Grains may once again be grown in the Fraser Valley thanks to the Eco-Friendly Crop Rotations Project led by Assoc. Prof. Art Bomke, an expert in soil and sustainable agriculture.
With the Delta Farmers’ Institute, Bomke and his team are evaluating how well grains like oats, wheat and barley grow when planted in rotation with vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Bomke says that 80 years ago, there were a number of grain producers in the Fraser Valley, but due to the economies of scale, farms could not compete against the large-scale grain operations elsewhere in North America.
Now, however, the growing number of organic farms, the availability of new disease-resistant grain varieties and consumer demand for locally grown grains have made cereal production more feasible.
Farmers could earn more by adding a secondary rotation crop and also further ecological farming practices, says Bomke. Research shows that cereals, underseeded with legumes, can improve weed control and enhance soil quality by maintaining soil organic matter and increasing nitrogen availability for succeeding vegetable crops.
“It would reduce the need to purchase expensive fertilizers.”
Flour ground from our test wheat varieties is currently being tested by students in the Land and Food Systems 350 course in collaboration with FarmFolk/CityFolk, a non-profit society that supports local, sustainable food systems.
“We’re seeing how the flour tastes in home baking,” says Bomke.