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Rare Grain Attracting New Markets
Interest in drought-resistant crops and healthy, gluten-free grains is pushing U.S. research in teff, a native Ethiopian grain.
“It grows well in California but has grown in other parts of the U.S.,” says Zion Taddese. As the owner of Queen Sheba Ethiopian Food in Sacramento, Calif., she has a personal stake in teff, a main ingredient in injura, a fermented flatbread that is a staple at her restaurant.
While there are a few U.S. growers, demand is growing - along with higher prices - and she sees opportunity for U.S. and Ethiopian farmers as well as consumers. Teff has 3 times more iron and about twice as much fiber as traditional U.S. grains, as well as many other nutritional benefits.
Taddese founded Sheba Farms LLC and collaborates with UC Davis (University of California) researchers to develop the best varieties and methods to grow teff in the U.S.
The grain has its challenges. As a tall grass it has lodging issues and it can lose as much as 20 to 30 percent of the ripe seed. Plus, the seed is tiny, creating challenges for harvesting and cleaning it. Made into flour, teff can be substituted for other flours. It is versatile and can be planted in April or July and is ready to harvest in about 3 mos.
Last year a couple of California farmers planted small 4-acre trial plots of brown and white varieties of teff, netting 2,000 lbs. of grain. (The grass can also be used for animal feed.)
Taddese’s plans for Sheba Farms LLC include developing a processing center to mill and package teff according to USDA regulations. It is also a center for sharing knowledge of best practice methods that help both U.S. and Ethiopian farmers.  Taddese welcomes calls from people interested in learning more and investing in Sheba Farms LLC.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Sheba Farms LLC, 1704 Broadway, Sacramento, Calif. 95818 (ph 916 549-3919; www.shebafarms.org; zion@queenshebas.com; Facebook - Sheba Farms LLC).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4