Why grow grain in the Northeast, when most of our food and feed grains are grown in the Midwest and West? While vegetables and meats have been a part of the local food economy for decades, only recently have grains (and their value-added products) found similar support. With the promotion of local grains by Grow NYC, an established farmstead bakery equipped with a grain mill, and a history of grain production, Hawthorne Valley Farm began supplying our own bakery with homegrown, certified Biodynamic® grains. We are proud to be a pioneering part of today’s Northeastern grain growing revival.
We began growing both Hard Red Winter Wheat and Winter Rye on a very small scale as a pilot program in 2010. Building on early success, we continue to expand our production and harvesting/processing infrastructure to meet growing demand. We currently cultivate 30 acres of wheat and rye, allowing us to supply almost all of the rye, and much of the whole wheat, for our own farmstead baked goods. We also supply grains to other bakers in the area, as well as seed to local farmers (for grain and cover crops), and to Turtle Tree Seed. To supplement purchased grains for our livestock, we also grow Triticale, Spelt and Barley. With increased production of spring grains in the future, we hope to become fully self-sufficient in our livestock grain needs.
We grow our grain in a long-term rotation, inter-seeding many of the grains with perennial legume and grass forages. These forage crops both provide high quality dairy feed when harvested and build soil fertility and tilth. Incorporating grains and perennial forages in the rotation allows us to balance the nutrient demands of the annual crops in a manner that does not exhaust the soil. After the grain is harvested in the summer, the straw is baled and used as bedding for the cows in our loafing shed in the winter months, providing a perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen for summer compost production. The straw is also a valuable mulching material for various vegetable crops. The straw that remains in the fields after harvest breaks down into food for essential soil organisms.
Local Grain, Global Action
We save our own seed each year, working towards adapting the varieties that we grow to the challenges of the local climate. Growing grain, and saving our own seeds affords us an opportunity to raise awareness around grains and their role in agriculture worldwide. For this purpose, we joined with Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program, The Nature Institute, and Sowing the Future, an international effort which began in Switzerland. Sowing the Future strives to call attention to the effects of Genetically Modified (GM) plants while providing a chance for citizens to take positive action – in this case, sowing a field of grain.
For certified Biodynamic® grain and seed availability and pricing, click here to contact Spencer Fenniman, Field Crop & Compost Manager.