Hudson Valley Farm Hub in Hurley aims to teach a new generation of farmers
Twenty acres of Kernza, a distant cousin to agricultural wheat, has been growing at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub in the Esopus Valley. The Farm Hub is one of a network of farms across the country testing this perennial grain developed by The Land Institute, a Kansas-based non-profit researching sustainable agriculture. The local Kernza was planted last October in a test plot, and the first harvest was in July. With the crop harvested, the stripped Kernza field looked this week as though grass was growing on it.
Because Kernza, one of several grains being tested at the 1255-acre Farm Hub, is a perennial, the land doesn’t have to be disturbed for cultivation. “Tillage impacts soil health by reducing organic matter, soil structural integrity and soil biota, increasing the possibility of soil erosion either by water or air,” explained Jean-Paul Courtens, associate director of farmer training at the Farm Hub. Annual plants are prone to drought and nutrient deficiency because their root systems are developed over a relatively short period of time. Kernza, on the other hand, increases soil health, uses fertilizer much more efficiently, and due to its extensive root system is less prone to water stress, Courtens said.
An ale brewed in Oregon was the first widely available commercial product made with Kernza. The brewmaster at Hopworks in Portland has been making a beer this year made with equal parts of Kernza and barley.
“Wheat is 10,000 years old,” pointed out Zachary Golper, a Brooklyn baker who uses Kernza in his products, “and Kernza has only been around for thirteen. We’re not doing so badly.”