Senior research scientist Thomas Foulke first learned about these ancient grains in France, where he takes students for a yearly agriculture program. He was flipping through an old French cookbook when he came across a recipe that called for spelt. Unfamiliar with the word, he looked it up and found that it was a grain, one of the first ever cultivated.
"Why aren't we growing this?" Foulke thought, "We are always looking for ways to enhance the agricultural economy here, so maybe we should try to grow this."
Foulke decided to come back and grow a small amount of emmer, spelt, and einkorn for the University of Wyoming's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The project, known as First Grains, was created to see if there was a potential business opportunity to create a profitable crop for local farmers.
He explained that the goal is to, "make sure that, unlike some crops that you need specialized equipment for, here they're basically varieties of wheat. So it's a crop that farmers know how to grow and that they have the equipment for."
The University has already enlisted a few Wyoming bakeries and breweries to use these ancient grains including The Bread Doctor in Torrington and The Alibi in Laramie. If the First Grain project is successful, it could create new jobs and a new market to draw in more producers.
"It's not just a trendy thing. We want to employ all the capital we can to do something positive for the state," Foulke says, "In the end we are looking for a profitable, sustainable business that can stand on its own."
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Megan Feighery, at mfeigher@uwyo.