Growing Heritage Grains for Market Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $75,671.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G359-21-W7903
Grant Recipients: Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance; Southwest Colorado Research Center; NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Gretchen Groenke
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance
Emily Lockard
Colorado State University Southwestern Colorado Research Center

Information Products

Growing Grains (Manual/Guide)
Heritage Grain Guidebook (Book/Handbook)


  • Agronomic: barley, rye, wheat


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, drought tolerance, nutrient management, seed saving, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farm-to-restaurant, market study, new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, competition, cultivation, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: dryland farming, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, quality of life, social networks, sustainability measures, urban/rural integration, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers, bakers, brewers, chefs, and cooks are all looking towards heritage and ancient grains to diversify their fields and kitchens. Informed by 5 years of farmer-led grain trials, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance has identified 20 varieties of heritage and ancient grains with market potential and adaptability throughout the West. Specific data on field performance, nutritional values, and baking qualities are scarce on these varieties and we often receive requests from farmers and agricultural professionals for more information on these unique crops. To fill this need, we would like to offer hands-on and virtual educational opportunities, along with valuable agricultural data, to producers through partnerships with agricultural professionals in the Intermountain West. Economic analyses of the viable scale for market production of heritage and ancient grains will also be conducted and shared. Farmer Field Days will include grain field tours, presentations of the research, mechanical and manual planting, harvesting, and cleaning demonstrations, and peer-to-peer education. We will enlist local bakers and chefs to prepare lunch with heritage and ancient grains to increase participant understanding and awareness of the various uses of these crops. Farmer Field Days will be offered at Research Centers in Colorado and New Mexico, at a partner organization on the Navajo Nation, and at farms in Idaho and Colorado that are currently participating in a research project we are conducting with the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). Based on our recent online course, Seed School for Farmers, an online Grain School will also be offered to agricultural professionals and interested farmers, with recordings available for those who aren’t able to join the live programming. Data, descriptions, and other growing specifications will be made freely available through a Heritage Grain Handbook to enable farmers and growers to make informed decisions on growing and transitioning to heritage and ancient grains.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will accomplish the following objectives with this project: 

    1. Increase awareness and knowledge among agricultural professionals and farmers about heritage and ancient grains as a viable crop for regenerative farm practices and farm profitability.
    2. Compile and increase data on the economic benefits and implications of adding heritage and ancient grains to farm operations and enterprises.
    3. Increase marketing outlets and opportunities for heritage and ancient grains in rural communities in the Intermountain West.
    4. Provide support and consultation to the research and trial sites throughout the West.
    5. Offer administrative and technical support for grain trialists and farmers interested in incorporating heritage and ancient grains into their enterprise. 
    6. Help connect farmers and growers to local chefs, cooks, bakers, and brewers interested in incorporating heritage and ancient grains into the local food economy.
    7. Conduct lab analyses and compile comparative data on 20 varieties of ancient and heritage grains.

    Quantitative lab testing will enhance our knowledge of heritage grains by informing side-by-side comparisons of varieties and it will allow for comparisons to conventional varieties that have extensive performance data. In order to compare varieties and to compare grain quality to conventional varieties we would like to test grain for moisture, test weight, 100 seed count, falling number, protein, stalk nitrogen, and wet gluten and gluten index.

    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.