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Teff Gets Toehold In Michigan
Teff grain is normally grown in hot and dry conditions, but a Michigan family is challenging the norm. They added teff to the mix on their 2,500-acre row-crop farm. Brad Smith and his daughter Claire are making it work as a crop and as a value-added business enterprise.
    “My dad got some seed from a friend who travels and works in Africa,” says Claire Smith. “He planted his first crop in 2015.”
    The tiny seed was broadcast on the 33-acre test plot which was rolled to pack the soil. That fall it was cut, windrowed and dried in the field for several days before being harvested, cleaned and milled. Claire returned to the farm to work on distribution and marketing in 2016 under the brand name Tenera Grains.
    “We started selling on Amazon and made our first sale direct to consumers in October 2016,” she recalls.
    The business has faced challenges. Sales continued through the following summer and then were interrupted due to supplies nearing their one-year expiration date. The 2016 crop was a failure. Problems getting the Teff cleaned adequately in 2017 led to the Smiths installing their own cleaning equipment.
    “Our biggest challenge is getting teff to grow here, but we are figuring it out,” says Claire. “Our second biggest challenge is cleaning the harvested grain. Many weed seeds are very similar in weight and density to teff.”
    The third challenge is related to the first two. With only one herbicide labeled for teff, weed control and the competition weeds offered are a big problem.
    “In 2016 our crop was pretty much lost, as the weeds came up faster and took over the fields,” says Claire. “We learned a lot in 2017, our third year, and are cautiously optimistic about our fourth year.”
    The Smiths are confident there is plenty of room in the market to grow. “We’ve invested a lot in how to grow, clean and mill,” Claire says. “The moisture content of our grain is higher than that grown in more arid areas. Ethiopians who have tried ours say they like it.”
    Tenera Grains grows both brown (also known as red) and ivory. It is marketed as flour and as a granola product developed by the Smiths. Called teffola, it is sold direct to consumers on Etsy and is in several stores. A 13-oz. (8 servings) package sells for $9.99 plus shipping.
    Tenera’s teff flour is available in 2 and 5-lb. packages on Amazon. Prices start at $11 for the 2-lb. package of brown teff. It is also available from Tenera in 25-lb. packages, price on request.
    “My favorite use of teff is in brownies,” says Smith. “The brown teff has a nutty, malty taste that combines well with chocolate.”
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Tenera Grains, The Farm, 14191 Calhoun Rd., Addison, Mich. 49220 (ph 517-258-2413; clair@eatteffola.com; www.eatteffola.com).

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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #4