jack’s son, would step in to take over the daily operations of the ranch. Since that time, Todd and his wife, Loretta have maintained the herd and in 2006 developed a Verified Natural Beef, a third-party verified branded beef program, named Five Dot Ranch.  They had been raising Natural cattle since the ’90s and saw a demand in California.

They spent every weekend visiting farmers markets throughout the state, which is what got them noticed by the people that were opening up the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Cali.  So, in 2008, they took the plunge and dove head first into the restaurant industry! Today, their beef product is sold wholesale to multiple restaurants in California, and most recently has been added to Crowd Cow.  Todd and Loretta’s children now assist with the ranch and make up the 7th generation family ranching legacy, and the first born of the 8th generation was born last year!

Verification

Today, Five Dot Ranch takes part in many, many verification programs through Where Food Comes From and their IMI Global division.  They are Source & Age Verified, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), Verified Natural Beef (VNB) and Non-GMO Project Verified.  Todd is dedicated to creating a product he’s proud to put their family’s name on. Through the use of verification programs and labeling claims, the team is able to learn about new processes and Standards that help continually improve their product. Verification is more than a term, it’s a commitment to their consumers.

Why Verify

The team at Five Dot Ranch is highly skilled and focused on the quality of their Angus cattle herd. This includes everything from what the cattle eat to their daily care. They own and trace every cattle they produce because they know the importance of understanding the story behind your food. Their standards are high and proud producers of beef. They believe in order to raise natural cattle they must provide the finest environment and sustainable practices. If you want to learn more about Five Dot Ranch check out their site, and stay tuned for our next WFCF Storybit video!

WFCF CARE : PoultryCARE Added to Suite of Sustainability Programs

Another week brings more exciting news for our Where Food Comes From fans!  A few weeks ago, we got a chance to introduce you to our latest Where Food Comes From Standard: CARE™.   We are humbled at the wonderful response from consumers as well as our producers who have embraced CARE so quickly. With that positive response, we are excited to announce an update to the CARE suite of sustainability standards with our most recent addition, PoultryCARE!  So, keep reading as we explore more about CARE and introduce PoultryCARE into the CARE family.

What is CARE?

John and Leann Saunders, the founders of Where Food Comes started with a vision more than 25 years ago to create traceable, transparent food systems for producers and consumers.  Now, Where Food Comes From has expanded that vision by introducing a new program called CARE.

Let’s tell you a bit about the new program.  Where Food Comes From CARE is a suite of sustainability standards.  If you’ve been following our journey for a while, then your familiar with what sustainability means.  If your new to us, don’t worry, we will give you a quick crash course. You might hear others throwing the word around and it may be used in many different ways.  When Where Food Comes From talks about “Sustainable Agriculture” they mean doing what’s right when it comes to the animals, the environment and the people and communities in which they live.  This means caring for animals, environment, and people through wellbeing policies and practices, while also reducing their waste and energy by creating long-term strategies.

The CARE program certifies participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.

The Standards

The BeefCARE Standard was the first program introduced into the CARE suite of sustainability Standards.  IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From, launched BeefCARE to help to provide a better future for all generations to come by allowing producers to have a continuous improvement plan on their operations.

The DairyCARE Standard was launched next.  This program is administered by Validus Verification Services, a division of Where Food Comes From.  Dairy operations are evaluated under three specific Validus programs, this includes animal welfare, environment and worker review standards.

The PoultryCARE standard is the newest to be added to the CARE suite.  The main objective in developing the PoultryCARE standard was to develop a set of standards that reflect state of the art best practice and science in sustainable poultry production for the protection of birds, workers and the environment. PoultryCARE is the poultry industry’s most comprehensive third-party verified sustainability program.  It will be administered by WFCF’s IMI Global division, utilizing reviewers and auditors with extensive experience in poultry production. Certification to the PoultryCARE Standard is achieved following on-farm evaluations by IMI Global auditors who focus on the same three pillars as the BeefCARE Standard : Animal Husbandry, Environmental Stewardship and People & Community.

