Transforming Agriculture, Perennially
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Crop Stewardship

Crop Stewardship is how we get perennial grain crops onto the landscape—brought to scale, processed, prepared, and consumed—and keep them that way.

This work drives drives the ongoing agronomic and cultural changes required for successful adoption and use of perennial grain, oilseed, and legume crops.


Why Crop Stewardship?

  • Crop Stewardship builds upon the foundational work of our breeding, ecology, genetics, and ecosphere studies programs, encouraging collaborations and sharing resources to develop sustainable, just supply chains, partnerships, and economies.
  • We work to ensure our crops are valued beyond their caloric output, for their ecosystem services—soil preservation, climate change mitigation, water quality enhancement—and their social and economic services—community building, stakeholder empowerment, and knowledge sharing.

The transformation to an agriculture and a food system based upon perennial grain crops is a complex and long-term endeavor requiring support for Kernza®; other perennial grains, oilseeds, and legumes; and agro-ecological research beyond that which market forces alone can provide at this critical juncture. The hope is that increased demand for Kernza® products translates into more growers and acreage dedicated to Kernza® perennial grain, resulting in more Kernza® in production and on shelves, which in turn encourages more research and development into Kernza® and other perennial grains.

Kernza® grain is the first perennial crop from The Land Institute’s work to be introduced into the agriculture and food markets, but our researchers are currently working on others, including perennial wheatperennial riceperennial sorghum, perennial legumes, and wild sunflower, with more to come.

Program History

The first commercial plantings of Kernza® seed were in the 2010’s and interest in the grain began to grow with each acre that was planted. By 2019, The Land Institute needed added capacity to help build trust and manage the network of commercial partners and researchers interested in economic and social transformation around perennial agriculture.

Program Goals

  • Increase the public’s knowledge and awareness of the importance of perennial grain crops, and their access to products of those crops
  • Build communities of broad support that can de-risk early stages of domestication and perennialization
  • Engage in participatory research that includes and values on-farm innovation to help us develop data to discern patterns, behaviors, and management practices that will help increase yields, efficiencies, and adoption of perennial crops
  • Include and empower diverse ways of knowing and create mechanisms for meaningful involvement from BIPOC growers through intentional outreach and financial support.

Collaborators

Domestic

University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative, Minnesota

Green Lands Blue Waters, Minnesota

Patagonia Provisions, California

General Mills Cascadian Farm, Minnesota

Healthy Food Ingredients, North Dakota

Sustain-A-Grain, LLC, Kansas

Perennial Pantry, Minnesota

Hopworks Urban Brewery, Oregon

Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water District, Minnesota

Fresh Energy, Minnesota

Columbia County Bread and Granola, Pennsylvania

Canon River Watershed Partnership, Minnesota

Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, Minnesota

Birchwood Café, Minnesota

Bang Brewing, Minnesota

Hudson Valley Farm Hub, New York

Kernza® Commercialization

When you buy Kernza® perennial grain, you can be certain that you’re eating product grown on a perennial field that is building soil health, helping retain clean water, sequestering carbon, and enhancing wildlife habitat.

Starting with hobbyist bakers on staff at The Land Institute, Kernza® has been tested in kitchens across the country for over a decade. Innovative chefs, bakers, brewers, distillers, researchers, and growers are now using Kernza® in place of or combined with wheat or other grains.

Our friends Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint were some of the first prolific users of Kernza® perennial grain at The Perennial, their former restaurant in San Francisco. Their pioneering efforts resulted in some of the most innovative Kernza® recipes we have ever tasted. Today, their tireless work in showing all of us that delicious food and the people and stories behind it can be a solution to climate change continues through their new ventures Zero Foodprint and The Perennial Farming Initiative.

For more on how to get Kernza® seed, grain or products, visit:

Kernza.org 

Who's Using Kernza®

Kernza® can be used in baked goods and is now being sold in a number of restaurants. Many others have tested it in their products and kitchens. Although current strains of Kernza® grain are lower in gluten strength than annual wheat, consumers sensitive to gluten should exercise caution.

At this point, Kernza® is most frequently blended with annual wheat flour to make bread, and can make up 100% of the flour in quick breads (muffins, pancakes, etc.) or served as a pilaf like rice, as well as in beer products.

  • Patagonia Provisions was the first company to develop a commercial retail product made from Kernza® perennial grain for the mainstream marketplace. Patagonia took a significant risk, breaking through the initial barrier to new product development and market entry. That first-to-market product is Long Root Ale. The initiative and investment on the part of Patagonia Provisions to bring Long Root Ale to market helped pave the way for other partnerships and potential Kernza® products becoming more widely available to consumers.
  • Birchwood Cafe, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Cafe Gratitude, Los Angeles, California
  • Avalanche Pizza, Athens, Ohio
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington
  • Bang! Brewing, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Blue Skye Brewery Salina, Kansas
  • Dumpling & Strand produces Kernza® pasta that they retail through Twin Cities-area farmers’ markets. There are a few other small-scale retail food outlets scattered around the country, but to our knowledge, those are the most reliable sources right now.
  • Cascadian Farm is incorporating Kernza® into some of its foods, beginning with a trial run of Kernza® cereal released in 2019.  They have agreed to purchase an initial amount of the perennial grain which allows The Land Institute to arrange with farmers to plant on commercial-scale fields versus the test sized plots currently being grown. General Mills (the parent company of Cascadian Farm) approved a $500,000 charitable contribution to the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota in partnership with The Land Institute, to support advanced research to measure the potential of Kernza to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production, determine best management practices for sustainable production, and increase Kernza yields through breeding.

For more on how to get Kernza® seed, grain or products, visit:

Kernza.org 

Join us by supporting this work with a donation to The Land Institute.

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Program Team

Tessa Peters
Crop Stewardship Manager

Sophia Skelly
Research Resident

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