Reviving the Golden State with Heritage Grains cover

Reviving the Golden State with Heritage Grains

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In the parched Tehapachi valley where the yearly precipitation rate is only 4 inches, farmers are investing in growing heritage grains.





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Heritage Grains

Heritage Grains

In the parched Tehapachi valley where the yearly precipitation rate is only 4 inches, farmers are investing in growing heritage grains.

The Golden State

The Golden State

Alex Weiser, a biodiverse farmer, reminds us that it wasn’t long ago that California grew grains. In fact, we grew lots of it. California is called the Golden State not for its gold, but for its once abundant wheat fields.

Growing Grain

Currently, most of our flour comes from the midwest and Canada, traveling thousands of miles to get to us, an ironic scenario given that grain is one of the most drought-tolerant crops.

Alex’s neighbor and farmer, John Hammond, explains, “Growing grain has particular relevance in drought times, as it is among the least thirsty of crops, and is one of the few that can be effectively dryland farmed (grown without irrigation) in Southern California. Even when it does need to be irrigated, grain requires less water than almost any other crop.”

Improving The Soil’s Quality

Growing grains in Southern California makes a lot of sense.

Beyond productivity during fallow months, grains can also be used as a cover crop to naturally improve soil quality as well as provide feed for livestock. But most farmers, as well as most consumers, see grains as a cheap commodity crop. We're used to the tasteless, bleached white flour on our grocery shelves.

The Flavor Difference

The grains that Weiser and Hammond are growing are, quite literally, a different breed.

“It’s like night and day,” says Roxana Jullapat, pastry chef at Cooks County in Los Angeles. “There’s a real flavor difference. The flavor and the structure, I mean it’s just impressively good.” Some have even likened grains to grapes in its distinctive "terroir."

The Journey Of Grains

Following the journey of grains from farm to plate, we quickly saw that this is not just about reconnecting with our past.

If successful, this would be a transformative shift towards sustainable agriculture in California - in addition to reducing the negative impacts of transportation, growing non-GMO, heirloom grains also reduces the reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other environmentally harmful practices.

The entire community will also benefit - artisanal bakers, craft breweries, and restaurants will all have access to better tasting, healthy, organic, local grains.

Inspiring Story Through Flavors

This is a meaningful cause we can all rally around and a story worth sharing with our community.

The Ecology Center is grateful to have Weiser Family Farms participate at Green Feast 2015. Alex Weiser is also our featured farmer in the fall Community Table dinner, where we will be telling their inspiring story through flavors.

Heritage Grain Project

Heritage Grain Project

If you would like to see more local grains on your table, please support Alex Weiser, Jon Hammond, and other farmers in their Go Fund Me campaign: Heritage Grain Project. They are currently in dire need of funding to fix a broken combine needed for harvest.