The launch of PoultryCARE follows the recent rollout of WFCF’s BeefCARE™ and DairyCARE™ Standards.  WFCF’s goal is to establish its CARE sustainability Standards as the gold standard throughout the food supply chain.

To Learn More  

Today, Where Food Comes From supports more than 15,000 farmers, ranchers, vineyards, wineries, processors, retailers, distributors, trade associations, consumer brands and restaurants with a wide variety of value-added services.  That’s a lot of support and we’re growing!  The reason why farmers, consumers, brands and other organizations work with Where Food Comes From is because we lead with our heart.  Sustainability is important to everyone at Where Food Comes From. The demand has never been greater and Where Food Comes From is here to deliver on those demands through more transparency and standards.  So we thank you for letting us speak to you from our heart about something that we CARE so much about!

For more information, visit WFCF CARE. 

 

WFCF Storybit: McCarty Family Farms

To all our milk drinking, yogurt consuming, dairy loving blog readers out there, did you get a chance to watch our WFCF Storybit video on McCarty Family Farms yet?  If not, don’t worry!  Today, we’ve got their story here for you and if you didn’t catch the video you can check it out here for yourself. We are excited to have the opportunity to share their story on today’s blog. While Tom and Judy McCarty never thought their farming operation would get as big as it is, they always lived by the idea that, “You can’t be complacent” and they never have.  It’s time to hear their story and how not being complacent has helped the McCarty’s grow their dairy farm.

The Story

Tom’s family story dates back all the way to 1914 in Northeastern Pennsylvania with his great grandfather milking eight cows in a small barn without any electricity.  It’s a little hard to imagine not having any electricity in this day and age. That farm has passed from generation to generation beginning with Tom’s grandfather and on down to his mom and dad and then to him.  But, Tom and Judy began to see a change.  The population was growing and logistics were making it difficult to be dairy farmers.  They knew if they were going to stay in the dairy industry they had to make a change.  So, in 1999,  visiting many cities in many states, Tom and Judy moved their family to Rexford, KS., a place they saw the most potential for sustainability, a place they believed they could operate until their sons, if they chose, could take over, which they did.

Since then McCarty Family Farms has grown to five farms – three in Kansas, one in Nebraska and the most recent addition in Ohio.  This 4th generation farming family team encompasses over 200 members across all of their locations.  This requires a lot of coordination, which is why the McCarty brothers divide the responsibilities of running the farms.  They each have a different role to ensure every aspect of the business was cared for. Ken McCarty, one of Tom’s sons, it responsible for managing animal welfare, third-party verifications, sustainability efforts, public relations and data flow.  Being a true dairy farmer at heart his favorite role at work is simply walking pens and spending time with their cows.  The entire team at McCarty Family Farms receives special training in animal care, handling, and nutrition to ensure that every animal receives the proper care and respect.

All of the milk that their cows produce turns into a yogurt brand that I am sure you are familiar with.  In fact, you’ve probably seen it in almost all of your local grocery stores – does Dannon Yogurt ring a bell? McCarty Family Farms has been in a direct supply relationship with Dannon since 2012.  Before it heads out to The Dannon Company to be made into yogurt, it goes to their state-of-the-art processing plant.  What’s so special about it? Well, the McCarty family has a commitment to not only the animals, but the people and land.  With that in mind they built a one of a kind processing plant that allows them to remove water from milk and reuse it for other purposes. How amazing is that?  In a day and age where many companies are talking about sustainability, the McCarty’s are living it! They also use solar activated lighting and other renewable sources like wind power.  Tracking feed, equipment uses, and utilizing manure for fertilization has allowed them to diminish their waste.  Let’s just say they are a team of multiple families with one mission.  They are creating wholesome dairy products with the future in mind.

Verification Programs 

McCarty Family Farms is CARE Certified under the DairyCARE Standard, a program that Validus, a div. of WFCF, audits to.  This certification has three pillars – animal welfare, environmental and worker care.  McCarty also takes party in many other third-party verification programs –  Non-GMO Project, Safe Quality Food (SQF) and the Validus Traced and Controlled Plant audit at their plant.  Their goal is to push their farms to the highest levels possible in terms of performance, accountability, and transparency. They believe that the verification programs offered through WFCF and Validus gives their customers – and consumers – confidence in their products. 

