Welcome to the website for the Value-added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems Project, funded by the USDA NIFA Organic Research and Extension Initiative!

wheatThe long-term goal of this multi-regional project is to provide organic growers, processors, and consumers with new knowledge about food grains that will lead to economically rewarding and sustainable organic farms in the Northeast and Midwest regions. Led by Mark Sorrells of Cornell University, the project team includes university and nonprofit partners, as well as collaborating farmers and bakers.

Small grains provide multiple ecological benefits. They protect soil, supply organic matter, scavenge nutrients, serve as break crops for horticultural crops, and provide a companion crop for legumes in the cropping system. However, they are often underutilized or even absent on organic farms because of their traditionally low economic value. Our previous OREI projects laid down essential baseline information for researchers, growers, and bakers, who have begun to recover a "grain literacy" in the Northeast. This project will build on that foundation, increasing the number of varieties available to growers, informing producers, professionals and consumers across the U.S. about value-added grains. New knowledge in the production and marketing of wheat and specialty grain crops will substantially increase their utilization and enhance the biodiversity and sustainability of organic farms.

bread and butterThe objectives for this project are to:

  1. Evaluate germplasm and develop new varieties of small grain crops with high market value including food quality wheat, emmer, spelt, einkorn, naked barley, rye and naked oats for adaptability to organic systems and for desirable grain, processing, culinary characteristics and nutritional quality.
  2. Address two critical production issues for organic value-added grains: winter survival and disease-free seeds.
  3. Assess and increase opportunities for local and regional organic grain market demand, aggregation, and distribution.
  4. Develop a comprehensive outreach program that connects key stakeholders in organic grains supply systems to each other and with the resources they need.

Three USDA NIFA OREI grants have provided funding for this project, in 2011, 2020 and 2023. On this website, you will find information about the project collaborators, grain trial results, articles, reports, news, events and recorded webinars from the project.