San Francisco Chronicle Article

I’m thrilled that my work to grow climate-adapted, heritage wheat got this spotlight in the SF Chronicle article “In Wine Country, One Radical Farmer is Growing an Unusual Heritage Crop: Wheat.” Here’s the article introduction:

Sebastopol is famous for its Gravenstein apple orchards. It’s known as a world-class spot to grow Pinot Noir grapes. And now, thanks to Mai Nguyen, this bucolic town in western Sonoma County is also home to one of California’s most noteworthy grain farms — growing what’s become a coveted insider’s secret among top bakers and a favorite of breweries and distilleries.

Here, in a 50-acre plot near the Barlow shopping complex, Nguyen grows rare varieties of heirloom wheat like Sonora, the first wheat variety cultivated in North America and the base for Mexico’s original wheat tortillas. Hulking seven feet above the ground are tall stalks of Wit Wolkoring, a Sonora descendant that’s particularly drought-resistant.

These are cultivars that “you won’t find in a seed catalog,” Nguyen said. Each of the dozen-odd grains that Nguyen has grown confer different advantages — the Chiddam Blanc de Mars is perfect for baguettes, the Sonora can be cooked like rice — but what they all share is an adaptation to California’s North Coast. These are hardy, survivor grains, selected to withstand an increasingly hostile climate.

The flour milled from Nguyen’s special grains has become a base for esteemed California bakers like Roxana Julapat of Friends and Family in Los Angeles and Crystal White of San Diego’s Wayfarer Bread. Local breweries and distilleries have jumped at the chance to buy Nguyen’s rye; Sebastopol’s Spirit Works just made a rye whiskey, its first liquor using hyperlocal grain.

Recently, home bakers got the chance to dabble with Nguyen’s grains too, thanks to a new “flour shares” program, similar to a community-supported agriculture arrangement, in which customers can buy a subscription to these luxurious, deeply flavorful flours directly from the farm.

The farm’s mission extends beyond simply growing the base ingredient for producing delicious loaves and rye whiskeys. Nguyen, who uses they/them pronouns, sees agriculture as a vehicle for social and environmental activism — and grain, they believe, could play an important role in mitigating the oncoming effects of climate change. The types of wheat they’re growing are not only drought tolerant, but Nguyen also believes that by farming them in certain ways, they can be effective in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Read more here.