Certified organic farmer talks about new perennial grain | News, Sports, Jobs


Staff photo by Fritz Busch Certified organic farmer Ben Penner, center, of Belle Plaine, talks about Kernza perennial grains at the Turner Talks on Agriculture event at Turner Hall on Thursday. The next Turner Talks event in March will focus on manufacturing.

NEW ULM – This is a new type of grain that grows differently from traditional grain. It looks like wheat, but it isn’t.

Belle Plaine certified organic farmer Ben Penner spoke enthusiastically about Kernza, a perennial grain at the first of the quarterly Turner Talks events at Turner Hall on Thursday.

“It’s really good, like cinnamon” Penner said. “It’s a good, high-protein, value-added crop with an opportunity to build a supply chain. “

The grain is advertised as having a sweet nutty flavor, good for grains and snacks with more bran and fiber than wheat in a smaller grain, but less carbohydrate.

Kernza is not a strain or species of wheat. It is a registered trade name belonging to the Land Institute for a type of intermediate wheatgrass, a wild relative of annual wheat.

Penner said Kernza offers lower production costs and environmental benefits, including the potential to improve water quality and soil health, reduce erosion, provide habitat, and sequester carbon.

“I grow, market and sell alfalfa, hard red winter and spring wheat, food grade soybeans and cover crops.” Penner said.

He sells Heritage Turkey red spring wheat and hard red spring wheat to the St. Peter Food Cooperative.

Cannon Falls farmer Todd Churchill founded the Thousand Hills Cattle Company and spent 12 years perfecting grass-fed beef – cattle, grasses and soils.

“I got fed up with indigestion eating grocery store beef, so I went for grass-fed beef” said Churchill. “It was rich, juicy and tasty. It has the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It’s twice as expensive as everything else but doesn’t have antibodies and creates an emotional response. It’s how we feel after eating nutritious foods that matters.

Churchill said good grass-fed beef is much more difficult to produce than feedlot beef.

“You have to optimize a system with several variables. Good nutrition and good genetics are necessary ”, he said. “American agriculture has been optimized for efficiency and sacrificed quality. Maybe it’s because we’ve taken efficiency a little too far.

Christensen Farms (CF) CEO Greg Howard said CF was one of the first organizations in Minnesota to create manure management plans that balanced the needs of the soil.

“Manure is a very valuable nutrient” Howard said.

“The company thrived with a strong management team, strong sourcing and business partners to build the first successful packaging plant owned by family farmers.

“We produce enough pork to feed 15 million people a day”, Howard said. “The United States is a productive power. We are concerned about food insecurity. In 30 years, the world will still have 2 billion people to feed.

Howard said “fake meat” contains more ingredients than dog food. He said CF was starting to expand into niche markets and sold products in 33 countries.

Turner Hall Executive Director Andrea Boettger said the next Turner Talks event will focus on manufacturing on the first or second Thursday in March 2022.

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