Traditional Tortilla Maize Cultivation in New York’s Hudson Valley: Evaluating Viability of Heirloom Cultivars from Mexico and Central America

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $7,689.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: SunRunner Farm LLC
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Samuel Rose
SunRunner Farm LLC


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: varieties and cultivars

    Proposal summary:

    The maize tortilla is a staple food for many populations in Latin America and a growing demographic in the northeast of the United States due to migration.  At the same time, the regional culinary scene has opened many opportunities for local small-scale farms, especially in the Hudson Valley.  There are dozens of maize cultivars that have been bred over the millennia by indigenous groups in Central and South America with specific nutritional and gastronomic properties specially selected for the elaboration of authentic tortillas.  The main barrier to local cultivation in New York’s Hudson Valley is photo-period sensitivity which effects the development of reproductive structures on the plant and thus kernel formation.  After informal trials, several varieties have shown promise of overcoming this barrier.  This 2-season project will create an official trial to thoroughly test viability, identify and document those varieties with the most promise, and during season two, grow out seed stock.  Results will be shared through participation in symposium, social media, press releases, interviews, and workshops.  Seed and information will be shared with local farmers, with an emphasis on Latino farmers.  Care will be given to make all data and seed accesible, and we will be in regular contact with Intertribal Seed Keepers Network to ensure we follow best practices of working and sharing indigenous maize germplasm lines.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. During season one cultivars from the CIMMYT seed bank will be identified, grown out in the field, and tested for viability.  In other words whether they produce viable kernels.
    2. During season two the most promising varieties will be grown out and effort will be put into developing seed stock and determining the effect of different agricultural methods on production capacity.  Local tortillerias and chefs will be given samples of maize to test against currently used corn.
    3. Results will be published and shared during each of the two seasons via press releases, interviews, and workshops for local farmers, with an emphasis on Latin American farmers.  We will be in communication with our contacts the Intertribal Seed Keepers Network to ensure that we are transparent and following best practices with regard to indigenous maize germplasm and intellectual property.
    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.