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Small-scale Organic Grain Production (BF 140)

Is it Right for You?

This course is intended to make grain production more accessible for small-scale farmers. Do the constraints of finances, equipment, infrastructure or acreage feel prohibitive? Information from pre-planting to post-harvest will help aspiring grain growers determine the feasibility and profitability of integrating a grain enterprise into the farm. The course focuses on food-grade and distilling/malting markets, with backup markets for feed-grade grain. Learn what to grow, and how to grow, store and market organic grain. Topics include crop growth cycles and crop rotation, equipment and storage, post-harvest quality, cleaning and markets, and financial considerations. This course will enable the aspiring grain farmer to carefully weigh the challenges and rewards of small-scale grain production before investing time, energy and resources.

Target Audience

This course is for anyone who is interested in grain production but doesn’t know where to start: from the aspiring farmer to the experienced farmer considering the integration of a new grain enterprise. Because crop selection and production practices vary by region and climate, this course targets farmers in the Northeast. Farmers outside of the region are welcome to register but should do so knowing that some of the information presented may not be relevant.

Course Objectives

  • Understand the agronomic characteristics of common grain crops and evaluate the suitability of specific crops for your operation.
  • Recognize the interactions of cover cropping and crop rotation.
  • Identify scale-appropriate equipment and applications.
  • Describe the full-season tasks involved in grain farming—from pre-planting to post-harvest.
  • Employ harvest, storage and market strategies to maximize quality and profitability.
  • Understand the financial aspects of small-scale grain production and develop a basic enterprise budget.


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructors to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, the webinars are always recorded and posted for later viewing.


Kat Loeck is an organic grain farmer in Seneca County, New York.
Brian Caldwell is a researcher in Cornell’s Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences and a long-time organic farmer.


Tues. Jan 19 – Tues Feb 23, 2016. Webinars will be on Tuesday evenings from 7-8:30pm and will be recorded for later viewing. This course is closed for registration. It will next be offered in Jan 2017, with registration opening in mid-August 2016. 

Course Outline

PLEASE NOTE: This course requires the purchase of a hard copy of The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer by Jack Lazor. You should be sure you have the book in hand in time for the first week of this fast-paced course!

  • Week 1:  Introduction and Grains 101 – Navigating Moodle, course overview, greet the grains.
  • Week 2: Starting a Grain Enterprise from Scratch – A full-season timeline of operations and what it takes.
  • Week 3: Whole Farm Cropping Plan – How your overall crop mix, cover crops and crop rotation interplay with soil health, weeds, pests and diseases.
  • Week 4: Equipment – The what, when and how of equipment.
  • Week 5: Planning for Harvest – Post-harvest quality, drying, storage, cleaning and markets.
  • Week 6: Economics and Your Next Steps – Enterprise budgets and profitability

Cost and Registration

The fee for this course is $200.* This course is currently closed, with registration opening again in mid-August 2016.

*Additionally, you will need to purchase the course textbook, The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer by Jack Lazor.