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Pumpkin farms adapt, improve soil, lower emissions

SHOTLIST:RESTRICTION SUMMARY:ASSOCIATED PRESSAtlanta, Illinois - 12 September 20221. Various of pumpkins on farmer Bill Sahs' fieldANNOTATION: On the central Illinois farms that supply most of the world's canned pumpkin, farmers are adopting regenerative techniques.2. Wide of pumpkin-picking equipment picking pumpkinsANNOTATION: The goal is to reduce emissions, attract natural pollinators like bees and butterflies and improve the health of the soil.3. Close of pumpkins in field++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY OVERLAID++4. . SOUNDBITE (English) Bill Sahs, pumpkin farmer:"We try to save as much soil as we can and now we just work the ground one time in the spring of the year and plant the ground, and away you go."5. Wide pan of pumpkins in field++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY COVERED++6.SOUNDBITE (English) Rachelle Malin, Nestle environmental specialist:"Bill, from implementing reduced tillage practices, has saved 119 tons of soil in 2021. That's equivalent to, like, seven dump trucks."7. Various of Bill Sahs checking on pumpkins in the field by cutting into one of them for a sampleANNOTATION: The canned food company Libby's began its regenerative agriculture program in 2021 with the 38 Illinois farms that grow its pumpkins on 6,000 acres.++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY OVERLAID++8. SOUNDBITE (English) Bill Sahs, pumpkin farmer:"By having the bees in the field, you don't have to have the wind and the rain and all the environmental stuff that goes along with transferring the pollen to the other flower. The bees transfer it for you."9. Close of bees near pumpkin blossom - one flies off++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY OVERLAID++10. SOUNDBITE (English) Rachelle Malin, Nestle environmental specialist:"His land has been passed down for generations and he wants that there for future generations. And so really, that is the benefit that we're helping make sure that that land is there. If we don't do some of these things, you know, that land may not be able to grow or sustain life in the future if we just continue to degrade it."11. Close of pumpkins in field12. Wide of pumpkins being loaded into trucks++SOUNDBITE PARTIALLY OVERLAID++13. SOUNDBITE (English) Bill Sahs, pumpkin farmer:"Farming has changed so much in the 47 years that I've been farming. And you always want to change. If you can't change, then you won't be around very long."14. Mid of farm equipment picking pumpkins and loading them into binsSTORYLINE:Your next pumpkin pie may have a lower carbon footprint.On the central Illinois farms that supply 85% of the world's canned pumpkin, farmers are adopting regenerative techniques designed to reduce emissions, attract natural pollinators like bees and butterflies and improve the health of the soil.The effort is backed by Libby's, the 150-year-old canned food company, which processes 120,000 tons of pumpkins each year from these Illinois fields. Libby's parent, the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, is one of a growing number of big food companies supporting the transition to regenerative farming in the U.S.Regenerative farming, which has its roots in indigenous cultures, looks different depending on the crops or livestock being farmed. At its heart is ensuring that soil is thriving, whether through reduced plowing, which keeps bugs, carbon and other nutrients in the ground, or other practices, like rotating crops or using fewer synthetic chemicals and fertilizers that can degrade soil over time.It's not organic farming, which has stricter rules and certification, although many of the practices are similar. Libby's began its regenerative agriculture program in 2021 with the 38 Illinois farms that grow its pumpkins on 6,000 acres. The program is part of an effort to meet Nestle's larger goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.Other big food companies have launched similar programs over the last few years. In 2019, General Mills set a goal of adopting regenerative practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030; so far, the company says 225,000 acres have enrolled in its programs, including one that pays farmers for credits they earn when they increase soil carbon or improve water quality.Last year, PepsiCo set a goal of transitioning 7 million acres of farmland to regenerative agriculture by 2030. And Walmart has said it will directly support 30,000 Midwest farmers in their transition to regenerative farming by 2030.No one keeps track of the number of U.S. farms using regenerative farming techniques, but they are widespread. Bill Sahs, who grows pumpkins for Libby's in Atlanta, Illinois, has been farming for 47 years. He joined the regenerative farming program in 2021, and now works with scientists from Nestle and EcoPractices, an environmental consulting firm, to test his soil and try new methods.Sahs used to plow his 200 acres of pumpkin fields, rake them over with a till, apply chemicals, plow them again and then plant them. Now, he works the ground just once before planting, which keeps carbon and other nutrients in the soil and makes it less susceptible to wind erosion. It also cuts emissions, he said. 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