Splenda Stevia Farms: A New American Industry
Updated on October 13, 2023
By Chip Carter
Producer and Host
Where The Food Comes From
I’ve been in the national media since… well, for a very long time, long enough that my earliest years were spent tapping on a typewriter (Remember those? Anybody?) writing for a newspaper (same question… anybody?).
I spent years as a globetrotting syndicated columnist with The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, then later signed on with The Huffington Post.
I’d already seen some things before I set out on a whole new adventure a few years ago, this time in the world of television. I came home to tell the stories of my people – the farmers and families that feed us all – and I knew they had to be told in a visual format.
My national primetime television series Where The Food Comes From premiered in January 2022 on The RFD-TV Network and later this year – now in Season 4 — will get amplified even further by a new agency deal that will land us on multiple other networks everywhere. It’s a big change.
But something else about me has changed even more recently than that, and it changed because of my experience working with Heartland Food Products Group, makers of Splenda brand products.
I’ve watched for years as corporate America has exported industry, jobs and opportunity. We’ve gotten kind of used to the idea. We certainly never expect to see that flow reverse.
Back in March I received a press release from Heartland promising to bring stevia production to the United States, and to partner up with small family farms to grow that crop.
You may not realize it, but the corporate world has found its way to agriculture. In areas where there were once 30, 40, 50 family farming operations, there may be three or four now. There are plenty of farm families willing to fight the fight because they’re truly passionate and dedicated to feeding the world. Often that’s generational – their people have been doing the same for years and years and years. Farmers expect hard times.
They don’t expect support. Remarkably, that’s what they’re getting from Heartland.
The March press release led me to reach out to Heartland to discuss a possible episode of Where The Food Comes From. They saw the opportunity and we immediately went to work planning and prepping.
In early May my team traveled to Lake Panasoffkee, FL to visit the Splenda Stevia Farms and meet the incredible team dedicated to bringing jobs and opportunity back to the US.
Ted Gelov, Chairman and CEO of Heartland, also flew down to meet us and discuss his vision for the farms. He told me that when Heartland bought the Splenda brand in 2016 it was already his goal to have an America-first program, with all products made or grown in the USA.
I know what powerful, accomplished people are like. I know what America’s corporate captains are like. I promise you they’re not all like Ted.
Standing in the fields talking with him that morning I was struck by his obvious genuine commitment to this project, to Heartland, to this nation, and to America’s farmers. It was real, it was sincere, it was intense. As he outlined his goals and vision, his attitude was much the same as the thousands of passionate, caring farmers I’ve met throughout my career.
I’ve rarely been so inspired. We went out and told a great story that day about what I can honestly say is the most exciting agricultural project I’ve ever seen and the most holistic corporate project I’ve ever even heard of.
The Splenda Stevia Farms is building a new agricultural industry and bringing jobs to America instead of sending them overseas. It’s providing opportunity for small American farm families instead of depriving them – and those folks don’t get a lot of breaks.
Take vision, foresight, care, planning and development, passion and compassion — enmeshed with a common goal over a number of years to do the world some good — put them in a big pot and stir them around, and you get the Splenda Stevia Farms.
You’ll see the whole story in my TV show. And I can honestly say I’ve never made one I’m prouder of. There’s always reason to hope for a better world, even one as complex as we find ourselves in now. Stories like this prove it.