FOA 221: Bringing Commercial Quinoa Production to Colorado

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“Quinoa is very unique. One, it is gluten free but it also contains high amounts of protein and a greater balance of essential amino acids than cereals.” - Angela Ichwan

This week we are exploring the emerging market of American grown quinoa. The financial, environmental and supply chain consequences of a few farmers from the San Luis Valley in Colorado that started developing this product are shared today. Paul New is a 3rd generation farmer that was initially introduced to quinoa production by a graduate student that rented some ground from his operation. Sheldon Rockey farms in Center, Colorado and joined Paul in the quinoa venture. The two have expanded from an initial 500 acres of quinoa production to 3000. And finally, Angela Ichwan, who leads the technical team of the specialty crop business unit of Ardent Mills joins us to explain the quinoa market and how Ardent Mills has contributed to its success.

“We were watching him grow the quinoa and it was kind of an exciting plant because it didn’t seem to use very much water, grew pretty well here in the San Luis Valley and as we learned more about the nutritional value and the versatility of it, we got pretty excited about it.... We thought it was going to be a crop of the future.” - Paul New

That excitement led to adding quinoa to their potato rotation. The product was “fairly easy to market” and initially the main obstacle was ironing out the production. They have now developed a new seed and adjusted their crop management system to overcome some of these challenges. The quinoa reduced the amount of inputs needed for their potato crop as there is less overlap between disease and pests. They also saw a significant reduction in water consumption needed for the quinoa crop in comparison to the common barley and alfalfa crops.

“We were still working on the production and Ardent (Mills) was positioned to really be able to step in and help us with the marketing and giving us the volume so that we could go out and really work with the neighbors and the other producers in the valley.” - Paul New

Ardent Mills also brings expertise and support in progressive genetics and to further develop EPA labels for inputs. Quinoa saw a surge in global acceptance when it was named the grain of the year in 2013 and also with increased consumer demands due to widespread gluten-free trends. Ardent Mills had an interest in producing ancient grains and was attracted by the nutritional profile and water conservation opportunities for quinoa. This led to an exclusive relationship and successful collaboration with quinoa producers in the San Luis Valley.

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Paul New and Sheldon Rockey, Colorado quinoa farmers
  • Discover their introduction to the “psuedograin” quinoa
  • Learn the benefits this crop has added to their operations
  • Explore the collaboration these producers have created with Ardent Mills and the advantages this has provided
  • Meet Angela Ichwan who explains how Ardent Mills is using this relationship to grow a market for American grown quinoa

246 episodes