Simple Mills Supports Regenerative/Permaculture Farmers

Update: March 2024

To all our friends from Simple Mills and Elsewhere…

Here is the story of how we met Katlin and what hit home for her while going through the Permaculture Course.

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Thoughts that Katlin left for us in Google Reviews: 

“Straight up incredible. Even as someone who was less than familiar with agriculture and has never spent time on a farm, I found it incredibly valuable. Bill is a remarkable teacher, probably one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever come across. I had no idea how impactful that would be in my selection of a permaculture course. He helps you understand the full picture at a micro and macro level… at both a logical and emotional level. He ensures everyone follows along, he’s funny, he’s passionate, he’s engaging. I never thought 10 hours a day in class would be so easy. I wish this course were mandatory for everyone as a citizen of the world. I understand the world around me differently for this course and highly recommend it for all.”

Katlin at her Course with Us in 2019

“I understand the world around me differently for this course and highly recommend it for all.”

While attending an agroforestry conference in 2022, Midwest Permaculture’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, was pleasantly surprised to learn that Simple Mills was being referenced as a “cutting-edge” business doing “all the right things” to encourage environmentally sound, regenerative agriculture.

Katlin Smith – Founder and CEO of Simple Mills

Just two and half years earlier, Simple Mills founder Katlin Smith, was a student in one of our week-long Permaculture Design Courses when the lightbulb moment happened for her!

Buying ‘certified organic’ for her company’s food products was no longer enough. She wanted to support the health of the planet by supporting farmers who not only refuse to use herbicides and pesticides on our food plants, but she also wanted to support those farmers who were building topsoil health, holding more water in their soils, caring for wildlife and watersheds, caring for farming communities, and caring for future generations.

She made a decision right then and returned to the Simple Mills corporate offices with a mandate:

Let’s find and buy our food stuffs from regenerative/permaculture farmers. And if we can’t find them, let’s help create them!

Katlin visiting one or her new Regenerative/Permaculture farmers who is embracing new farming methods, and in return, earning the guarantee-purchase-contracts Simple Mills is offering.

This story started a decade earlier when Katlin became aware that what she chose to eat had a direct bearing on her health. She started to see the importance of incorporating diverse and nutrient rich foods into her diet and with few tasty options available in our culture’s food supply, she ended up creating her own simple yet brilliant recipes and making her healthy food products available to everyone through the company she also started, Simple Mills. It is a great story.

Simple Mills – Mission from Simple Mills on Vimeo.

And what is the best way to grow diverse, nutritious foods? By using responsible farming methods that not only support and build the health of the soil which supplies our food crops with vitality and real nutrition, but ALSO regenerate and heal our lands, our water sheds and our total environment.

A large part of the journey towards more regenerative food production starts with the crops we choose to grow. In the PDC course, we touch on the fact that our staple crops (wheat, corn, and soy) are grown for the basic proteins, carbohydrates, and oils contained within them. But instead of getting proteins, carbohydrates, and oils from just annual mono-crops whose mass industrial production has been depleting our soils, why not get these staples from ecologically diverse perennial crops grown in systems which can help build topsoil? Examples would be almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

We know it is possible to make familiar foods out of crops that come from trees and perennials (which are easier to produce sustainably), and the implications of diversifying food production are promising not only to our health but also to the health of the environment.

To encourage farmers to do so, we need to support the process it takes for them to transform annual production systems into perennial/agroforestry systems, and work to create a market demand for these advantageous but less familiar crops to ensure their profitability.

Yup. Yummy Pancakes made from Chestnuts!

We also need to support our farmers to embrace regenerative/permaculture farming practices for the annual crops we do still love and wish to grow.

Katlin’s company in impacting the food system by supporting the farmers she works with to grow crops responsibly by helping fund their transition into using regenerative/permaculture techniques that go beyond the U.S. Organic standards. Way Beyond!

Katlin receiving updates from one of her new regenerative/permaculture farmers.

Farmers who supply Simple Mills agree to use diverse cover crops, no-till methods, agroforestry methods like hedgerows and windbreaks to protect their fields, and incorporate animals into their crop systems to add organic fertility. The farmers receive purchasing guarantees and even upfront capital from Simple Mills which greatly minimizes the financial risk present when substantially changing one’s farming practices.

As companies like Simple Mills create a real demand for super-healthy annual and perennial crops, more traditional farmers will be encouraged to make the shift. By creating this market, another pathway is opened up towards regenerative/permaculture agriculture.

Katlin delighted to see the cover crop growing at the feet of the sunflowers. In this mix there are annual grasses, buckwheat, beets, and clovers working together to bring up moisture and nutrients from the subsoil, add organic matter to the topsoil, and fix nitrogen for the sunflowers. The nutrient quality of these sunflower seeds will now be off the conventional charts providing greater health to the consumer of Simple Mills food products.

We applaud Katlin for being a trailblazer for this kind of business model. We knew she had a bold streak in her when during a livestock farm tour at her PDC course, she quietly made her way up to a herd of water buffalo with the confidence of someone approaching a group of bunnies, offering them back rubs and loving scratches. Their appreciation was clear.

Katlin Smith of Simple Mills with water buffalo at a Midwest Permaculture PDC course.

Sometimes, the influence that industrial agriculture holds on our farmers and culture can seem insurmountable. But Katlin is quietly making her way up to it, in her open and honest way, and demonstrating that it is possible to support the building of resilient, regenerative food systems that benefit the environment, the farmer, the entrepreneur and the consumer, all at once.

Her work goes to show that permaculture can make sense in a scale beyond a backyard or homestead. And with support, there are ways for farmers to help heal the planet and improve their bottom line while also providing healthier and healthier foods to our families.

Check out the Simple Mills Webpage on Regenerative Ag.

Great work Katlin…!!!

P.S. By the way… the Simple Mills food products are amazingly delicious and only getting tastier as the ingredients from their farmers continue to improve in quality and nutrient density.

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5 thoughts on “Simple Mills Supports Regenerative/Permaculture Farmers”

  1. Rebecca James

    It was such a pleasure meeting Kaitlin and the other members of the October, 2019 class, and I’m not at all surprised that she is supporting these forward-thinking farmers. I have been buying Simple Mills products since the class. Kaitlin generously provided a plentiful assortment of Simple Mills products for our class to partake of, and they were so special that I have been buying them ever since. I have many happy memories of the class, the class members and the wonderful food!

  2. This is such an inspiring story on so many levels. One person can make a difference. Thank you for the full article about her origin and the current growth of the business.

  3. Great to hear from you again Bill and to know you’re doing well! I’ll be checking out Kaitlin’s site and ordering some of her goodies soon. I’m thrilled to find things that fit my very restricted diet choices – no gluten, dairy, legumes or nightshades. Kind of difficult to create things but I have managed. I would love some variety! Keep up the good work you’re doing, both Kaitlin and Bill!

  4. This is amazing. It is wonderful to see that you, Bill & Becky and your team’s work is inspiring folks to take “the road less traveled” to implement positive change in our food system. I’ve tasted some of their crackers and they are delicious. Thanks for sharing the story behind those tasty crackers.

  5. I love Simple Mills products because they’re made with just a few simple ingredients. I had no idea of their back story, and now I am doubly impressed!