Connection. Engagement. Community.
Growing a local grain movement focuses on supporting and engaging all the stakeholders in a local food chain- in this case a grain chain- from seed saver to grower to miller to end user.

Participants of Grains School in the Field 2022, Credits Matt Maenpaa

Why Grains?

Local grain movements have been quietly infiltrating communities throughout the country and beyond in response to the absence of locally grown heritage grain varieties.  At the same time, grains account for 30-50% of the average diet. The Colorado Grain Chain began with a vision to see ancient and heritage grains reintroduced into the local Colorado community. During gatherings at Grain School in Colorado Springs, a 501(c)5 membership-based organization was born and incorporated in May 2019 thanks to the meaningful work of Dr. Nanna Meyer and Mona Esposito, assisted by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. The founding goal of the Colorado Grain Chain was to re-introduce the production cycle or "grain chain" that was once an integral part of our local food system.  

The re-localization of a grain economy and a return to pre-industrial varieties of grain, as well as the agricultural practices that go along with it, supports small scale farmers and the communities they serve on many levels. Growing grain - particularly heritage and ancient wheats - encourages environmental sustainability, as it augments farm diversity, boosts biodiversity and promotes sustainable agricultural rotations. The result yields a diversity of value-added products that are both high in nutritional value and flavorfully complex. 

The Challenges

Until recently, grains have been left out of the sustainable sourcing and farming discussion, yet they make up the majority of the food we eat and land in cultivation. Here in Colorado, supply chain gaps can be seen from infrastructure, such as limited access to adequate storage, seed cleaning, sufficient local milling sites, to transportation and to market access from both the consumer and business standpoints. Additionally, it can be challenging to understand how to use a diversity of grains and to know where to find them. 

2023 Colorado Grain Chain Board Retreat

Our Current Work

Paired with a great enthusiasm and consumer demand in our community and beyond, we are poised to be change-makers in the grain revolution. Here’s how:

Grain Education & Resources: The Colorado Grain Chain offers an array of grain recipes and grain literacy guides that increase one's grain knowledge and culinary applications (view Resource Library). We also create outreach opportunities by co-hosting a variety of online and live hands-on grain experiences, ranging from our Grain Home School Archive, UCCS Grain School Online, Grain School in the Field (see most recent), to various "Road Shows" held throughout the state. Our latest roadshow took place at the 2023 National Science Writers Conference.

Community Connections & Market Access: Relationships are critical to developing strong value-chains. The Colorado Grain Chain has a state-wide network of over 1,200 subscribers and a 50+ members. From our newsletters to our annual calendar of events, there's opportunities to get connected. Members have access to a Business Member Directory (view Member Map) and (coming soon) the Grain Exchange Marketplace (GEM), to foster local farm & business connections. The GEM will also aid members in accessing information on where different grains can be sourced. 

Colorado Grown Grain Co-Brand & Marketing Support: The Colorado Grown Grains Co-Brand (Co-Brand) offers a recognizable marketing tool for grain focused farmers and businesses to indicate value-added products with their commitment to growing and utilizing locally sourced grains. The logo artwork and associated marketing materials support businesses in engaging with their customers and sharing their unique grain story. The goal is to increase demand for and awareness of locally grown, Colorado grains. 

Technical Assistance for Farm & Business Stakeholders: The Colorado Grain Chain connects growers within and outside of our membership network and offers support through our dedicated staff and our volunteer working Board in the way of technical expertise and maintaining an understanding of current haves and needs within their communities to make these connections strong and meaningful. In spring of 2023, we launched our first Brewing & Distilling Microgrant Program, as a pilot project intended to off-set the perceived risk for local business crafting exclusively with Colorado Grown Grains. Our goal is to expand projects like this across the stakeholders of Colorado's grain chain.  

Addressing systemic barriers and supporting partners in systems change for an equitable food system: “Community not commodity” is our ethos and we take an inter-sectional approach to creating systems change through community outreach and partnerships. We believe the re-localization of grains, which are a key component of our diet, will help boost diversification on farms, promote healthy diets, build local economy and support a community’s food resilience strategy.

Do you find inspiration and motivation from our work? We hope you will consider joining as a either a business member who works in one of the links along the chain for $130/year (see Co-Brand limited time offer) or as a consumer member for $40/year.

Ringading Dry Corn
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