The smell hits you as soon as you walk through the door: freshly baked bread. Lots of it. The Sprouted Oven in Abbotsford, British Columbia has it all–muffins, cinnamon rolls, bagels, a sizable retail store, and even a gluten-free bakery. The best part? Everything is plant-based, non-GMO, and made with organic grains. I was left with two questions: 1) Who are the masters behind this forward-thinking, trendy cafe? And 2) How many times in a month can I cross the border simply to buy avocado toast before my family and border patrol grow concerned?
The Sprouted Oven is the brainchild of Stan and Kathy Smith and Brad Brousson, who are also the founders of Silver Hills Bakery. In 2011, Stan and Kathy founded One Degree Organic Foods. The Non-GMO Project team recently had the privilege of chatting with Stan and Kathy about One Degree Organics over vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. Stan and Kathy were warm, friendly—and exceptionally passionate about providing transparency to consumers when it comes to their products.
Stan and Kathy’s goals seemed lofty. They asked themselves: How can our family help rebuild trust in good, clean foods? Their solution was innovative, but also quite simple: scan or enter the code on their One Degree products to meet the farmers who helped produce the food. Stan describes it as a farmers market for prepared food–with the touch of a button, you can read up on farmers who cultivate cacao from Peru or oats from Canada. Consumers are able to get to know and trust the farmers One Degree works with, and Stan and Kathy’s team have traveled all over the globe searching for small farmers and producers who use methods passed down over generations so consumers are able to taste nature’s most nutrient-rich ingredients. “It’s sometimes hard for people to believe we actually visit every farmer,” Stan said. “But we look for farmers who we can have a sustained relationship with, and consumers have found it very reassuring that we’ve taken the time to check each farmer out.”
Naturally, I asked Stan why One Degree goes to such great lengths to disclose the source of their ingredients. “Let’s make it so that there’s visibility to the farmer,” Stan said. “Most food producers try to keep their suppliers confidential. We feel there shouldn’t be commoditization when it comes to the source of our food. The true source of our food is the farmers, and there needs to be an openness and a connection to where food comes from and how it’s grown.”
This commitment to transparency is also reflected in the brand’s name. “The idea of six degrees of separation is a term people are familiar with,” Stan continued. “There’s often six different layers between what you get at the grocery store and the farmer who started the process. We wanted to open that up so there’s full visibility.” It also puts more accountability on the food producer, as well. “It makes us think about the fact that we’re preparing someone’s food,” Stan reflected.
So, what’s one of their favorite farmer stories? “We wanted to make a product with corn, and it was surprising how even organic corn can have some GMO contamination,” Stan replied. “In talking with the Non-GMO Project, there were a lot of things we learned about testing and the stringency of the verification process when it comes to corn.”
“The first corn farmer we chose grew an ancient variety of corn from an area of Mexico where there was no genetically modified corn grown anywhere in the province, so there was no risk of cross-contamination,” Stan continued. “[Their farm] was on the side of a volcano and it was at a high elevation, and there were people who had grown maize there for centuries. When we put in our order–we bought their entire supply and next year’s crop—they had some of their kids who had gone to the city to work come back and farm with them. It was so cool.”
Stan also talked about why Non-GMO Project verification, in particular, was so important to One Degree. He hopes the butterfly verification mark on their products will help build awareness around the GMO issue, and perhaps prompt consumers to visit our website or do their own research in order to make an informed choice.
Stan, however, thinks this is where the industry is heading, and that soon we’ll find that more food companies will start to realize that they need to have this level of transparency around their products, and figure out a way to convey where their food comes from. We couldn’t agree more!
When we asked Kathy what her proudest moments have been in shepherding One Degree to success, she said it’s when kids approach her at events with their parents and tell her they’ve seen the farmer stories and they’re baking with those same ingredients. “As a kid in the kitchen cooking with their parents–it’s changing their life, really.”
“One Degree Organic Foods is a storytelling business. It’s our purpose to connect people with the source of their food,” shared Stan. One Degree has written a story that we can all be proud to be a part of. If you are as inspired as we are by One Degree Organic Foods and their commitment to clean foods and supply-chain transparency, be sure to visit their website for more farmer stories, recipes, and more!