A Sonora and Kamut Wheat Field in Los Angeles County!

Sonora wheat

The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, of which I’m a co-founder along with Teresa Sitz and Mark Stambler, have teamed with farmer Andrea Crawford, of Kenter Canyon Farms, to plant what I think may be the first wheat field in Los Angeles County in many years.

Wheat used to be widely grown here, especially Sonora wheat, a drought tolerant variety originally bought to the Southwest by the Spanish. Along with Sonora, we planted an ancient wheat variety called Khorasan, better known under the trade name Kamut. An American airman obtained Kamut from a street vendor in Cairo in 1949. Researchers are studying ancient wheats like Kamut to see if people with wheat allergies can tolerate them better. We purchased both varieties (certified organic) from the Sustainable Seed Company.

Discing the field

The field was prepared by discing it with a tractor. We sowed the wheat by hand and then covered it temporarily with shade cloth to keep the birds out until the seeds germinate. The seeds were watered in with an overhead sprinkler, but the plan is to pray for rain. If it turns out to be a dry year, monthly waterings will be necessary.

Mark, Andrea and Nathan sowing.

Andrea plans on sowing in some red poppies to help keep the weeds down. If all goes well, a harvest party (get ready to thresh and winnow!) will take place when the grains mature. Sign up for the LA Bread Bakers Meetup (free to join) to find out when the harvest fest will take place.

The wheat field covered with shade cloth.

Speaking for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, we’re really excited to be a part of this agricultural experiment. A big thanks goes out to Andrea and her son Nathan who have made this possible. We’ll post some updates on the blog as the field progresses.

Note: A quick clarification because we’ve had some questions. The poppies that Andrea plans to plant are not Somniferum poppies (that’s a different kind of cash crop!). They are red poppies, also called Flanders poppies, Papaver rhoeas.

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7 Comments

  1. “Andrea plans on sowing in some red poppies to help keep the weeds down” … what kind of red poppies, and how does this work?

    Congratulations on “breaking ground” in more ways than one!

  2. You could make gozleme with the poppy leaves. Pity you couldn’t do it with the flour from this wheat; maybe next year.

    I have about 1 square foot of winter wheat I’ve planted for my chickens. It looks ok so far, but as we’re having very peculiar weather, who knows what will happen with the crops here this year.

  3. I’m very excited about your wheat planting in LA county! Kamut is very popular as an alternative wheat. Have you heard of einkorn (Triticum monococcum)? It is the most primitive form of wheat and is considerably more nutritious than the common wheat of today.

  4. How exciting!

    I’m curious to see how methods along the lines of those developed by Marc Bonfils would work where you live, since most of your precipitation tends to fall in the winter months. His wheat plants were planted a meter apart from each other, in an un-tilled field. His combination of straw mulch and leguminous ground cover might even make drip irrigation feasible: with no sun or digging, the hose & emitters might last for many years.

    But I’m sure that’s the kind of experimentation that can be put off until you’ve had some proven successes.

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