 Why Verify?

“Third-party verification helps hold the team accountable to the stakeholders and demonstrates that the team is truly providing the best product possible through sustainable practices.  Our team has a responsibility to everyone associated with the farms.  That includes the cows, teammates, customers and the communities that support them.  Where Food Comes From allows us to meet those responsibilities,” said McCarty.

Through the use of the verification programs, McCarty has continuously improved their cattle wellbeing, environment, and business.  They value consumer trust and relationships which is why they choose to participate in these verification programs.  The audits maintain high standards that consumers now demand when it comes to their food choices.  The entire family, and team, loves their cows, teammates, communities and their farms.  They love every opportunity to show anyone and everyone what they do and why they do it.  So the next time you walk down the yogurt aisle, think of McCarty Family Farms and the amount of CARE they put into your finished products.

Learn more about McCarty Family Farms here.  And don’t miss their WFCF Storybit, either!
Interested in learning more about third-party programs?  Check out Where Food Comes From!
If you want more information on CARE, you’ll find that here!

Who is Where Food Comes From?

Just like all great stories start, “once upon a time” a husband and wife duo, John and Leann Saunders, had a vision to change the way we think about our food.  Most of us have dreams and aspirations that don’t always end up the way we envisioned.  However, there was something different about this dream.  John and Leann both knew that by providing a traceability solution to producers, they’d be able to give consumers transparency and the stories behind their food would open a new door in the food industry.  For twenty five years, they’ve dedicated their lives to driving value and communication when it comes to the process around whom and how your food is produced.  This food story doesn’t end here.  In fact, we are just getting started. 


How did Where Food Comes From come to be?

John and Leann have been instrumental in changing the way the beef industry authenticates livestock raising claims to meet the demands of consumers world-wide.  In 1995, Leann worked for PM Beef Group, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, while John launched Integrated Management Information (now known as IMI Global and now a division of WFCF)), without any capital.  John worked tirelessly building custom cattle information sharing databases for various different beef organizations.   While John was building these systems and working with the initial infrastructure around animal identification and traceability in the beef industry, Leann was working with the USDA developing the first-ever USDA Process Verified Standard.  With Leann leading the charge, PM Beef Group was the first beef company to verify production practices and claims from the cow/calf producer all the way through the supply chain to retail outlets.

In December of 2003, BSE shut down the US beef export markets and, after much convincing from John, Leann made the decision to join John at IMI Global so they could provide animal identification, traceability and verification solutions to the industry.  While John was promoting his main products in the market, Leann was working with major packers to create the first USDA QSA Programs for Japan and meet export verification instruction requirements.  It became evident quickly that the industry needed a way to ensure buyers through the beef supply chain that cattle met the source and age specified product requirements for Japan on live cattle.  John, Leann and the IMI Global team created an infrastructure to audit and verify these attributes across the beef supply chain.  Developed as an “umbrella” program under the USDA Process Verified Program Standard, their third-party system allowed packers to buy “verified” cattle without the responsibility of auditing/verifying the locations themselves.  This revolutionized the way cattle are marketed for verified and value-added programs.

In the beef industry today, IMI Global verifies cattle for a number of programs, standards and claims including, but certainly not limited to, source, traceability, age, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), Verified Natural Beef and a variety of Animal Welfare and Sustainability Standards.  They also provide an infrastructure that authenticates the claims being made on packages at retail.

John’s entrepreneurship nature then pushed the company to diversify.  In 2006, IMI Global became a division of Where Food Comes From, Inc. (WFCF), which is a name John and Leann chose to better describe what they were doing and where they believed the future of their business was headed. WFCF began to acquire additional businesses to round out its certification and verification portfolio. 

