2024 KCP Application
Perennial Farming Initiative
Customers & Partnerships
Primary Project Category:
Project Summary / Description:
PFI co-founders Karen Leibowitz (Executive Director) and Anthony Myint (Director of Operations) founded PFI in 2015 with the goal of championing regenerative agriculture. As restaurateurs who founded The Perennial, lauded as the most sustainable restaurant in the world, Leibowitz and Myint were uniquely situated to mobilize chefs and diners around sustainable food system change, and they developed the Healthy Soil Guide in response to customers asking for help connecting with regenerative farmers.
How Project Affects Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions:
Restaurants possess incredible potential for advocacy and impact. In the United States, the restaurant industry accounts for $783 billion in GDP (almost as much as the entire agricultural sector, valued at $835 billion) and employs one-tenth of this nation‚ workforce. PFI thus incorporates a vision that motivates chefs around the country to celebrate healthy soil as a boon to both people and our planet until the average consumer demands truly sustainable food, which will then motivate farmers to produce it. Many chefs and diners intuit that healthy soil produces delicious and nutritious food but a vast majority of people may not fully understand how increased soil carbon acts as a real defense against climate change. They may not know that Soil Organic Matter (SOM) can serve as a simple metric that encapsulates healthy soil and best practices on a farm. Meanwhile, even farmers and ranchers who understand the value of regenerative agriculture still may lack the resources to share information about that value to consumers. In response, PFI seeks funding for its Healthy Soil Guide, which will encourage chefs and consumers to reward farmers for using agriculturally and environmentally sustainable practices. Through the Healthy Soil Guide, PFI endeavors to make healthy soil an aspirational quality that drives purchasing decisions, by leveraging its credibility, connections, and networks of highly influential chefs to expedite a cultural shift towards climate-protecting food production. The guide will incentivize regenerative agriculture through the general public‚ capacity to reward those restaurants (and their supplier farms and ranches) that participate. It will also create the necessary link between climate-conscious consumers and producers, allowing regenerative agriculture to expand economically and thereby draw down a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere into healthy soil. The Healthy Soil Guide will create a rating system for participating farms and ranches, based on SOM levels and a SOM score. With this information, chefs and consumers will be able to make market choices based on SOM levels, rewarding those farms and ranches that are engaging in healthy soil practices, which have been proven to increase carbon uptake and reduce GHG emissions. By incentivizing increased carbon in soil, PFI will offer an immediate, attainable, affordable approach to overcoming the climate change crisis. As soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal has found: A mere two percent increase in the carbon content of the planet‚ soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. To do this, we must start prioritizing healthy soil practices that absorb and sequester carbon immediately. The Healthy Soil Guide will include tabs for farms, ranches, and restaurants committed to healthy soil, as well as a short film featuring seven influential chefs--Yotam Ottolenghi, Corey Lee, Dominique Crenn, Jeremy Fox, Anthony Myint, Tanya Holland, and Dan Barber‚Äîbecause these days, celebrities lead public opinion, and in the food world, chefs are the celebrities. Our goal is to provide the tools that allow for a new, delicious revolution in the food system. We believe that consumer demand for regenerative agriculture can eventually drive voter demand for a truly sustainable food policy, which is oriented not only to feeding the nation but also to drawing down greenhouse gases. For customers who feel overwhelmed by messaging around sustainable food choices, the Guide will offer simple signposts pointing toward the best choices; for more committed shoppers accustomed to buying organic, the Guide will provide links to more detailed information on local sustainable farms and ranches. We will highlight Soil Organic Matter percentage (SOM%) as a primary indicator of soil health, for easy comparison, but we also will offer links to more in-depth information on the science of food and climate, as well as local producers. Given that current US agricultural policy subsidizes conventional systems and practices that contribute to climate change, it may be up to states, businesses, and individual eaters to solve the most pressing problem of our time. Already, California has passed the Healthy Soils Initiative (which PFI lobbied for), and has budgeted $28 million dollars for the coming fiscal year. If we can harness the energy of people disappointed by our nation pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, then we can make a meaningful difference.
Impact on Underrepresented Groups:
The established mission statement of The Perennial Farming Initiative is to foster a renewable food system rooted in healthy soil, through the development of progressive agriculture, supporting food production that is not only environmentally responsible, but also equitable, productive, and delicious. Organizationally, PFI is led by a woman. The Executive Director and the majority of our Board of Directors identifies as female. PFI orients its programs around the principle of increasing access within the food system, and the Healthy Soil Guide not only helps more people connect with healthy food grown in healthy soil, but also expands farmers‚ capacity to participate in carbon farming. As a result, farmers derive economic value from climate-smart agriculture, so that regenerative agriculture does not become a niche market available only to the wealthy. Through our Zero Foodprint program, we mobilize urban diners and chefs to care about rural farm workers‚ health and economic concerns, and actively tell the stories of underrepresented groups. With Restore California, we subsidize healthy soil projects in an effort to lower the barriers to participation, particularly for low-income and immigrant farmers. Whereas the State of California‚ Healthy Soil Program requires cost-sharing and an essay question, our Restore California program‚ application process is less restrictive ‚ designed to welcome even very cash-strapped farmers with limited English skills. We rank applicants on the basis of the amount of carbon their soil can sequester for the cost of implementation, with mechanisms in place to ensure diversity in terms of geography, product mix, economics, and identity. PFI has designed the Healthy Soil Guide to level the playing field for all farmers, by helping under-represented and under-resourced farmers reach more consumers on the basis of soil health, rather than culturally specific marketing investments.
Research or Economic Modeling
Measurement, Reporting & Validation
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