Diversifying Northwestern fields and palates

Project Overview

SW21-926
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $349,999.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kevin Murphy
Washington State University
Co-Investigators:
Stephen Bramwell
WSU Dept. Crop and Soil Sciences
Dr. Girish Ganjyal
Washington State University - School of Food Science
Justin O'Dea
Washington State University

Commodities

  • Agronomic: buckwheat, millet

Practices

  • Education and Training: networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Adopting sustainable agricultural practices can increase complexity and management, frequently challenging farm profitability. Crop diversity, a pillar of sustainable agriculture, often relies on rotations that include less profitable crops necessary to disrupt disease and pest cycles. As society demands further strengthening and defining of sustainable practices, markets must also evolve at the same rate to keep farms in business.

    To support farmer goals of sustainability and profitability, we propose research and educational outreach projects that will accelerate the development of regional markets for proso millet and buckwheat (Figure 1). These rotational crops intrigue not only Northwest farmers but also our diverse regional stakeholders; processors, maltsters, brewers, millers, bakers, chefs, and schools demand access to these crops. Our stakeholders voiced a need for variety recommendations, nutrition and malt quality data, and networking among growers and end users. We had no regionally adapted resources to share.

    For two years, we’ve communicated with stakeholders to develop a project that meets their needs. These discussions gave rise to a highly skilled and motivated project team that includes farmers, food and crop scientists, Extension specialists, and market experts. Together, we successfully identified the crops of interest and identified five main objectives:

    1) establish a regional baseline for production and end-use quality of millet and buckwheat varieties currently grown in Idaho and Washington by determining their flavor, food functionality, and nutritional and malt quality to bolster marketability via appropriate end-use recommendations;

    2) conduct researcher- and farmer-led millet and buckwheat field trials to identify new varieties for the region that improve upon baseline; 

    3) characterize new millet and buckwheat varieties for flavor, food functionality, and nutritional and malt quality to determine end-use suitability while also developing optimized product formulations for focaccia mix, pancake mix, and children’s breakfast bar;

    4) conduct a market assessment for regionally produced and processed millet and buckwheat with consumer surveys, school district questionnaires, and stakeholder interviews; and

    5) use outreach, education, and networking tools to support supply chain development and product awareness among stakeholders to build consumer demand, grower interest, processing capacity, and market connections for millet and buckwheat crops and products.

    To ensure crop access, familiarity, and adoption, our project uniquely engages producers and stakeholders along the entire supply chain in collaboration. We will devote much of our project resources to on-farm trialing to not only identify regional differences in variety selection but also to boost farmer confidence in the crops. Stakeholders guided our project target end uses to represent products already in production, and enthusiastically support optimizing product formulations to showcase inclusion of regionally produced millet and buckwheat in value-added products. Our educational outreach is focused on developing lasting relationships and exchanging information throughout the supply chain to support the production and processing of these crops. Our project has the potential, in the short timeframe of three years, to establish a cohort of 20 growers equipped with appropriate varieties of millet and buckwheat to satisfy the cohort of over 20 regional end-use stakeholders who have expressed a demand for the crops.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Establish a regional baseline for production and end-use quality of millet and buckwheat varieties currently grown in Idaho and Washington by determining their flavor, food functionality, and nutritional and malt quality to bolster marketability via appropriate end-use recommendations; 

    2) Conduct researcher- and farmer-led millet and buckwheat field trials to identify new varieties for the region that improve upon baseline;   

    3) Characterize new millet and buckwheat varieties for flavor, food functionality, and nutritional and malt quality to determine end-use suitability while also developing optimized product formulations for focaccia mix, pancake mix, and children’s breakfast bar; 

    4) Conduct a market assessment for regionally produced and processed millet and buckwheat with consumer surveys, school district questionnaires, and stakeholder interviews; and 

    5Use outreach, education, and networking tools to support supply chain development and product awareness among stakeholders to build consumer demand, grower interest, processing capacity, and market connections for millet and buckwheat crops and 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.