Developing educational resources for improved postharvest handling of value-added wheat and rye on small and mid-sized farms

Final report for ONC21-090

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $39,997.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Global Philanthropy Partnership
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Alyssa Hartman
Global Philanthropy Partnership
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Project Information


For this project, we enjoyed working with farmer collaborators to begin to develop a variety of resources geared toward multiple learning styles to support successful post-harvest handling of food-grade wheat and rye grain for small and mid-size Midwest farms. To grow and market less common crops, farmers need wide-ranging supports, and having appropriate and detailed information about how to store and manage diverse grains following production is a critical component to farmer success. There have been limited resources made available to date on small-scale post-harvest handling procedures for these crops and we were glad to approach the topic with an emphasis on farmer-to-farmer learning and information sharing. 

During the project period, we worked with six farmer collaborators to produce a written resource (additional donor and grant funds were used to create this resource, including to pay stipends for an additional four farmer reviewers), process illustration, photo slideshow, and five on-farm video case studies capturing aspects of the post-harvest handling process. Through this process, farmer collaborators experienced knowledge gains as they described their on-farm practices in order to be able to share the information with others and provided critical feedback on the developed resources. 

At the conclusion of the grant period, the project team has produced and made publicly available foundational information about post-harvest handling fundamentals for wheat and rye. In the future, we hope to continue to produce content that goes into greater detail on these topics and features other grain crops like barley and oats, as well as pseudocereals and ancient grains. 

Virtual learning opportunities and on-farm visits allowed farmers to share with one another, expand their knowledge of post-harvest handling, and improve their ability to perform these operations on their own farms. Simultaneously, the Artisan Grain Collaborative continues to build robust support networks amongst farmers growing food-grade grains, creating ongoing opportunities through Working Group sessions and listserv dialog to encourage and enable farmers to ask questions and learn from one another in real time. 

Project Objectives:

1. Work with farmers to co-develop a written post-harvest handling resource emphasizing value-added wheat and rye aimed at small and midsize farms. 

2. Feature best practices and challenges encountered by collaborators during postharvest handling through a series of video case studies highlighting how farmers developed and modified systems to meet their postharvest needs.

3. Develop a project website to house initial and future post-harvest handling resources for food-grade grains. 


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Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

18 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
3 Online trainings
8 Tours
6 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

137 Farmers participated
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The project team completed eight visit to six farms to film and take photos of postharvest handling activities. The team and colleagues developed a Post-Harvest Handling webpage ( to house project resources, which will continue to be updated with new tools as they are developed following the close of the project. Currently published resources associated with the project include: The New Growers' Guide to Producing Organic Food-grade Grains in the Upper Midwest, a publication funded partly by this project, which includes a detailed section on post-harvest handling including harvesting and initial cleaning, drying, on-farm storage, and safety testing, secondary cleaning, and long-term storage; an illustration of the post-harvest handling process from harvest to bagged saleable grain; an equipment spotlight featuring project photos and captions with learnings and tips from farmer participants engaged in the project; and a series of five videos that go into detail on different post-harvest handling processes. 

Conferences presentations have included two given by farmer collaborator Wesley Rieth of Granor Farm in MI, at the MI Craft Beer and Barley Conference and UW-Madison OGRAIN conference (recording available) in January 2022. In January 2023, three farmer collaborators -- Will Glazik of Cow Creek Farm in IL, Andrew Harris previously of Granor Farm in MI, and John Wepking of Meadowlark Organics in Ridgeway, WI -- co-presented a panel discussion on postharvest handling of small grains at the UW-Madison OGRAIN Conference (recording available). In March and October 2023, Nicole Tautges and Alyssa Hartman gave a 90 minute talk to two Midwest GRIT beginning farmer cohorts on small grains postharvest handling best practices (recordings available). In April 2023, farmer collaborator Andy Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farm hosted 30 beginning farmers at her Pecatonica, IL farm and gave an overview of her post-harvest handling processes. In May 2023, John and Halee Wepking of Meadowlark Organics in Ridgeway, WI gave a "show and share" presentation about their post-harvest handling operations to a group of AGC member farmers and others (recording available). 

Learning Outcomes

7 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The resources created during and foundation laid by this project will be critical for advancing more farmers' understanding of how to conduct successful post-harvest handling practices on their farms, and how to identify the resources and information available to them to support these activities. Improving access to high-value markets for wheat and rye will offer a new marketing avenue for more small and mid-size farmers, continue to deepen relationships across the grain value chain between farmers and buyers, and improve environmental outcomes on farms through diversified rotations. 

Success stories:

A grain farmer in central IL who is a partner on this project shared how critical successful post-harvest handling practices are for their farms' financial viability. This farm is being featured as part of our project because of their small scale and the high degree of value-adding processing they conduct on-farm. Last year, improper storage lead to several tons of food-grade barley they grew going out of condition for sale to food-grade markets (pest contamination) resulting in a loss of significant time input and potential financial return for grain that had been thoughtfully sourced, planted, managed, and harvested.

For farms that are required to store grain on-farm for longer amounts of time than they traditionally have to meet the storage needs of newer culinary buyers who need grain doled out slowly over time, proper execution of post-harvest handling is the difference between having high-quality grain to sell at the end of the season or no crop at all. This farmer expressed that if they had had the kind of resource we've created through this project, they may have been able to bring a saleable crop of barley to market and gain significant revenue through doing so.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.