Quinoa Craze Inspires North America To Start Growing Its Own
by Alastair Bland
The explosion in world popularity of quinoa in the past six years has quadrupled prices at retail outlets. But for all the demand from upscale grocery stores in America to keep their bulk bins filled with the ancient grain-like seed, almost no farmers outside of the arid mountains and coastal valleys of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile grow it.
But plant breeders and scientists who study the biology and economics of quinoa say that is about to change.
“We’re going to see quinoa being grown all over the place soon,” predicts Kevin Murphy, a Washington State University grain breeder who has spent several years developing quinoa varieties suited to America’s diverse geography and climates. Murphy says it’s already clear that quinoa can flourish and produce high yields in many parts of North America, and he sees “no reason why quinoa production won’t take off in the next few years.”
Small-scale farmers in the Northwest are currently testing the crop, harvesting a few pounds of quinoa each fall among their rows of vegetables and fruits and selling the seeds at farmers markets, but quinoa farming in the United States has not yet taken off in a big way for multiple reasons.