At first glance, Patagonia Provisions may seem cliché. Next to an up-marked mountain logo T-shirt, Provisions can easily catch a bad wrap as it conjures notions of a core outdoor brand that now appeals more to yuppies and wannabes—trying to cash in on their open checkbook. But as a company, Patagonia has always been committed to sustainability and environmentalism. From its beginnings (debuting as a Wild Salmon Jerky in 2012), Provisions has been strategic. Utilizing their position, Patagonia took the first step in trying to change the way consumers view food and sustainability, and like any core skier or climber, they schemed their way into getting what they wanted. That scheme is now taking shape with the expansion of Patagonia Provisions, and, more importantly, is creating a movement through Regenerative Organic Certification.
In 2017 the Rodale Institute introduced Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance. The idea and goal was to build upon the organic movement and create a certification process that enriches the soil used in the production of food, while placing value on the animals and workers. Think of it as a more holistic certification than traditional Organic, with pillars identifying soil health, animal welfare, and social justice. Patagonia representatives, along with other farmers, business leaders, and sustainability experts comprise the board. It seemed like an unlikely place for an outdoor industry brand, though the more you explore their vision and learn about its value proposition, the more it begins to make sense for this company who has always made business decisions with a focus on environmental stewardship.
“Patagonia Provisions is in business to save our home planet,” says Birgit Cameron—Director, Patagonia Provisions. “Over the past eight years, we have seen a real demand for responsibly-sourced food that is grown with regenerative organic methods – people want to be part of a movement that puts the planet first.”
Similarly to how Patagonia retooled its supply chain for natural fibers in apparel production, the company has now partnered with over 800 organic farmers in the ROC food and apparel pilot program administered by Regenerative Organic Alliance. Regenerative organic farming differs from current industrial farming in that it allows healthy soils to grow, sequestering carbon in the soil and providing for healthier crops. Think healthy and strong plants with long roots rather than fields of crops that are harvested and tilled each year, resulting in dust bowls and reduction in topsoil with higher greenhouse gas emissions.
The products range a full gamut, from snacks skier’s can appreciate while on the lift or skin track like the free-roaming and grass-fed bison jerky, fruit and almond bars, dried regenerative organic chile mango, to complete nutritious meals. Most recently, Provisions launched a 2-Day Camp Mix Kit complete with recipes for how to mix and match the food while out on a camping trip or at home.
The camping kit is a delicious mix of soups, breakfast and savory grains, cans of their organic sofrito and smoked mussels, wild sockeye salmon, and snack bars for when out and about. The lightly smoked salmon is delicious as well as the grain and soup mixes, with the seed mixes being the dark horse of flavor and crunch for salads. The organic red bean chili was also a big hit, and I can see this being a go-to spring campsite ski mission dinner. Additionally, the products are tying to be affordable at the same time, intentionally trying to make sure that healthy and sustainable food isn’t a division of class.
For years our modern-day food system has been broken. Countless books, articles, and films depict the harmful effects of big agriculture. Industrial farming and its current monocultural practices as well as pesticide and fertilizer use contribute to a sizeable amount of greenhouse gas emissions. More recently we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic expose the faults of industrial agriculture, driving habitat loss and creating the possibility for new viruses to emerge, and disruptions of food supply chains. This compounded with increasing numbers of people experiencing hunger and facing food shortages.
“This pandemic has changed everything in the world, including our relationship with food. Supporting local, organic producers and farmers has never been more important, as they are one of the many frontline teams in this pandemic. So now, more than ever, Patagonia Provisions’ commitment to providing delicious, nutritious, and shelf-stable food for the community has never been more clear,” says Cameron.
In an April essay Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia noted that at this rate of industrial agriculture, “we have only about 60 harvests left,” referencing a topsoil study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That forecast is pretty dismal, which is in part why their new-found venture and partnership with the Regenerative Organic Alliance makes sense—both for Provisions and as stewards for sustainability. And while Patagonia may be leading this charge, a few brands I’ve seen skiers use are joining too. Brands like Dr. Bronners, Guyaki Yerba Mate, Horizon Grass Fed Milk, Natures Path Organics, and Maple Hill Creamery are all part of the ROC Pilot Program. So while Provisions may at first seem eye-roll-worthy, it is quite the opposite—it strives to highlight the beginnings of a sustainable food revolution, ideally available to all, and aimed at protecting our planet and maybe a few powder days too.