Keith Rowe was born and raised in Ireland. Meghan Rowe studied in France and Spain. They met in the United States in 2008 and, in 2013, had a son.
Their quest to find the simple, clean food they'd loved while living in Europe led to another creation: White Leaf Provisions, baby food made with biodynamic ingredients. Unfortunately, American farmers weren't familiar with biodynamic practices. So even though the Rowes legally created their business in 2016, it took two years of sourcing ingredients, finding a manufacturing partner and raising funds before their first products made it to retail shelves.
That same year, White Leaf Provisions won its first NEXTY awards: Best New Pantry Food for biodynamic applesauce with Ceylon cinnamon and Best New Organic Food for its biodynamic baby food. Judges were impressed with the freshness of the baby food, as well as its sustainably grown, organic and GMO-free ingredients. In 2019, White Leaf Provisions became the first shelf-stable baby food in the U.S. to be certified Glyphosate Residue Free by The Detox Project.
Both Keith and Meghan Rowe responded when we asked them to share White Leaf Provision's story and why the NEXTY award is important to them and the company.
When you were looking for healthier, sustainable baby food for your son, what prompted you to start the business instead of just making the food for your family?
Meghan Rowe: Before White Leaf, Keith was a classically French trained chef whose career was guided by clean and simple foods grown in a responsible manner. We met when Keith moved to the U.S. in 2008, and five years later, we gave birth to our first son, Keegan. We were both passionate about cooking the majority of meals from scratch, using the cleanest produce we could source. Like all parents, however, a time came when we started looking for convenient store-bought options and discovered baby and toddler food grocery store aisles.
We immediately recognized an unmet need. We saw lots of organic and GMO-free certified products, but none that went a few steps beyond to showcase regenerative farming. We began to import biodynamic baby food from Europe, realized that other parents were doing the same, and knew we were onto something.
When and how did you get White Leaf Provisions into its first retailer?
Keith Rowe: Being certified Biodynamic by Demeter, we set our sights on introducing our products in California first. Our first retailer was Erewhon, a specialty natural foods grocer based in Los Angeles with a cult following—a great achievement at the time for a small brand with very little presence.
In 2017, Meghan Rowe told New Hope Network, "Biodynamics is not easy to do at all, but it's definitely the right thing to do because the U.S. needs access to pure, transparent food products." What were your biggest challenges in finding farms that follow biodynamic or regenerative practices?
MR: The biggest challenge has and continues to be introducing farmers in the U.S. to this level of farming. More and more, there is demand from consumers and within the agriculture industry for a method of farming that pushes the boundaries of organic farming.
We have always had the "if we build it, they will come" mentality toward growing our business. We felt deeply that this level of purity, which had never been available in the U.S. before, would be something that parents would naturally gravitate towards. We believed, and indeed so far have seen, that if the consumers are interested in and are willing to invest in the products, the farmers will eventually adopt and shift towards these principles as well.
How do you support farmers who want to begin using regenerative farming practices?
KR: Like many, we are still students of this level of farming. We like to refer all interested farmers to tried-and-true experts like the BDA (Biodynamic Association), Demeter USA and the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC).
We also understand that, above all, farmers know the specifics of their farms and land best, and that ultimately, they need to explore the option for themselves.
We've found that farmers in the U.S. understand that growing crops in a regenerative manner is the right thing to do. Many gravitate toward the idea of a self-sustaining farm that is chemical-free and uses farming practices that grow healthier nutrient-rich crops. They understand it's a win-win for human health, soil and planet health, and land productivity.
White Leaf Provisions won its first NEXTY Awards in 2018. How did the company benefit from that win?
MR: The national exposure has been wonderful in assisting in our distribution efforts, within retail and with general buyer awareness, which in turn, also supports our fundraising efforts. It has been a privilege to include the awards on our website and within our pitch decks.
Why did you seek another NEXTY Award in 2021? What did winning a second time mean to you?
MR: It is always an honor to share our new product launches with the New Hope community and we are so proud of creating products that not only work to help heal the earth our kids will inherit, but also to show how simple convenient food can be in its construction. Winning again was a great validation that our somewhat crazy idea eight years ago has resonated with a larger community.
In 2021, we won Best New Kids Product for our Peach + Oat blend, which was the first time we introduced peaches to the line, as well as grains. The oats are a not-often seen ingredient in baby food blends and add an extra level of satiating nutrition.
We are proud that our other launch this year, our Pumpkin + Nectarine blend was also honored as a NEXTY finalist for best overall new organic product.
After starting with baby food, you've added applesauce to your brand. What's next for White Leaf Provisions?
MR: We are excited to launch our line of regeneratively farmed oats and muesli in 2022, which is geared toward the entire family and hungry adults alike. We always knew we wanted to offer humans of all ages access to products that have regenerative and biodynamics at their core. We also plan on launching more convenient options in the future so our customers can regenerate their pantries, A to Z.