Seeding Success: A Food-Grade Grain Production Curriculum for Midwest Farmer Advisors

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $119,743.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Michigan Agriculture Advancement
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Julie Doll
Michigan Agriculture Advancement


  • Agronomic: barley, buckwheat, canola, corn, flax, millet, oats, rye, sorghum (sweet), spelt, sunflower, triticale, wheat


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, food product quality/safety, multiple cropping, postharvest treatment
  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, networking, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, other
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, social networks, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    Midwest farmer advisors are proficient in supporting farmers in commodity grain production, yet there is a lack of accessible information to help farmers interested in producing food-grade grains, crops grown for human consumption, especially using sustainable and certified organic growing practices. Interest in producing food-grade grains is increasing because of the potential for high economic value, ability to add rotational diversity and ecosystem services, and marketing opportunities that allow grain farmers to feed their local communities (in short: food-grade grains help move agriculture towards economic, environmental, and social wellbeing goals). 

    This project will provide Midwest farmer advisors with the knowledge, tools, and experience necessary to assist farmers in producing and marketing food-grade grains, while also enhancing their peer support system through in person and virtual meetings. Resources created include a curriculum consisting of a webinar series, one in person training, and written materials for farmer advisors. The curriculum will be informed by input from farmer advisors through four roundtable discussions across the region. It will be designed to accommodate the full spectrum of farmers that advisors interact with, including those who are new to farming or interested in incorporating food-grade grains into existing commodity grain, diversified vegetable, or integrated livestock operations. By providing advisors across the North Central Region with the knowledge and tools necessary to assist farmers in producing food-grade grains, this project will benefit farmers while contributing to the development of a sustainable food system and providing resources that will be applicable across the North Central Region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    There are five expected outputs from this project that will be developed in collaboration with farmer advisors and our project partners. These outputs are designed to meet the educational and training needs of farmer advisors across the NCR and promote the adoption of food-grade grain as a landscape diversification strategy.

    1. Roundtable Discussions: To document the needs and gaps in food-grade grain knowledge and programming, we will conduct four roundtable discussions with farmer advisors. Two of these discussions will be in person, and two will be held via Zoom. Our project team will also engage with the Education and Outreach and Farmer Collaboration Working Groups of the Artisan Grain Collaborative to get feedback on the roundtable questions to ask the farmer advisors. We anticipate approximately 60 people (15 farmer advisors at each of 4 roundtables) will participate in these discussions. Our experience has shown that 15 participants is the maximum number for a meaningful roundtable discussion that allows each person an opportunity to share.


    2. Needs Report: The outcomes of the roundtable discussions will be documented in a written report that outlines the educational and training needs of farmer advisors. We plan to share this report widely across the NCR through SARE State Coordinators and our networks.


    3. In-Person Training and Site Visit: To address the educational and training needs identified in the report, we will provide an in person training and site visit for farmer advisors in a central location of the NCR. We anticipate that 40 farmer advisors will participate in the in-person training. 
    4. Curriculum: We will develop written materials such as fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and blog posts that will be used as curricula for farmer advisors. The curriculum's structure will be informed by insights gained through discussion during the roundtable sessions. This curriculum has the potential to reach hundreds of farmer advisors across the NCR.
    5. Webinar: We will host a three-part webinar series for farmer advisors across the NCR on food-grade grains. The topics covered in the webinar series will be chosen based on the roundtable discussions and reflections from participants in the in person training and site visit. We anticipate that 100 farmer advisors will participate in the webinars.

    Through these outputs, we will increase the awareness of food-grade grain agriculture among farmer advisors across the NCR, enhance their confidence and willingness to talk to farmers about food-grade grains, and improve their knowledge of agronomy, storage, and handling, and marketing basics related to food-grade grains. Additionally, we will facilitate the flow of information between farmer advisors and our organizations and promote the development of enhanced social networks among farmer advisors.

    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.