Small-Scale Grain Raising: For Backyards, Homesteads and Small Farmers


Image credit: Chelsea Green
Classic Guide to Backyard and Small-Scale Grain Growing
Often when TreeHugger posts on backyard permaculture or urban homesteading, we get flack from the naysayers who argue that backyards are only good for salad and vegetables - and that we'd still need an industrial food system to grow all the grains and animal feed 'required' for the modern diet. Forgetting for a moment that most of us who grow some of our own food have no interest in complete self-sufficiency, there's no doubt that grains are traditionally the missing element in backyard food cultivation. But it doesn't have to be that way, at least if a new edition of a 1970's classic is to be believed.Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon was originally published back in the 1970s to help the new generation of back-to-the-land homesteaders grow and process their own grains - from corn to wheat to rice. Apparently the recent revival in the sustainable food movement has seen interest in Logsdon's work sky rocketing - with original editions of his book trading for as much as $1000. Luckily Chelsea Green are publishing a revised second edition, complete with updates from the author. The Ethicurian picks up the story with an informative review of Small-Scale Grain Raising - which apparently can be applied at almost any scale, from the backyard up:

In "Small-Scale Grain Raising," Logsdon lays out clearly just how easy it can be to grow grains for your family and your livestock, from his beloved "pancake patch" up to acre-sized plots. Interspersed with good-humored vintage anecdotes and his usual "Contrary Farmer" commentary, this primer elevates the status of grain-growing on farms of all sizes (from the backyard on up) to a happy essential. As he states repeatedly, there's nothing so delicious — or so economical — as home-baked goods made with fresh grains you grew and milled yourself. And when those same home-grown grains can also feed your animals and build soil fertility well, what's stopping you?

Logsdon's book covers all of the well-known grains and several of the lesser ones: barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rice, spelt, sorghum, triticale, wheat, and others. He also devotes a chapter to soybeans and dried beans, despite their classification as legumes, because they partner so well with grains both in growing and in eating. For at least the major grains he discusses varieties, yields, nutritional value, and uses (both for human and animal consumption as well as other farm uses). He describes how to prepare the soil, how to plant the grain seeds (including optimal space requirements), what diseases and pests to watch for and how to deal with them, how to harvest and dry the grains, how to store them, and, finally, how to turn those seeds into food for your family.

I'm sure even the most dedicated backyard grower is likely to have trouble meeting all of their grain needs themselves, but it seems to me like there would be very little more rewarding, or more grounding (pardon the pun), than growing, milling and then baking with your own grains. I'll leave the last word to Mr Logsdon, quoted by the Ethicurian, and his response to those who dissed his work back in the 1970s: ""To all those agribusiness experts who ridiculed my call to garden grains 30 years ago, I now draw myself up in pompous self-righteousness, stick out my tongue, and gloat as sickeningly as possible." Amen.

Thanks to Rhode Island Kris for the tip!

Tags: Agriculture | Farming | Local Food | United States

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