Colorado Grain Chain Project Award supports expanding markets for Colorado grain growers

Stalks of wheat with a blue sky in the background
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs was awarded $462,991 to support continued efforts on the project, The Colorado Grain Chain: Expanding Markets for Heritage and Whole Grain Growers and Makers of Value-Added Products. The goal of this project is to expand direct-to-consumer markets for farmers and makers of value-added heritage grain products throughout Colorado and in southern Colorado.

Nanna Meyer, PhD, RD, CSSD, associate professor of human physiology and nutrition, and Sean Sevette, MSc, RD, instructor of human physiology and nutrition and program coordinator of the registered dietitian, didactic programs in dietetics/individual supervised practice pathway, will receive this three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Farmers Market Promotion Program. Meyer and Sevette will also work with The Colorado Grain Chain, Rocky Mountain Farms Union and CU Boulder during the grant.

Locally grown grains are essential to successful and sustainable local food economies. And it’s not just about the environmental impacts – the social, health and economical benefits to our communities are plentiful as well.

On the consumer end of the chain, there is heightened demand for grains as staples like flour and bread, but consumer acceptability of whole grains, local access, and basic baking and cooking skills remain low. On the producer end, supplies are limited and there is a low-level of producer skills and knowledge for entering direct-to-consumer, direct-to-retail, restaurant and institutional markets.

This project will provide technical assistance to CGC members and others in an effort to address these opportunities and challenges. Specifically, the project focuses on marketing and a Colorado-Grown Heritage Grain co-branding strategy that will support and highlight Colorado’s heritage grain farmers, millers, maltsters, bakers, brewers, distillers and chefs.

The grant will also fund educational courses, such as Grain School that teach using hands-on, in-the-field or online opportunities, and courses that offer technical assistance for growers and makers providing robust regional and remote training and service opportunities.

The funding will also further the development of the Grain School Test Kitchen, used for the research and development of recipes, products and menus that utilize whole-grains and Colorado-Grown Heritage Grains.

“It’s quite exciting,” Meyer said. “We go live in about a year.”

“We will research and develop products and recipes in the sport nutrition kitchen at the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center for use among local artisans, makers, farmers, retailers, restaurants or even hospitals,” Meyer said. “The idea is to work with the hospital, or a community partner, to integrate whole-grain nutrition into their offerings in the cafeterias or patient menus.” 

Grain School returns in 2021, and is moving into an online learning platform, with a first-time launch in February (registration begins January 15). Due to the importance of grain in both people’s diets and sustainable agriculture, Grain School Online will be developed as a foundational course that allows students to gain the necessary knowledge in grain from production to consumption. Topics include history and culture, biology, crop and cereal sciences, quality and safety standards, processing applications from grain to flour, cereals to breads, nixtamal to tortillas, malts to brews and grain to plates. 

The project will pioneer an enhanced grain literacy strategy, geared toward consumers of all income levels, delivered directly and through partnerships in food, agriculture, education and health will ensure access to all Coloradans.