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Heritage Grains Project

For hundreds of years grains have been at the foundation of human civilization. Many families grew small plots to sustain themselves and their livestock. Humanity uses grains in an astonishing variety of things. Today, many of those grains have been lost to time and giant agricultural business. However, we believe these grains to be important to those who wish to bring back the wholesome goodness and the independence grains can provide to a family farm.

  • There is nothing like growing and grinding your own wheat. Bread never tasted so good.
  • Flax for omega 3, oil for paint or spinning into linen!
  • Oats for animal feed, breads, oatmeal, etc...
  • How about the ability to feed your livestock right from your own farm? 100% organic! No more expensive trips to the feed store!
  • The most important thing is that this grain is not patented or genetically modified, meaning you can save the seed from year to year and feed your family.

Sustainable Seed Co. Grain Restoration Project

Our goal is to bring back many of the forgotten varieties of long ago and see just how well they will perform for us today. There are many questions to be answered.

  • Many grains fell out of favor because of lack of disease and pest resistance. An interesting question is do the diseases and pests still exist in sufficient quantity to pose a problem today to these heirloom grains?
  • How well will these grains perform in our climate? How will they be affected in these years of global warming?
  • Many grains fell out of favor when mechanical harvesters came along. If we are still willing to harvest small plots by hand would this be worth the effort?
  • Will these grains meet our needs? What were the historical uses? Breads, soups, animal feed, beverages, etc...
  • What yields will we get and is it worth growing these grains vs. the modern counter parts?

Some of these questions we already have answers to. For instance there is nowhere else I know of where I can get Jet Barley. Why, you ask, is Jet Barley so important? It has higher protein levels than most wheat. It performs very well in our climate with splendid yields. Originally it is from Ethiopia and very drought tolerant. However, we weren't sure it could survive our cool-wet nights, but it has done fantastic. The old stalks are great livestock feed or green manure. Jet Barley also makes a wonderful addition to any soup with a rich, nutty flavor. We've even soaked it and thrown it on salads for that same nutty flavor. I would have never known about Jet Barley if John Jeavons hadn't grown it years ago in Mendocino County. He would have never had it without the USDA seed bank. It is now unavailable at his seed company, but I want to bring it back to share with others. This is a good example of this project.


Grains are hard work and require many hands to grow and process, but I believe this brought together a form of community now gone in our culture. I have a romantic notion to return to a simpler time when a man counted on another man for his well being. Petty differences seem to evaporate when you know you must count on your neighbor for your very livelihood.

Then there is a level of health and independence that surpasses anything I can get in the store. If I grow my own grain I know that it was grown 100% organic. I know it is not genetically altered. I know that it will be there when I need it if times get tough. My whole farm becomes more self-sufficient and more sustainable. It is a closed loop. I grow the grain, it feeds me and my chickens for instance. That very manure and straw from the coop go right back to fertilize the next grain crop.

I have no delusions, my back can tell you the story of working hard in the field all day and just how hard it is. My ego can tell you how disappointed I am when I loose a harvest to the weather, but despite that I come back to doing this every year. Each year I learn more.  Each year we here, at Sustainable Seed Co., figure out just what grains may help sustain us in this ever changing future.

Learn how to grow grains.

Availability of Heirloom Grains

For a number of years to come we will have a VERY limited availability of the quantity of these grains. Why? Many times the seed sample we get is 30 seeds or so. It takes years to build up enough just to plant a 1/2 acre. The reason we are offering these grains for sale is so that you can get a SAMPLE and start them yourself. Please don't ask for larger quantities because we do not have them. Let us know of your success stories and what grains you are growing. Please send us your stories and photos!

Comments on Heritage Grains Project

JoLee Kennedy 05-22-2014 11:28 AM
I noticed that you were offering sample barley seeds of an improved, heirloom variety. I would like to grow barley as it is one of the grains that I am not allergic too. My question:s Can I plant barley along side wheat? In Arizona we grow wheat during the winter. (I grow corn in the summer) Is this something that we could do? If we can't grow barley in the winter, could we grow it in the southwest at another time of the year? What temperatures does it require and how is it hulled? Right now when we hull the wheat, we use a fan or--- a popcorn air popper! Can this work with barley? Sorry for all the questions but this is very exciting. Thank you. JK. And thank you for this project. I am a big anti GMO promoter.
Robin 02-23-2014 06:35 AM
Hi I am very interested in starting a Fodder seed growing for my livestock and need to purchase some organic grains for this how would I go about purchasing what I need do you have wholesale for this project? thanks from fla
Julie Dunn 08-24-2013 05:28 PM
The Organic Cayuse Oats were a success. They made it through light frosts and produced in Spring. The chickens got them before I did.
Growing sorghum has proven to be easy. It re-seeded itself and has managed to produce grain even in areas with zero water. In the no-water and silt-clay areas the yield is smaller, but it is remarkable that these half-dead-looking plants are able to produce. Not even weeds can grow there. I'm not sure if Red Garnet Amaranth is one of the Heritage Grains, but I want to express my adoration for this plant. In Spring, the Amaranth popped up everywhere I sprinkled a few seeds. While the plants were young they were a trap crop, leaving all of my direct-sown veg seedlings unharmed by insects. As the Amaranth grew, I used the damaged leaves for animals, & the small, gorgeous, young red leaves with other cooked greens. I suggest removing the center rib. The seed heads are bagged & nearly ready to harvest for grain & seeds for next year. All who see it, want it.
Linda Paquette, Scantic River Farm, Hampden, Ma.01036 12-31-2012 12:41 PM
In Late July, early August 2012, despite the drought we had, I decided to just toss in the sustainable grains that I ordered from your company. This was on newly roughly broken up land that had never been planted before. I had NO water acess to this location but tried planting anyway. THe field corn ( truckers, I think) did great in our upper garden(with water) but did fair down below, where I think my chickens ate lot of the seeds. And the ones that grew were huge, healthy and diesease free. Only problem, my chickens, horses and wildlife ate every ear as I tried to let the corn dry in the firelds! A great corn!
2. Sorghum. Awesome, amazing!, I didn't even know what sorghum was!, thought it was corn! It only grew 3-4 feet because of the late plantingand lack of water. But an early frost caused me to harvest it early. I hand cut it and hung it in my barn. will be using it for chicken feed this winter. I had only slight sonora wheat sucess, but the plants that grew were beautiful! The rye and and winter wheat had zero germination. The buckwheat grew but was eaten by the chickens before I figured out how to harvest it. All and all, in my first attempt at planting grain, in a poorly prepared bed, late in the season, and with no irrigation in a drought, was pretty sucessful! I hope to have a tractor by next season, and will try to plant earlier. I love your company! Thank You! Beginner farmer on 4 acres in western Massachusetts. Yours truly, Linda Paquette
Cam Pyper 08-24-2011 07:34 AM
I have been working along these lines for the past ten years. I do appreciate the recent discussions about the dark side of arable agriculture and our need for a better understanding of grain nutrition. Grains have made us, for better or worse. I confess too to the romantic affliction, there is nothing like looking at your own field of grain. Good luck to us all,

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