WFCF now includes Validus Verifications Services, LLC, a leading auditing company for the pork, dairy, egg and poultry industry; Sterling Solutions, a leader in beef and beef on dairy verification programs, two organic certification companies, International Certification Services (ICS) and A Bee Organic; and SureHarvest Solutions, a leader in systems that help capture and report sustainability metrics in many industries.   


What does Where Food Comes From do?

So, now that you know the history of WFCF, let’s dive into exactly what all of that means.  WFCF is an independent, third-party food verification company.  Yes, it’s true, WFCF considers themselves the ultimate food nerds.  WFCF cares about every aspect of your food.  From how the food is grown or raised, to the quality you purchase at the store.  Where Food Comes From plays a pivotal role in bringing your food story to life.

WFCF visits more than 15,000 farms and ranches a year!  They collect information by looking at animals, plants, and records.  WFCF also develops Standards and guidelines about how food is produced.  Being a partner with the farmers and ranchers has made these programs successful.  WFCF wants farmers, retailers and even consumers like you to count on them for authentic and transparent information about the food you eat. Basically, the how, where and by whom questions we often wonder about when we pick up a package at our grocery and turn it over to check the label.  The process WFCF has created has allowed us to establish a link between you, the consumer and the individuals who produce your food.

We all deserve to know what we are eating and serving our friends and family.  In order to do that, the information collected and validated must be unbiased.  So, what is the verification process?  Farmers, ranchers, growers and producers submit applications to the specific claim they are making.  That can be anything from Non-GMO, Organic, Gluten-Free or simply Source Verified to verify that the animals came from a specific location, and WFCF will verify the locations it visits along the way to your local retailer.  But, that’s just a few!  Once a producer submits the verification application, onsite audits, interviews and assessments are conducted.  This requires a lot of coordination and work, but the benefits are well worth it.


The Programs

Every food has a source, origin or date when an animal was born.  Today, Where Food Comes From offers hundreds of claims and programs across multiple markets.  These include USDA Process Verified Programs, which means that the USDA audits them and their processes, Safe Quality Food initiatives, Organic Certification, Non-GMO Project Verification, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle and Verified Natural Beef programs in the beef industry, Certified American Grown flowers and so much more. Keep in mind certain programs may not fit the needs of a specific food group.  Meaning what works for beef verification may not be the same needs for a product like honey.  Where Food Comes From helps guide the farmers, ranchers and food producers in the right direction to ensure they sign up for the program that best fits their operation.  Only audited and verified/certified products can make certain claims on packaging that you see in the store.  When you see claims that require a third-party to verify them,  you can rest assured that the product went through a stringent process.  Wondering what claims you should look for? You can check out our full list of programs we partner with on our site.


WFCF CARE

The latest addition to our verification programs is Where Food Comes From CARE®.  At the request of many customers who were looking to promote their sustainability efforts, the CARE program was created.   The CARE Standards certify that participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.

BeefCARE®, and DairyCARE® were launched for the beef and dairy industries respectively.  They are Standards that measure and monitor key indicators and metrics that are critical for sustainability and provides a mechanism for continuous improvement.  Poultry and Pork are launching soon!

Learn more about Where Food Comes From CARE by checking out our recent blog post, or visit the website!


Why Verify?

As a consumer, if you want to know where your food comes from, or what you’re buying is what it says it is, it’s important that you get authentic information.  And, over the years, an increase awareness has been created about the process of how our food reaches our plate.  Sure, we know food is sold at retail locations, but where does it come from before that?  How do we know that the labels we read on food packages are authentic?   John and Leann never gave up on their mission.  They started WFCF with a foundation around traceability and through that they have provided food producers an opportunity to add value and to be able to tell their story to consumers, which in turn has allowed consumers to understand where their food comes from and has given them reliable, trusted information source when it comes to the food they’re eating.

Today, WFCF now has thousands of partners, communities and employees who support that vision.  It takes a village to make change.  For those who are new, welcome!  Too all the existing followers, thanks for continuing the journey.  Is there something you want to hear more of?  Let us know!  WFCF can’t wait to share more exciting stories with you in 2020.  So stay tuned for an exciting year of food verification!

