Certified organic farmer talks about new perennial grain
NEW ULM — It’s a new type of grain that grows differently than traditional grain. It looks like wheat but it’s not.
Belle Plaine certified organic farmer Ben Penner spoke with enthusiasm about Kernza, a perennial grain at the first of quarterly Turner Talks events at Turner Hall Thursday.
“It tastes really good, like cinnamon,” Penner said. “It’s a good, high-protein, value-added crop with an opportunity to build a supply chain.”
The grain is advertised as having a sweet, nutty flavor good for cereals and snacks with more bran and fiber than wheat in a smaller kernel, but fewer carbohydrates.
Kernza is not a strain or species of wheat. It’s a registered trade name owned by The Land Institute for a type of intermediate wheatgrass, a wild relative of annual wheat.
Penner said Kernza offers lower production costs and environmental benefits including potential to improve water quality and soil health, reduce erosion, provide habitat, and sequester carbon.
“I grow, market and sell alfalfa, hard red winter and spring wheat, food grade soybeans and cover crops,” said Penner.
He sells Heritage Turkey Red and Hard Red Spring Wheat and rye at the St. Peter Food Cooperative.