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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, my animals and my chickens. 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, here at Sustainable Seed Co., we 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

Lorene Stover 05-09-2015 09:23 PM
I am mostly looking for advice. I want to grow a small patch of wheat, some for eating, but also for weaving. I want to use heritage seeds as, I believe, that tampering with nature has much to do with recent skyrocketing food allergies and gluten intolerance. I am a firm believer that OUR food should not be altered regardless of proof or not. Anyway, I live east of Lake Erie, and I have NEVER grown wheat. What variety would be best here?
We had a record COLD winter with ALOT of snow this past year. Our growing season is generally, May to mid Oct. but some years shorter. We also tend to get quite a bit of rain and it is one of the most overcast areas in the US. What is typical conditions for wheat, warm days and cool nights or warm days and warm nights? Please note, I would like to make bread, pasta and breakfast farina with this wheat. Thanks for all who would advise me, as I look forward to a response from an experienced wheat grower. Thanks, Lorene
Dan Hayes 02-28-2015 07:33 AM
I live in Central Texas and I am looking for any strains of the Red Rustproof oats that were marketed/bred by Ferguson in the early 20th c. These include Ferguson 71, Ferguson 922 or any of the Fulghum strains. Also interested in the Nortex and New Nortex strains. Thanks!
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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