Be sure to check out our weekly blogs and follow us on social media.

Where Food Comes From CARE

It’s Valentine’s week and there couldn’t be a more perfect week for this week’s blog.  What comes to mind when you think of someone speaking from their heart?  When you speak from the heart you’re open and honest with your communication.  One way to speak from the heart is telling a powerful story about your life.  Maybe you talk about an event or something that touched your heart in a specific way.  Today we are happy to speak from our heart about the latest Where Food Comes From Standard.  We would like to introduce you to CARE™ – Food from the Heart.

What is CARE?

John and Leann Saunders, the founders of Where Food Comes started with a vision more than 25 years ago to create traceable, transparent food systems for producers and consumers.  Now, Where Food Comes From has expanded that vision by introducing a new program called CARE.

Let’s tell you a bit about the new program.  Where Food Comes From CARE is a suite of sustainability standards.  If you’ve been following our journey for a while, then your familiar with what sustainability means.  If your new to us, don’t worry, we will give you a quick crash course. You might hear others throwing the word around and it may be used in many different ways.  When Where Food Comes From talks about “Sustainable Agriculture” they mean doing what’s right when it comes to the animals, the environment and the people and communities in which they live.  This means caring for animals, environment, and people through wellbeing policies and practices, while also reducing their waste and energy by creating long-term strategies.

The CARE program certifies participating farmers and ranchers are implementing best practices in animal husbandry, environmental stewardship and a productive engagement with their local communities and the people within them.  Where Food Comes From CARE has been launched in the beef and dairy industries, with more to come in 2020.

The Standards

The BeefCare Standard was the first program introduced into the CARE suite of sustainability Standards.  IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From created new technology platforms to help farmers and ranchers capture and analyze data. This data is critical in understanding what consumers want and to meet requirements in other markets.

IMI Global launching BeefCARE will help to provide a better future for all generations to come by allowing producers to have a continuous improvement plan on their operations.

Speaking of improvement  brings us to the latest addition to the CARE suite – the DairyCARE Standard.  This program will be administered by Validus Verification Services, a division of Where Food Comes From.  Dairy operations will be evaluated under three specific Validus programs, this includes animal welfare, environment and worker review standards.  As a consumer, you’re looking for certain preferences when it comes to your food choices and Where Food Comes From hears your concerns and is answering those through the CARE Standard.

To Learn More  

Today, Where Food Comes From supports more than 15,000 farmers, ranchers, vineyards, wineries, processors, retailers, distributors, trade associations, consumer brands and restaurants with a wide variety of value-added services.  That’s a lot of support and we’re growing!  The reason why farmers, consumers, brands and other organizations work with Where Food Comes From is because we lead with our heart.  Sustainability is important to everyone at Where Food Comes From. The demand has never been greater and Where Food Comes From is here to deliver on those demands through more transparency and standards.  So this Valentine’s Day week, we thank you for letting us speak to you from our heart about something that we CARE so much about!

For more information, https://wfcfcare.com

WFCF Storybit : Mariah Vineyards

Let’s go where the hospitality is genuine, and the wine is aromatic. Jump in the car, take in the scenery, we are headed down the country roads to check out Mariah Vineyard.  Let’s savor the fantastic taste of their many different grapes grown from sustainable farming practices. Their handcrafted wines are sure to leave you wanting more. From red berry fruit to vanilla spice they truly create a unique wine.  Let’s find out how a dream became a reality.

The Story

Starting in 1975, Vicki and Dan Dooling searched for the perfect land to start a vineyard.  This was prior to the popularity of vineyards and they wanted land outside of the mainstream vineyard areas. Dan was on the road during those days trucking throughout the 11 Western states for a company out of the San Francisco Bay area. Whenever he had a few days free, Vicki and Dan would look for potential vineyard land.  Finally, they found exactly what they were looking for.  The land was located on a mountain top in North West California in Mendocino County, which is 6 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at 2,700-foot elevation. Dan had also showed the location to a close confidant of his from the local wine scene.  He instantly thought that Dan had found a diamond in the rough. Now, Dan had to turn it into a shining jewel and that he did over the next 25 years. They bought that timbered ground in 1979, cleared it, worked the ground, and established an infrastructure which became Mariah Vineyards.

