Heritage Grain Trials Program

Update: After 6 strong years, we are formally ending the Heritage Grain Trials Program.
Thank you to all the Grain Trial Growers who have participated and contributed to biodiversity and
seed stock increase of over 250 incredible Ancient and Heritage Grain Varieties. You can still get
involved in the Ancient and Heritage Grain Movement by growing them in your yard or field, saving
and sharing them, baking and breaking bread with them, and becoming a part of their story.

A culmination of research, citizen science, farmer and grower profiles,
and more can be found in the Heritage Grain Guidebook.
Please download and share freely.


Help us trial and grow heritage grains to rekindle a thriving, localized grain economy in the Rocky Mountain West.

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 Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials Project 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.

Make a donation to RMSA and help make our seed systems our own!