Wheat is a crop that has been put into its place. That place is the Wheat Belt, the center of the country. It can grow where most crops don't do well and where there is no economic incentive to grow anything else. At one time, wheat was grown as part of a diverse cropping system in virtually every region of the country. Today, wheat is returning to places such as the hills of North Carolina, Vermont, Maine, Northern California, southwestern Oregon, the Skagit Valley, and San Juan Islands of Washington. These areas are “out of place,” and there is value to wheat grown out of place. That value can be indirect—for example, when used as a rotational crop that reduces diseases and other pests. Its value can also come more directly in unexpected forms, such as flavor and unique functional properties. The new focus on wheat production is helping farmers produce value where before they were bit players in a brutal commodity market geared only toward larger producers.
Kicking the Commodity Habit: On Being Grown Out of Place
stephen jones is a wheat breeder and the director of the Washington State University–Mount Vernon Research Center. He teaches graduate courses in advanced classical genetics and in the history and ethics of genetics. Together with his graduate students he breeds wheat and other grains for small farms in underserved areas of the Pacific Northwest.
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stephen jones; Kicking the Commodity Habit: On Being Grown Out of Place. Gastronomica 1 August 2012; 12 (3): 74–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/GFC.2012.12.3.74
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