Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grain at your Front Door

One of our goals is to grow “local” wheat.    Here’s another way go local:  Plant a Plot of Good Grain!   Right in your back yard.  Or your front yard or side yards.  In pots and window boxes.
Your acreage may not be large, but wheat is decorative landscaping, good for the soil, a nice garden backdrop, attractive along walls and fences.
And it is a good start toward making your yard edible.

Prepare the soil as you would for garden crops.  Plant wheat seeds one and one-half inches deep, about two inches apart.  Experts recommend about 36 seeds per square foot.  Give your plot or pot a thorough watering to get the seed going, then sit back and enjoy watching it grow.  Wheat in the ground needs water only every couple of weeks, and, unlike that old fashioned lawn, you don’t have to mow it.  Wheat will be ready to harvest in 4 to 6 months, but in the meantime, it will put on a nice show.
Do you need a reason to plant wheat? 
You’ll be helping maintain grain diversity.  You can grow very rare varieties of wheat, find out how they do in our climate, taste ancient grains like Emmer or Kamut as a cereal, bowl of grain salad, or a tasty flatbread.  You can supply kernels to a seed exchange.   (One 3’ by 3’ plot, can grow 2500 seeds.)


Where to get seed?
Bob’s Red Mill grains test as lively and viable, and they include Spelt, Kamut, and grains like Amaranth & Quinoa.
Heirloom & ancient wheat seed can be purchased from several suppliers: 
Salt Spring Farm
Blue Bird Farm
Community Grains
Sustainable Seed Company

Rare seed is sold in packets of 300 seeds, enough for ten square feet, or a few large pots.  You might be the first in your neighborhood to harvest Russian Vavilov, Alaskan Spelt, Black Einkorn, or Brazilian Amber. 

India-Jammu one month after planting

For more advise on home-grown wheat cultivation:

So join this grass roots revolution.  Grow a patch of wheat.  Seed savers and seed banks will thank you.  Your 300 seeds could yield two or three pounds.  Working together we can find larger plots where we can grow that into three hundred pounds.  That half ounce of rare wheat seed has been multiplied by almost ten thousand, providing enough for a farmer to plant three acres, and that could yield three tons of that rare wheat seed which cost you, the initiating grower, $3.50.

You can tell your kids and your neighbors that you did your part in restoring one of the great wheats of the world  ...

... and maybe one of the most uniquely flavorful.    

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I Don't Taste Any Difference

Food writers point out that artisanal bread making and efforts to re-establish local grain-growing are riding on the coat-tails of specialty heirloom veggies and micro-greens, which have had considerable success in finding niche markets.  However, a recent internet article on claims grains and flour pose different challenges, making it unlikely that small scale grain farmers can make a go of it financially. The writer, Alastair Bland, argues that locally grown flour does not taste enough better than commercial flour to merit the higher cost.  Flour is just flour, and one variety does not have greater value than another.

Ah.  Let us beg to differ.  We know that locally grown and milled grains -- heritage, modern, landrace and ancient grains -- bring us a far better taste experience.  Varieties of flavors, sweetness, sourness, nuttiness, freshness.  Bread that is a complete experience, leaving your palate satisfied, balanced, with complex lingering flavors.  This is bread that doesn’t need apologies or a drink to get rid of a dry aftertaste.   This is bread that is refreshing and complete.

But it’s not just taste that is improved.  Wheat from local sources can be – and this is a big change – it can be  nourishing, with substantial protein, a natural range of nutritional qualities, with no chemical additives, herbicides or pesticides.  This is bread that has a lengthy shelf life, growing better with time and resisting mold and desiccation, particularly in its naturally fermented iterations.  Freshly milled flour has superior baking properties, creates tastier interior crumb and exterior crust. 

 But there’s more than just taste … and nutrition … and superior baking qualities.  Our small scale grain farmers are true stewards of the land.  They care for the soil, the need for crop rotation, protection of the aquifers.  Local means a smaller carbon footprint, lower CO2 emissions, less shipping costs, less waste of non-sustainable resources.  Less need for middleman handlers.  In their concern for their fields and their care to plant the right grain for their climate and terroir, they are partnering with grain growers around the world whose intention is to feed their local communities.  They want to make their land productive and diverse rather than give up and buy industrial flour that is of unknown provenance and full of additives.

But wait.  There’s still another reason why small scale grain growing must prosper.  It is essential to the restoration of diversity in a crop that has fed the world for ten thousand years.  Small scale grain growing will help develop drought tolerant varieties, and grain that will endure climate change.  Industrial-scale monoculture of wheat produces inferior flour, is damaging to the land, leads to the loss of thousands of varieties of modern, heirloom, and ancient grains.  And most important, shows we have learned little or nothing from the horrors of monocrop failures.      



There’s good reason to believe that small-scale grain growing will be a vital part of our food system. 
You can taste the difference.

Alastair Bland’s article can be found at

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goals of Regional Wheat Growing

The goals of the Southern California Wheat Enterprise are not hard to summarize.  Like most such endeavors, the vision is to improve the grains and flour available to our homes and neighborhoods.  And that added value is in three important areas:
Grown in our region    under sustainable farming practices  …. free of chemicals & contaminants   … available direct from growers to mills & bakers
 Flour that is freshly milled … nutritious … good flavored … good for baking
 Provide specific varieties of modern, heirloom, landrace, and ancient grains from specific farms and farmers.

This literal grass roots revolution is really pretty simple.  We don’t have to settle for less than what these remarkable grains have to offer.  Improving the quality of grain and flour is a return to ways that were common not that long ago.  The enterprise believes that our families and neighbors, our bakers and chefs, all can once again have a range of nutritional wheat and flour products that are grown, milled, baked, and then enjoyed by members of our communities.