The New Growers’ Guide to Producing Organic Food-Grade Grains in The Upper Midwest

Created with SARE support
Keith Williams, Nicole Tautges, Steffen Mirsky, Alyssa Hartman, and Julie Dawson | 2023 | 49 pages

Many Midwest grain growers are familiar with producing commodity grains – indeed, corn and soybeans delivered to grain elevators make up the majority of crop acreage in the Midwest. For farmers who are interested in producing food-grade grains, higher-value grain crops intended for direct human consumption as food, there are unique opportunities, challenges, and considerations that must be met to grow and sell a crop successfully.

This guide is intended for farmers interested in adding food-grade grains to their rotations, whether they are new to farming or interested in incorporating these grains into an existing commodity grain, diversified vegetable, or livestock operation.

In the broadest sense, a ‘food-grade grain’ is any edible grain crop that meets minimum quality and safety standards for human consumption. Food-grade grains are meant to be eaten by people, either directly or as ingredients in foods or beverages. Food-grade grains may be directly marketed to an end-user or intermediary processor or sold on commodity markets or through a number of other marketing channels.

In this guide, the term ‘food-grade grains’ refers to any crops producing edible seeds handled in similar manner and scale – including cereals like rye and barley, legumes like dry beans or lentils, oilseeds such as sunflower or canola, and buckwheat or other pseudocereals. Common examples of food-grade grains include wheat sold by market class (such as hard red winter wheat), or a white corn produced for a manufacturer of tortilla chips.

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.