Farmers in Peru and Bolivia have been growing and eating quinoa for a long, long time. But over the last decade, the grain’s high nutritional value has made it a popular food in countries like the U.S. and Canada. South America quinoa production has more than doubled since 2010 as producers have tried to meet international demand.
Four years ago, the trend caught the eye of Jeremiah Clark, who runs eastern-Idaho-based Clark Seed Company. His son had been misdiagnosed with celiac’s disease, and so the family tried some gluten-free foods. After adding quinoa to their diet, Clark did some research – and found out it could be a perfect fit for the state’s high desert climate.
“It sounded like it grew in areas that we were in," says Clark. "Kind of the high desert, cooler temperature. Down in Peru and Bolivia they rotate it with potatoes; that just sounded like Idaho.”
Clark settled on a quinoa variety that was working for producers in Colorado. Now, he’s growing 600 acres of the grain – the most he knows of in the country.
Almost 200 acres will be organically grown, which he says is in big demand.
“When we talk to buyers, they ask if it’s organic first off. The best use for it looks like it’s the West Coast. We’ve talked to some buyers in Oregon and it sounds like that’s where a lot of it will end up.”
Clark says he’s talked with big cereal companies interested in seeing a steady American supply of the product. Quinoa is still a small part of his overall business, but Clark says he would like to make quinoa a significant part of his business in the coming years.
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