Quinoa, a South American superfood that's so popular the United Nations declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, is now growing in Waterloo Region.
Trevor Herrle-Braun is growing 5 acres of the grain on his farm in Wilmot Township, as part of a pioneering test study to see if the crop that is usually only grown in the Andes, is viable in Ontario.
"We eat a lot of quinoa as a family, and it’s a big staple of our diet, an alternative to rice and other grains," said Herrle-Braun in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Tuesday. Herrle-Braun is one of farmers behind Herrle's Country Farm Market, a retail farm that sells direct to consumers.
He got involved with the experiement after he spotted a tweet from the Thames Valley Regional Soil and Crop Improvement Association (TVRSCIA) looking for farmers to grow quinoa.
@TVRSCIA I can't DM you, you need to follow but I would LOVE to do a test plot of Quinoa!! -Trevor— Herrle's Farm Market (@HerrlesMarket) June 11, 2013
"My brother-in-law, James, and I just jumped on the opportunity," he said.
"We thought, 'well let’s be in on this,' and on the opportunity and hopefully be the start of something new."
The TVRSCIA is working in partnership with Katan Kitchens, a company that sells frozen superfoods like quinoa, and who provided the seed to Herrle-Braun and other growers.
"So far it’s easy. We planted it with a grass seeder, like we plant alfalfa," said Herrle-Braun.
"It grows very rigorously. Very quickly. So it snuffs out a lot of the weeds."
Herrle-Braun says if he’s given the opportunity to plant the crop again, he might plant it a bit thicker, and hopes he can increase his acreage devoted to the grain.
But a successful harvest this year is just the first step in bringing quinoa to Ontario. Herrle-Braun estimates that it will take several years of growing and testing before a crop is ready to be sold commercially, with a 2015 timeline his best guess.
"They do tests on it, the seed has to be clean, free of any other weeds, they have to test it see if there’s any disease in the plant that would affect other crops," he said.
‘We’re regulated quite heavily in Canada and those safety measures are there for a reason."
In the meantime, the demand for quinoa isn't going anywhere.
"If we can produce it here and produce for our community and our country, and our province, all the better. I think that’s our duty as farmers, to bring more products closer to home," says Herrle-Braun.