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Growing Specialty Grains

North Coast Regional Grain Growing

Over the last few years several farmers have become interested in growing specialty grains to sell into the local markets for bread, beer, or direct consumption.  Some of the local breweries, bakeries, farmers market customers, and specialty stores are buying these locally grown grains at prices that are many times higher than what generic bulk grains normally sell for.  The local growers have mostly been planting heirloom varieties of barley and wheat - and growing them organically in order to further increase value. Small grains can also fit well into crop rotation plans and can be grown as a cover crop between rows in vineyards or orchards.  

California produces about 1 million tons of small grains (wheat, oats, barley, etc.) annually on about 500,000 acres, which is only 1% of the USA production.   Yields can vary considerably depending on the type of grain, variety, soil fertility, weed control, pest problems, and whether or not the field is either irrigated or adequately rain fed.  Grain growing is not complex, but greater success can be achieved by incorporating natural systems within the North Coast’s climate, providing adequate fertility, and by seeding at the right rates, depths and at the right times.  Growing heirloom varieties offers many additional challenges as they are often less disease resistant and can sometimes grow too tall and fall over (lodge) prior to ripening.  The following presentations and links provide information on varieties, and cultural practices that can help you be more successful with your North Coast Grain Growing. 

Paul Vossen, Farm Advisor, March 2015

Resources

UC Resources:

The following are not affiliated with UC:

Wheat

Front Porch BioDynamic Farm

Wheat harvest

Wheat

Ripe Wheat

California Wheat Commission

California Wheat Commission was established in 1983, expressly to support research that improves California wheat quality and marketability, and to develop and maintain domestic and international markets for California wheat.