Dan and Vicki planted their first 20 acres of Zinfendel in 1980 and 1981.  They did this all while living in a very small cabin with their two ranch dogs.  Because they had no employees during those years, Vicki’s mom and dad would come up from San Francisco to help layout the vineyard and plant the grapes.

Now, let’s fast forward to the present.  Today, they are in their 41st wine season and live by the philosophy of the Native Americans, “Walk softly on Mother Earth”. This has been their creed as stewards and farmers of the vineyard.  Their calendar year starts in January when they start pruning the previous year’s growth off. This means about 90% of all canes are the cut off, chopped up, and reincorporated into the ground.  They incorporate this with the cover crop of clover from the fall after harvest, then they tie up any arms that need tying and do any repairs to the stakes and trellis that support the vines. Spring cultivation and mowing is next with a few sprays of sulfur to clean up over wintering fungus or mildews.

One of the more important practices that they changed in the last 18 years is the switch to ‘dry farming.”  During that timeframe, they did experience a loss in acres and grapes, but one thing did stick out, the flavor profile.  So, in 1991 they started their own bonded winery and brand, Mariah Wines.  In doing so, they diverted about 2% of the grapes to their own small commercial winery. This gave them diversification in their farming operation regardless of the size.

This means they do not irrigate during summertime.  Instead, they rely on the rain they receive in the winter, which is usually between 80 to 120 inches of rainfall. With high organic content in the soil 9%-13% of the moisture holding capacity of the soil will get them through the growing season. They are not just farmers; they are winemakers and artists in their industry. Their pace maybe unhurried, but the flavors are worth the wait.

Verification Programs

Mariah Vineyards has been tied to the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance (CSWA) for years and have seen the benefits from their guidance and verification. They are currently in the process of upping their game even more in the near future.  This allows Mariah Vineyard to be more in tune with their family heritage of farming ideals. They elected to get involved with CSWA programs because it fit the way they’ve done business dating back to 1981.

Why Verify

Dan and Vicki are both supporters of the verification process because they have experienced the benefits and believe verification helps show credibility and honesty in the relationship between winegrower and customer.  This gives their customers assurance when selecting their wine and grapes.  Understanding the story of your product is important and with so many different brands and types it’s important to be transparent.  They rely and cherish the relationship they have created with their customers. If you enjoy reading about where your food comes from, Dan wants you to know it’s all about working hard with family and nature to produce an honest healthy product that you enjoy consuming. Wine and a good meal, the perfect combo!

Where Can You Find Mariah Wines?

Some of the wineries that buy Mariah grapes for their wines are:

  • Donkey & Goat – Berkeley, Cali.
  • Waist-Mast Wines – San Francisco, Cali.
  • Dogwood and Thistle – Napa, Cali.
  • Newton Wines – St.Helena, Napa Valley, Cali.
  • Seghesio Wines – Healdsburg, Cali.
  • LaRochell – Kenwood, Cali.
  • Wooden Head Wines – Healdsburg, Cali.
  • 1211Wines – San Francisco, Cali.
  • Rockwall Wines- Alameda, Cali.
  • Red Car Wines – Sebastopol, Cali.
  • Bee Hunter – Boonville, Cali.,
  • and their own winery Mariah Wines, Manchester, Cali.

Today they grow many different grape varieties – Old Vine Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, 4 varieties of Pinot Noir, and Primotivo; all of which are dry farmed.

Dan would like to share and give credit to the vineyards, that as stewards of the land they farm, which he says is best done by an old wine god saying :

“Back of the Wine is the Vintner
and back thru the years is his skill
but back of it all, are the Vines in the Sun and the Rain
and the Masters will”
-Bacchus, wine God

Learn more about Mariah on their website or by following them on Facebook!
Did you miss our blog on the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance?  Catch it here, and learn more about the program on their website.