Heritage Grain Alliance

Note to former Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials members:

August 5, 2022.  We have decided to continue the Heritage Grain Trials by forming our own, independent, Heritage Grain Alliance. We invite YOU to join us!

We still believe deeply that the heritage grain trials will continue to build the foundation for the future of sustainable and regional food systems. Over the past six years, the Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials program watched small handfuls of seeds grow to pounds and pounds of grains to be shared with hundreds of farmers, gardeners, researchers, bakers, brewers and chefs. As a start to the next chapter, we would simply like to jump in where we left off, with the network, knowledge, and seeds that we have been growing together. However, in some ways, we are also starting over as our grain collection was given away by Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance’s new crew when the program was discontinued. We hope many of you were able to secure some of the seeds before they were sent further afield.  We do have a complete backup of very small amounts from which to begin again.

You are invited, first and foremost, to continue your work with our new Heritage Grain Alliance. You will be “grandfathered” and “grandmothered” in and receive the same benefits as our original program.  Use coupon code “graintrialist”. If you have seed to share from our previous work together, or have seeds grown this year that you would like to share, we would love to add them to the collection.

As for the “Top 20,” we still have bulk seed available to share with the same hope of doubling returns and continuing to scale up and share.  Please let us know if you are interested in any of these varieties.

How Everyone Can Be Involved

Start growing grains in your gardens and on your farms.  Fortunately, this is much easier now with the list of hundreds of rare, ancient and heritage grains we have assembled over the past 6 years.  Individual packets are available here each for $5.95 handling charge.  (This only begins to cover our costs to clean, package, store and mail the seeds.) Beginners are asked to limit their first request to 4 -6 packets.  If you are successful, we ask that you return to us twice as much seed or more of those varieties that did well for you.  We will distribute them to others and in this way continue to grow the program.

Supplies are limited.  We ask that you consider varieties that you will actually grow and help us to scale up.  We are still in transition and will update the collection page as more seeds become available.  Check back early and often.  You can download here a spreadsheet of all of the varieties we had available before.  If you see something you want and it is not yet offered, please email bill@heritagegrains.org.

If you are serious and/or experienced, you can officially join our Grain Trialist Program here for a $50.00 donation. We will use our experience to make sure you get started using the most appropriate grains for your needs and location.  You will be able to request seeds for up to 10 varieties a year for free.  (We appreciate you covering the shipping if possible.)  Scholarships are available.  We welcome the passionate.

Email lee-ann@heritagegrains.org or bill@heritagegrains.org if you have questions.

Thank you for your dedication to grains, seeds, and new beginnings.  If you would like to financially contribute to this effort let us know.

Together for Grains,

Lee-Ann and Bill

Hourani Durum Wheat – 2,000 years-old

Seed School Wild Heart Farm
The growing out, sharing, and scaling up of Ancient and Heritage Grains has to be a grassroots effort. The more we get growers and gardeners involved, the more diversity we can steward.  Please continue to grow out these seeds, become a part of their story, and share them. If you want to continue to grow out these grains in a trial style, we encourage growers to pick out 4-6 varieties for their first trial and then choose 2-3 to grow at a larger scale for your culinary consumption or to share seed stock with other grain enthusiasts.

Help us trial and grow heritage grains to rekindle thriving, localized grain economies all over the world.

As we dig out from under the industrial storm to build a more sustainable agriculture, how do we find the deep rooted, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant grains that work best for our region among the tens of thousands available?  The USDA 1922 Classification of Wheat Varieties gives us the names of the most popular grains growing in each state before the use of chemicals.  Since we only found a handful of seeds or less of most of these varieties, we need your help to increase seed and to share simple data about how they worked for you.

Locally grown grains are the missing component in many regional food systems. The Heritage Grain Alliance aims to revive the production, use, and cultural experience of locally grown heritage grains in our region’s communities. Our ultimate goal is to create a vibrant system of farmers, millers, bakers, and brewers throughout the Mountain West who can give new life to ancient grain varieties and ensure this diversity is preserved and enjoyed for generations to come.

Origins of the Heritage Grain Trials Project

In early 2016, RMSA held a Grain School course at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). Along with graduating 24 students, this course gave rise to an exciting new collaboration of grain farmers, breeders, and researchers. The Arkansas Watershed Grain Project (as the group came to be called) set out to first identify ancient and heritage grain varieties that will perform well in their area, and then to increase quantities of the best performing varieties for use by local farmers. In doing so, they are building the necessary seed stocks and laying the groundwork for a new local grain economy to emerge.

The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance partnered with the Arkansas Watershed collaborative and UCCS to expand this project across the entire Rocky Mountain region. The initiative closely aligned with RMSA’s mission to strengthen seed diversity in Rocky Mountain communities through local networks of seed stewards. Returning heritage grains to active use in a network of growers, processors, and consumers is a powerful way to ensure this diversity lives on. It also becomes a boon and source of pride for a region’s culinary culture, with local restaurants and artisans creating delicious breads, beers, pastas, and other delights from their own heritage varieties.

We are modeling this work on the exciting local grain revival taking place in Southern Arizona, where heritage grains like White Sonora wheat are once again being grown, processed, eaten, and celebrated throughout the region. RMSA co-directors Bill McDorman and Belle Starr were involved in these efforts and are now helping to implement this model in the Rocky Mountain West.

How You Can Stay Involved

The growing out, sharing, and scaling up of Ancient and Heritage Grains has to be a grassroots effort. Please continue to grow out these seeds, become a part of their story, and share them. If you want to continue to grow out these grains in a trial style, we encourage growers to pick out 4-6 varieties for their first trial and then choose 2-3 to grow at a larger scale for your culinary consumption or to share seed stock with other grain enthusiasts.