Tucker Garrison @ Imlak'esh Organics & CHi Foods:
Indigenous Wisdom & The Regenerative Plant-Based Meat
Kicking off our first brand profile of 2023 is Tucker Garrison, Co-Founder and CEO of Imlak'esh Organics and CHi Foods. Tucker and his Co-Founder / Partner, Philip Matthew, are supporting a diverse supply chain and regenerative systems from over 2,000 BIPOC farmers in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Thailand and Lao, selling a variety of superfood products and a new certified organic plant-based meat.
Imlak'esh Organics is a direct trade superfood company that markets sacha inchi nuts, macambo beans, cacao, as well as spirulina, maca, and other powers from around the world.
CHi Foods is the first and only organic plant-based pork in the world. CHi meat is made from sacha inchi nuts; it contains eight times the omega-3 content as salmon, four times the protein of macadamia nuts, and zero net carbs, and because it’s not a tree nut, sacha inchi is top-9 allergen-free. The line currently includes 4 SKUs – Chorizo, Italian Herb, Maple Breakfast and Original.
⬆️ Me eating CHi tacos at Expo West last year 🤤
Sprouts is their biggest retail partner, selling their products in all 380 stores. CHi has also been picked up by independent grocery stores nationwide like Earth Fare and two large chains in the Midwest, Hy-vee and Meijer. They also have an online presence, food service partnerships and collaborations with prominent plant-based restaurants like Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles.
Like many founders in natural foods, Tucker was driven by a health issue — in his case, debilitating migraines caused by a sensitivity to food preservatives, colorants and additives. After switching to a vegan and organic diet, Tucker was inspired to study plant medicine – immersing himself for three years with indigenous communities around the world, including the Kʼicheʼ and Kaqchikel Maya of Guatemala and the Quechua in Peru.
It was there, among the Amazon’s 80,000 plant species, that he learned about sacha inchi nuts and macambo beans, and where the seed for the Imlak’esh brand was planted by a local medicine man. (Imlak’esh is an incantation and means “within you another me, within me another you” – in other words, we only do well by ourselves if we do well by others.) It was also where their mission to regeneratively transform social and ecological systems was born.
“We've built this ethical bridge between small-scale farmers and a global marketplace – so these farmers can engage with the global capitalist system in a positive way, not in a degenerative or extractive way. That’s really at the core of what we do. We want to be the exact antithesis to the way conventional CPG brands are launched and sold.” – Tucker
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“No Sketchy Stuff”
CHi is redefining plant-based meats. Made with the sacha inchi nut, CHi uses a proprietary heat friction process that crosslinks proteins to create a meat-like texture. No chemicals or additives – just the core nutrient profile of the nut that’s grown in a regenerative system. Contrast that to most plant-based meat that includes hyper-processed, industrial petrochemical agriculture-grown soy, pea and wheat protein isolates that are fermented, extruded or processed in some way to achieve a meat-like texture.
“Most plant-based meat has really missed the mark on human health. Hyper-processing, genetically modified laboratory food is not the future of human food because health is totally missing. The closer we are to having a connection to our food, to eating real food that’s organic, nutrient-dense, made with ingredients from biodiverse systems, the better it is for humans and the planet.” – Tucker
Shifting the Regenerative Paradigm
For Tucker, regenerative ag goes beyond how we’re currently growing commoditized crops and shifts to being intentional about choosing the right crop(s) for each individual ecosystem. It’s about expanding the diversification of what we’re planting in the ground and what we’re consuming. Beyond agriculture, it is something much deeper.
“Regeneration isn't just a thing in agriculture. It's a way of thinking. It's a living systems framework that gets you into the mind of what it means to be part of nature rather than an engineer that is working on nature.” – Tucker
Our Path to 50% Market Share 4 ReGen
Tucker believes we need to change how we incentivize and subsidize agriculture. We need to empower the indigenous, native peoples that have lived and breathed regenerative agriculture. We need to support small and medium-sized organic, regenerative operations – not big industrial petrochemical ag. We need to disincentivize and tax those systems that degrade ecosystems and poison waterways. And most importantly, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, we need to “throw a better party” in everything we do, grabbing the attention of the people that will support this movement.
⬆️ The party planning committee (Just Kyle & I listening to EDM in his garage) 🤣
You can check out the full episode with Tucker from Imlak'esh / CHi HERE.
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This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober