The Grain-Chain project is designed to provide a link between farmers who will grow and produce heritage and ancestral varieties of grains and legumes and consumers of these grains. Emmer and Einkorn are ancestral varieties mentioned in the Wheat Belly book by cardiologist Dr. Davis.
Old fashioned small scale equipment is needed to produce small quantities of heritage varieties of wheat. A Clipper fanning mill, for example, is required to clean seed. Because of the lack of consumer interest in buying heritage varieties farmers have not grown out or bulked up quantities of old varieties. This is changing slowly with growing interest in Red Fife and other heritage varieties that seem to adapt quickly to changes in weather and new growing conditions. Wheat Belly is pointing people at pre 1950s varieties, emmer and einkorn as alternatives to the modern varieties.
The Grain-Chain will be doing 2012 field trials of heritage varieties of wheat including emmer, einkorn and pre 1950s bread wheats in 2012. We will also be bulking up the old varieties for larger seeding quantities for 2013.
The Heritage Wheat Project began this work in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s with the efforts of Sharon Rempel. The Grain-Chain incorporates the work of the Heritage Wheat Project and is using Sharon Rempel’s expertise in the 2012 work. Her book Demeter’s Wheats outlines the process of growing wheat and is one of the few books that values the heritage and ancestral wheats.
Heritage wheat biodiversity conservation and field trial work is not supported by government funding. The old varieties are not considered of ‘value’ in the Canadian Variety Registration system. The work is costly and requires private investment in the process.
The old varieties that have fed communities around the world for centuries are not as valuable to agribusiness as varieties that require high inputs of chemicals and fertilizers. The old varieties are not short strawed wheats and have been selected by farmers in their fields. On Farm plant breeding by farmers continues to be the main way of finding new varieties that grow well in low input farming systems.
For community ‘food security’ communities should be stock piling enough sacks of grains and legumes to plant fields for their communities. There is need to do field trials to find the best varieties for each growing area. Ideally local governments start supporting heritage seed production and community seed banks as part of national, regional and local food security efforts.
Field days are part of learning about varieties that do well in your area. If you want to do some ‘on farm’ heritage wheat variety work you can download a free copy of the On Farm Research manual written by Sharon Rempel Visit the lower right corner of the homepage to download the On Farm Research Guide.
The Grain-Chain project coordinator is third generation Saskatchewan organic farmer Holly Peterson. Her family farm grows Red Fife wheat as well as a diversity of legumes and grains.