A small group of growers throughout the Pacific Northwest came to realize that in order to ensure that the land was well cared for and the crops they grew were food, not just commodities, a new model was needed. They knew truly sustainable agriculture was not just about doing what is best for the land, it also has to serve the economic needs of the community and be focused on the central role of farming - producing nutritious and wholesome food.
Our founders, Karl Kupers and Fred Fleming saw the need not only for a better way of farming, but a new model for supporting best practices and ensuring these practices are sustainable long term Their vision became the foundation of what is Shepherd’s Grain®
Why Shepherd’s Grain®?
Shepherd’s Grain® was founded on a few basic principles developed by Karl Kupers and Fred Fleming in those early days of the company.
Sustainability is a long game view - it is not just about what you do today or even this year or the next. As Kupers has said it “You have to have the willingness to come to the new land and burn your ship so there’s no way of going back home to the old ways.”
Sustainability = Continuous Improvement – After years of degradation due to tillage and monoculture, our farmers have shifted their focus from the crop to the soil underneath it. Every decision is weighed against the goal of what is in the best interest of the soil. Healthy soil produce healthy food.
Cost of Production is the basis – Just like any business, you can’t sell your product for less than it costs to produce it. If we are to encourage farmers to take risks and focus on improvement, commodity markets and subsidies will not get us there.
Relationships are Key – There was a time when everyone knew a farmer, but as times have changed. Many urban people have never seen a farm and many farmers have lost touch with their basic purpose, growing food. By regenerating the connection between farmers and consumers, everyone benefits. Relationships are built on communication and transparency and this is how we improve our world together.
Quality is Job #1 – What the founders discovered early on is not only were they able to grow food that was better for the environment but with the relationships with bakers, plant breeders, and researchers they had built, it really does taste better and performs better. Every variety we grow has been tested by professional bakers. If bakers don’t like it, we don’t grow it and it shows in the high quality products produced with Shepherd’s Grain®.
Today there are nearly 35 growers who raise wheat for Shepherd’s Grain®. These growers are from two geographical areas, southern Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. All of our growers must be certified by Food Alliance™ for sustainability, comply with our exacting standards for land improvement and only grow the grains that meet the exacting standards of our customers. At the end of the day, Fleming says, "By purchasing Shepherd’s Grain® flour products not only do you become a food activist, you also become a disciple to save the family farm."
Fred and Karl overseeing Shepherd’s Grain’s sustainably managed fields and soil north of Reardan, WA.