This week, Scandinavian brand Hälsa Foods—known for its drinkable vegan oat-based yogurts—announced an initiative to convert existing dairy farms in the United States to grow organic oats. The company creates its products from herbicide-free oats grown in Scandinavia’s “Oat Valley,” and aims to import the practice to make its US-based businesses more sustainable. Hälsa has assembled a coalition of Scandinavian farmers and researchers to compile educational materials to help US dairy farmers transition to growing climate-friendly oats for use in non-dairy products. “Oats are one of the most environmentally friendly ingredients for making plant-based milks and other products,” Hälsa co-founders Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen said in a joint statement. “We are currently importing our organic oats from Scandinavia because we cannot find the quality that meets our standard in the United States. At the same time, US dairy farms are struggling due to slumping milk sales. So we thought, why not come up with a solution that benefits both us and our planet?” High Meadows of Hoosik, an Upstate New York farm which milks 200 cows, is the first to participate in Hälsa’s initiative. “We’re excited to get started,” High Meadows owners, Eric and Jamie Ziehm, said in a joint statement. “Our goal is to build a biodiverse and biodynamic ecosystem that has the ability to regenerate its resources. We hope this will have a positive impact and also inspire our fellow farmers who are facing many challenges today.” According to statistics revealed last year by the Dairy Farmers of America, milk sales plummeted by $1.1 billion in 2018. Conversely, recent SPINS research shows that plant-based food sales, including those of vegan milks, have grown by 11 percent—compared to a growth of only two percent in the overall US retail food market—in a 52-week period ending on April 29, 2019, suggesting that a transition from animal farming to growing plant-based crops can help struggling dairy farmers become profitable in the modern food system.
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