Farming, HomeFarm

Planting Millet at HomeFarm

We’re planting millet at HomeFarm this summer for a number of reasons, one of them simply born from curiosity.

Last fall, we removed a block of grapes on our property that had been weakened by the effects of drought and Pierce’s Disease and planted a winter cover crop as we considered what to grow there next.

With the green compost now mowed, chopped up, and nourishing the soil, we’ve decided on our next planting — millet!

For years we’ve been interested in the growing movement to diversify local agriculture and diets with grain plantings. So interested, in fact, that we purchased our own stone mill and began working with neighboring farmers to procure heirloom grains of wheat, rye, and corn to mill onsite at SHED for local bakers and customers.

We don’t have a lot of available land to grow grains ourselves, but when we read about the Berkeley Food Institute’s new initiative, The Millet Project, our interest in experimenting was piqued.

The Millet Project’s mission is to test small-scale millet cultivation in a few different locations in Northern California in order to identify suitable varieties for different soils and microclimates.

Why grow millet? Our climes are a perfect millet testing ground for a reason we might not like to consider: The drought. Millet is a hardy, drought-resistant grain that is fast-growing and resilient. The drought may be a new constant for California. Adapting now is wise.

Because it’s such an ancient supporter of the human diet, millet is fascinating to bring back for our own plates as it’s literally been given to the birds for so many decades. In the U.S., the majority of millet grown indeed goes to bird food.

But millets are very nutritious whole grains that are gluten-free and delicious, another very compelling reason to grow them at HomeFarm, for our family. Learn all about millet in this week’s Good Food post.

We’re excited to explore this new crop of ancient grain. We’re approaching it with a real sense of curiosity and experimentation, and as a trial we expect to learn from our inevitable errors. We’ll keep you informed of our progress, and let you know how it grows!

Adding to crop — and grain — diversity is important to us. It speaks to resiliency and self-reliance. It harkens the individualism and pioneering spirit that marked this country. And we think it just might be good to eat!

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