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About Heritage Grain Trials

Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials Project

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 1939 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.



<–  Hourani Wheat – “This ancient wheat variety was discovered in the Masada Fortress by Yigal Yadin, translator of the Dead Sea Scroll, stored 2,000 years ago by King Herod. This is the wheat eaten by ancient Israelis, but today it is almost extinct. Collected by Nikolai Vavilov in 1926 and by Eli Rogosa in 2008. Thrives in heat and drought conditions.

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

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.

How You Can Get Involved

Restoring our region’s heritage grains is a big effort, and we need your help to make it happen. If you are a farmer, gardener, or seed grower with access to additional growing space, please consider joining us in this important work. You don’t need previous experience growing grains or saving seeds to participate (though some basic farming/gardening experience is helpful).

Please click here to complete the Heritage Grain Trials Grower application.  

A $50 application fee is requested to cover costs for providing stock seed, our grain trials instruction manual and oversight of your project. Scholarships are available to those in need. You will also receive a one-year Supporting Membership to RMSA with your Grain Trials application, which entitles you to some great perks. Thank you for your commitment to creating an abundant, diverse, and delicious Rocky Mountain West!

For questions about our Heritage Grain Trials program contact Lee-Ann Hill by emailing: 

Search our Heritage Grain Trials Directory to find others doing heritage grain trials near you.

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