Free Shipping on retail orders over $100, use code FREESHIPPING100

(Excludes AK, HI, and Wholesale)

Janie's Farm and Janie's Mill participate in grain variety trials with the University of Illinois and others

Great New Culinary Grains from Janie's Farm Test Plots

By: Terra Brockman (Read Bio)

Janie's Farm and Janie's Mill participate in grain variety trials with the University of Illinois and others

Research and Test Plots lead to Culinary Grain Breakthroughs at Janie’s Farm!

Janie’s Farm and Janie’s Mill have been collaborating on culinary grains variety research for many years. In this video, Farmer Harold Wilken gives you a quick tour and inside information about the test plots just before the 2023 harvest.

After you watch the video, read on to find out how and why the teams at Janie's Farm and Janie's Mill work tirelessly to bring the very best grains from Farm to Mill to YOU!

Janie's Farm and Janie's Mill have been collaborating with University of Illinois and other plant breeders on culinary grain variety research since 2016. There is a huge difference between breeding for chemical grain production, industrial roller milling, and factory scale baked goods, and breeding for organic production, stone milling, and discerning small-scale bakers. For the latter, the focus of grain variety trials include:
(1) Traits prioritized by organic farmers such as high nutrient use efficiency from organic fertilizer inputs, competitiveness against weeds, and pest/disease resistance
(2) Processing quality parameters defined by our millers and bakers
(3) Taste and nutritional quality parameters demanded by our bakers

Every year since Janie's Mill was founded in 2016, we have planted test plots and participated in grain variety trials. These trials are at the heart of our mission to bring the very best grains and flours to your kitchen.

Let’s take a closer look at how this process unfolds:
1. Variety Selection. Plant breeders at our partner universities identify varieties that have excellent potential for organic production in the Midwest, as well as for stone-milling and baking. Often the wheat lines are crosses of historic winter wheat varieties known for artisanal bread-making quality, such as Rouge de Bordeaux.
2. Planting. In the fall, winter wheat varieties are planted at regional university research stations, and on Janie’s Farm in IL, Meadowlark Organics in WI, and Oeschner Farms in Trumansburg, NY.
3. Growth performance monitoring and harvest. During the growing season, farmers and researchers measure a variety of performance criteria. When the test plots are ready to harvest, U of I team members use their test plot combine to harvest each plot, and bag and label each variety.
4. Grain Variety Analysis. After harvest, the grain varieties are analyzed and tested at the University of Illinois Food Science Pilot Plant for their agronomic and baking qualities.
5. Milling and Bread-Making. With that data in hand, Dr. Julie Dawson, Dr. Lucia Gutierrez, and Pablo Sandro, a graduate student working on the organic wheat breeding project, choose the most promising varieties for milling and then baking and taste tests. The varieties are stone-milled with the millers taking notes on milling performance. Then a baker prepares the levain and other participating bakers then prepare the bread dough, paying close attention and taking notes on the performance of the different varieties as they work. Loaves are then baked, labeled with 3-letter codes, and left to rest overnight.
6. Taste-testing. The next day, bakers and members of the public, including the Janie's Mill team, taste the breads and take notes on specific quality parameters including texture of the crust and crumb, overall appearance, and flavor components.
Janies Mill team taste tests bread made from grain variety trials on Janies Farm
7. Data compilation and decision-making. Dr. Dawson and her team compile all the baking and taste data along with the field performance data. Then, in collaboration with the farmers and bakers, they make decisions about which varieties to continue to focus on breeding and improving.
8. Field Production, Milling, and Baking. The final step is when the Janie’s Farm and Mill teams decide which exceptional varieties to put into production. Our team works tirelessly to bring these extraordinary grains from Farm to Mill to YOU!
Erisman soft red winter wheat Janie's Farm 2023 harvest

Test Plot Success with Erisman Soft Red Winter Wheat

In the early years (2016-2020), our grain trial collaborations were with plant breeders and food scientists at the University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin. Then in 2020, the collaboration expanded to include Cornell University and other organic farmers, millers, and bakers, many of them members of the Artisan Grain Collaborative. 

From the very beginning our variety trials were fruitful. One of the successes from our first year of variety trials was Erisman wheat, a variety of soft red winter wheat named after Jack Erisman, an organic farmer in Pana, IL who has been farming 2,000 acres since 1963. The grain trials showed that Erisman wheat had excellent agronomic and culinary qualities, including:

  • Resistance to fusarium head blight and stripe rust
  • High yields, heavy test weight, and excellent disease resistance
  • Wide adaptability to variable soil types
  • Excellent stone-milling & baking qualities for quick breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries
  • Good flavor and nutritional profile

Because of these variety trial results, it’s no wonder that organic Erisman Wheat is the grain we proudly stone-mill into Janie’s Mill Silky Smooth Pastry Flour.
Janies Mill organic stoneground Silky Smooth Pastry Flour
Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes blog posts and exciting updates from Janie’s Farm! Our passion for culinary grain excellence shapes every step of our journey, and we’re thrilled to have you join us on this adventure.

To close, here's a photo from our bountiful 2023 harvest of Erisman Soft Red Winter Wheat.

Posted on August 14 2023