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20161230-RD-LSC-0250 (32680837961)


20161230-RD-LSC-0250 (32680837961)



California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD) Cooperative Developer, Seed Farmer, and Co-op Founder Mai Nguyen at their farm operation, on a small experimental plot, where they grow Ethiopian Blue Tinge Emmer, Canus, Hollis, Marquis, and Fortuna wheat, as well as some chickpea and Hunan popping bean, near Petaluma, CA, on Dec. 30, 2017. These varieties haven’t been widely grown in California and little is known about how they fare as dry-farmed crops in these climes. Nguyen uses a cover crop of crimson clover to fix nitrogen and help the grains compete with the weeds. The varieties that thrive will be harvested for the next season of more seeds. Grown out, over multiple harvests, a supply of seed will be available to wheat producers for commercialization and then bought by local bakers and residents.
All of the heritage seeds at one point began as a teaspoon of seeds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) and were grown out. The NPGS is a collaborative effort to safeguard the genetic diversity of agriculturally important plants.
To help share the cost of farming, they started a cooperative of small-scale farmers in the area to buy farm and seed cleaning equipment.
Nguyen also authors a grain catalog tell the stories of various producers and lists the grains that seed farmers are producing each year. With this information, farmers can better source the next season’s seeds. To take that a step further, Mai leads the California Grain Campaign, an outreach effort held at farmers markets and public venues to encourage the supply goals for the increasing demand for locally grown heritage whole grains.
Nguyen’s work with CCCD supports the building of agricultural and worker-owned cooperative businesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of many organizations that award grants to qualified businesses, that build other businesses. CCCD is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that does this by promoting cooperatives and helping them to build their capabilities to address the economic and social needs of California’s communities. The organization supports agricultural, childcare, utility, financial, housing, and other worker-owned cooperative businesses with start-up, management, and other technical assistance. As businesses become self-sufficient, its members share in the rewards, challenges, decisions and responsibilities.

Nguyen’s parents emigrated from Vietnam during and following the 1975 “Fall of Saigon.” Later, they met, married and had Mai. During their childhood in a refugee and immigrant community, they recall how families learned to cook and prepared available local foods, but still had a desire for foods that were part of their heritage from Southeast Asia. Family experience, community gardening, work in refugee camps and their degree in atmospheric physics, planted the seed for their career working with refugee and immigrant farmers to build their own cooperative businesses that produce Umeboshi apricots, jujube drink concentrate and heritage wheat for a wide range of customers. USDA Media by Lance Cheung.







U.S. Department of Agriculture

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