Organic Beans and Peas: Nutritious and Gluten-free Local Foods

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $199,217.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Craig Sheaffer
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, peas (culinary)


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, farm-to-institution, agricultural finance, market study
  • Pest Management: cultural control, mulches - killed, physical control
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Objective: In the Upper Midwest, edible legumes (bean and pea) provide an opportunity for year-around access to sustainably grown, nutritious local foods for families and institutions. Our objective is to promote diversification of organic cropping systems with grain legumes and to supply healthy foods. We will study cultural practices and grain legume marketing. Methods/Approach: Replicated field research will be conducted on cooperating farms in Minnesota and North Dakota and at Research and Outreach Centers. We will evaluate multiple market classes of field beans and peas and study crop rotations and mulches for weed control. We will measure yields of the legume grain crops, yield effects on subsequent crops, and conduct statistical and economic analyses of our findings. Economic analysis will consider variable costs and pricing. In conjunction with the agronomic research, we will evaluate markets for organic legumes through local food networks. Our results will be disseminated through education programs that include winter workshops, field days, and publications. Outputs: Increased understanding and application of the economics and rotation benefits of producing alternative protein crops; publications on producing and marketing local organic beans and peas; crop enterprise budgets for organic edible legumes; local foods marketing approaches; scientific and educational publications; and focus groups, summer field days, and winter workshops each with audiences of 20 or more persons. Outcomes: The primary audience of organic producers, extension educators, and consumers will gain knowledge of benefits of growing organic edible legumes. We will identify local markets and marketing channels.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1. Determine the performance of edible bean and pea varieties. We will evaluate the performance of edible bean and pea varieties from 2012 to 2014. We will conduct research on organic land on six on-farm sites in Minnesota and North Dakota and two University of Minnesota field research stations.

    Objective 2. Compare the agroecological value of edible beans and peas grown in rotation with corn, alfalfa, and wheat. A replicated 3-year rotational experiment will be conducted on certified organic land at the Elwell Ecological Station at Lamberton and the Waseca Research and Outreach Center from 2012 to 2014.

    Objective 3. Determine the effect of winter cover crops on yield and weed control in field beans and peas. An experiment will be conducted on certified organic land at the Elwell Ecological Farm at Lamberton and at one on-farm location in 2012 and 2013. We will use a randomized complete block design with a split plot arrangement of treatments. There will be four replicates. Whole plot treatments will be four fall-planted winter cover treatments that will winterkill: Oilseed radish, spring oats, berseem clover, and a bare ground control. Sub plot treatments will be field beans and peas. Bean and pea varieties are as in Objective 2.

    Objective 4: Develop crop enterprise budgets for organic edible beans and peas. We will use input and output data generated from the field research (Objectives 1–3) to develop enterprise budgets. These budgets will explore the price and yield conditions under which edible beans and peas could compete with corn and soybean. Crop enterprise budgets organize yield, price, and cost information to compare profitability and make decisions such as which crop to grow. Crop yields and costs vary with climate and soil, so enterprise budgets will to be tailored to the specifics of different growing regions and markets.

    Objective 5. We will identify local markets and describe the various marketing channels available to producers. The movement to local food by consumers has been well documented (Adams and Salois, 2010). Up to this point the movement has mainly focused on those food products that small growers have marketed like produce and meats. However, as the local foods movement matures, consumers will look to buy other farm products not commonly direct marketed, and grains like edible beans and peas will likely be in demand (Byczynski, 2009). Preliminary research demonstrated that there is an unmet demand for organic grain legumes. Therefore, we seek to measure the size and scope of marketing channels for the organic dry edible bean and pea market in Minnesota to identify the opportunities for producers. We will estimate the general size of the organic edible bean market, current sources for those edible legumes, and examine a mix of channels open to producers and growers looking to market edible legumes.

    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.