Willie Hughes—W Hughes Farms, GP
Q: How long have you been growing Kernza®?
A: My first seeding was in 2020, however I have been following kernza for about 6 or 7 years. I have 20 acres in production- 10 acres are certified organic and ten are conventional. In the conventional field I am collaborating on a fertilization study with Nicole Tautges of the Michael Fields Institute for the KernzaCAP project
Q: Why did you decide to grow Kernza?
A: I am always looking to diversify my rotation. Finding a new crop that fills a niche in our operation is what it's all about. Raising alfalfa has shown me that the benefits of adding perennials into an annual rotation are residual. So from a simple standpoint, I hope it improves my soil quality and helps to control weeds. But more broadly, the promise of perennial grain is the opportunity for farmers everywhere to pass on a healthier, more resilient landscape to its future stewards. I want to see an acceleration of perennial agriculture because I think it's important.
Q: Any challenges you want to share?
A: The fall of my first seeding was exceptionally dry. My stand never got off to a great start. That, coupled with the reality of selecting a very weedy portion of the farm to convert, meant that I didn't harvest a grain crop the first year. Fail. Thankfully, it has seemed to do a good job reseeding itself and is starting to establish nicely. My conventional seeding got a timely rain and looks really good.
Q: Any advice for other fellow PPGC members?
A: By its nature Kernza forces you to look beyond a single year. That can be a valuable and transformative experience for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge. My advice is to start slow, be patient, and play your part in bringing a regenerative perennial grain shed into fruition.
Q: What is your dream for the PPGC?
A: I hope the Cooperative is a force for cooperation. I hope we can gain knowledge and share wisdom. To me a grower-led cooperative marketing perennial and continual living crops is a compelling vision of collaboration and regeneration. It takes a village!! I hope the cooperative can play a big part in shaping the future of this industry alongside the many other entities and stakeholders working towards this.