Sources for small scale grains

Vegetable seeds are pretty easy to find. We buy most of our seed from nearby Territorial Seed Company, but even if we didn’t have this local resource there are dozens of other sources online and via mailorder. I know the world has lost a lot of heirloom seed varieties during the last 50 years, but individuals and companies have preserved a lot of varieties too. There’s no shortage of seeds.

Unfortunately, the world of small grains is very different. Last year I grew some buckwheat as an experiment, and this year I’m interested in growing barley, field corn, and buckwheat. Let’s take barley. Specifically, I’m interested in varieties of spring two-row malting barley. So far, these are the only sources I’ve found:

Wow, it looks like I have exactly one choice! When there are at least a dozen two-row varieties available to farmers, why do home gardeners only have one? When my local university has been involved in developing several new varieties, why am I shipping seed in from Maine?

Does anyone know any other sources for small-scale grains? How about tips regarding the secret handshake needed to get access to the many grain varieties mentioned in the extension literature?

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10 Responses to Sources for small scale grains

  1. Linda says:

    You can try Fedco or Bountiful Gardens, both of which you can Google…

  2. Ron says:

    I have not ventured into this, yet, so I don’t have specific ideas. One thing that I found when searching for cover crops one year, though, was that farm stores usually can get 50 lb bags of whatever. At that time, I wasn’t looking for anything exotic, but I found a 50 lb bag of oats for $6. Of course, I surely didn’t need 50 lbs, but pricing it out it was far, far less expensive than mail order or nursery.

  3. Leigh says:

    I’ve wondered about this too, but don’t have an answer. Seems you’d have to google the grains individually in hopes of finding sources.

  4. lee says:

    Linda — Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately neither of them had what I was searching for, but it was interesting to look through their collections.

    Fedco has one variety of 6-row barley, but sells many other grain crops at reasonable prices including several varieties of buckwheat I haven’t seen before. They also have a interesting article about their decision to drop Seminis seeds as a supplier after it was bought out by Monsanto. I know Territorial has wrestled with this issue as well, and ultimately decided to gradually phase out the Seminis catalog by finding replacement varieties over the span of a few years.

    Bountiful Gardens offers only one unspecified variety of barley, but has a large collection of other grains including numerous types of wheat. I was also surprised to find seeds offered for cotton, sugar cane, and species that aren’t typical of vegetable garden catalogs.

  5. lee says:

    Ron – Good point. I’ll call up my local farm store tomorrow and see what varieties of barley they can get into stock. 50 lbs @ $6 would be awesome (but seems unlikely around here). Perhaps I could use the excess to supplement the chicken feed? The problem is that the Willamette valley of Oregon is a grass seed growing area–nobody grows anything you can actually eat.

    Leigh – Yes, that was my general strategy, and the Johnny’s link was the only thing I turned up, except for a few large volume seed sources in Kansas.

  6. Ron says:

    That’s true of Iowa (and the midwest in general), too. The farmers import most of their food. ­čÖé


  7. Lee you may have seen this blog before- it deals with grains and legumes and is local. The writers don’t post often, but if you read through the posts and comments there are many good grain seed links and ideas.

  8. lee says:

    Ron – Ha, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I have read that the field corn that’s used for high-fructose corn syrup is pretty much inedible.

    Throwback – Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve had their site bookmarked, but never got around to looking through it yet. It seems that this page has most of their grain source suggestions. Lots of other interesting posts on their site (and other sites maintained by the authors).

  9. Lynn says:

    Lee, we have gotten to know our local farm store owners. I believe they can do some of the secret handshakes that you mention, although I really haven’t used them to purchase any grains as of yet.

  10. robin says:

    Lynn- No such luck with our local farm store. They only sell grass seed and animal feed. No barley or other grains.

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