Organic Intensive, Jan. 6: Diverse Grains for Farms and Homesteads

In his role on the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance board, John has been working to coordinate a day-long workshop on growing grains in Michigan. Serious gardeners and homesteaders, as well as farmers interested in developing markets for small grains will find this a valuable educational opportunity. A full description of the workshop follows. Early bird registration ends December 15!

Diverse Grain Options for Farms and Homesteads

If a truly sustainable and resilient food system requires a rich diversity of food crops, then it follows that small grains should be an important component of that diversity.  Small grain rotations coupled with legumes can contribute significantly to the soil health of our gardens and farms.  This organic intensive on small grains hopes to encourage the growth of this localized grainshed through skill building, exploring marketing strategies, and building networks.

The morning sessions will feature John Sherck of Sherck Seeds in Bristol, Indiana.  John’s focus will be on the backyard garden/homestead model of growing small grains. He has done remarkable work with many heritage and landrace varieties of rice, wheat, rye, and barley, among others.  John’s model points out the vital role small-scale growers can play by trialing these varieties and increasing seed supply.  Most importantly, he insists that we will not save this genetic diversity until it is fully re-integrated into our local food system. Essentially, we need to eat these crops to preserve them.

After lunch, Tom and Vicki Zilke will team up with Megan Phillips Goldenberg of Growth Associates and Macon Creek Malthouse.  Tom and Vicki run a CSA and farmstand and have used small grains in their rotations. They will talk about their organic oat project and the challenges of producing food-grade grains.  Megan has organized a niche grain workshop to encourage networking between grain growers and local markets.  Their project is an important model for supporting small grain growers and connecting them with local niche markets.

Later in the afternoon, Ashley McFarland, coordinator of the Upper Peninsula Research and Education Center will focus on their organic grain project. They are trying to encourage more organic production of food grade grains and livestock feed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Ashley has also done a great deal of work helping to encourage the growth of small grain production across the entire state.

If we take note of the phenomenal growth of craft breweries and distilleries in the state, that model teaches us that all parties must have a seat at the table to ensure ongoing success.  In that light, we encourage gardeners, homesteaders, farmers, artisan bakers, brewers, millers, and maltsters to attend this workshop and play a significant role in promoting small grains in our local economy. The last part of the afternoon will feature a roundtable of participants, including some MOFFA board members, which will focus on strengthening this network of collaboration.

For more details and to register visit  A limited number of scholarships for educators and others are available; please if you would like to apply for one.

For further questions about the content of the workshop, contact John Edgerton at or 269-870-0152.

—John Edgerton

About Harvest of Joy Farm LLC

At Harvest of Joy Farm LLC we seek to develop, practice, and share farming systems that mirror the resilience, diversity, and self-sufficiency of a healthy biotic community.
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