As the sustainability manager for ofi’s spices team, I’m constantly reminded of how interconnected our environment is, from the atmosphere all around us to the watershed and soil beneath our feet. For example, did you know that the health of our farmlands depends on the health of our forests? And that water is one of the vital ties that binds them?
Water is one of the most valued inputs in agricultural production. Because water from forests supply both surface and groundwater, a healthy forest is essential to supporting thriving farms and communities downstream.
That’s why ofi has partnered with the USDA Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, and Knorr, a Unilever brand, on a comprehensive series of sustainability projects to help ensure we’re giving more back to our planet– from forest to farm.
Combined, these projects are expected to provide benefits to a watershed that supplies water to 920,000 acres of farmland and includes:
- Replenishment of over 660 million gallons of water
- Carbon storage benefits of 80,000 metric tons of carbon
- Restoration of 2,100 acres of forest
Through controlled burns and meadow restoration efforts within the Sierra National Forest’s Pine Flats watershed, we’re working together to replenish the water source that supplies roughly 50% of the water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. Not only is the San Joaquin Valley California’s top-producing agricultural region, it’s also home to many of the onion, garlic, and parsley growers that supply ofi. The state’s agriculture industry is dependent on this natural ecosystem for the year-round supply of high-quality surface water and groundwater, both of which are integral to crop irrigation.
Meanwhile, down in the valley, we’re conserving water by working with growers that supply ofi to convert from sprinkler systems to 100% drip irrigation. This shift has the potential to reduce water applications significantly and reduce growers’ costs in the process. Additional projects in our San Joaquin Valley onion and garlic fields are focused on improving soil health, reducing fertilizer application and ultimately, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. These are critical climate actions aimed at protecting the health of farms, forests and our global population.
Even on the farm, there are no silos – at least, figuratively speaking. The health of one ecosystem affects another. It will require collective effort, and more public-private partnerships like this one, to protect those ecosystems long into the future.
I’m proud to be part of ofi and our collaborative partners who “make it real”. I feel as though I can go to work every day and make a difference – in the environment, the food system, growers’ lives, and for the people who are living in the communities in which we operate. Find out more about ofi’s sustainability efforts.