So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and honestly you haven’t missed much. Our part of the world got rain and more rain, it was non stop for 2 months. There was no field work, but there was supposed to be. We should’ve been planting wheat in October, but the fields weren’t even ready because IT WOULDN’T STOP RAINING! Like most farmers, we’ll be whining about no rain soon I’m sure.
Anyways, we have FINALLY started our wheat planting, or sowing as some call it. Better late than never, right?! Eh, hopefully. The guys have been working long hours to get the wheat in the ground before the next rain, thats actually supposed to happen tonight.
With farmers rushing around the roads and fields trying to get their wheat crop in the ground, I decided now may be a good time to have a quick Wheat 101.
Wheat: What is it?
Obviously you probably know of and have heard of Wheat, I mean you own a computer with internet and have been outside of your home in the last 300 years, but I want to get more in depth.
For starters, wheat is a member of the grass family and produces a dry, seeded fruit called a kernel. It originated from the Middle East more than 17,000 years ago.
Fun fact: The Roman Goddess Ceres, who was deemed the protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today, which is “cereal”.
Wheat was first planted in the United States as a hobby crop, but is now the primary grain used in United States grain products. China is actually the largest wheat producing country in the world. Luckily there are 42 states in the U.S. that can grow wheat and in 2017 there were 2.31 BILLION bushes of wheat produced. Kansas is actually the leading wheat producing state in the U.S. with about 467.4 million bushels. Following Kansas is North Dakota, then Washington. Sorry Texas, but we are the 9th most producing state in the United States, in 2017 anyways. About half of the wheat grown in the U.S. is used domestically.
Fun fact: A bushel of wheat weighs about 60 pounds.
Classes of Wheat.
There are 6 classes of wheat;
Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Hard White, Soft White, and Durum.
Here in Texas, its mostly Hard Red Winter Wheat, the kind thats used in breadmaking, rolls, flat breads, all purpose flour and also cereal. Also grown is Soft Red Winter Wheat, which is generally used to make cookies, crackers, pretzels and pastries. The crackers main ingredient is unbleached flour from soft red or soft white wheat.
Texas winter wheat is planted and sprouts in the fall, becomes dormant in the winter, grows again in the spring and is harvested late spring, early summer (here).
Durum wheat, which isn’t talked about much here, is primarily grown in North Dakota and Montana. It’s known for the excellent quality in producing pasta.
Fun fact: Wheat raised locally goes to Dominos pizza and chicken express.
How does it go from the field to our food?
Well, thats a loaded question so bear with me.
All wheat is harvested with a combine, unless its grazing wheat, which is a heavy crop in Texas that makes up 40-45% of Texas wheat, then it is grazed by livestock. The other 55-60% of the Texas wheat crop will be hauled to a local grain bin, grain elevator or even shipped by rail to sell in the grain market either domestically or overseas. And if you think about it, thats A LOT of exporting because on average, Texas produces 80 MILLION bushes of wheat each year, with about 6 million acres planted.
Fun fact: It takes 9 seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat to produce 70 loaves of bread.
It takes of lot of hands to put a wheat crop in the ground. Farmers need the seed, fertilizer, a tractor for each grain drill, fuel and a mechanic on hand at all times, because something tends to break often.
This particular year there is plowing before the drill comes through to plant, mostly trying to dry out the ground. Some here are even slinging wheat with a spreader and plowing the seed in, then using a packer to pack the ground down so the soil isn’t loose. On a normal year the ground is prepped with fertilizer and cultivated to be smooth, then the air seeder, or grain drill, comes through putting the seeds in the ground.
I hope I put a little twinkle of new info in there for you because wheat is the most important food grain source for us humans. High fiber and nutrients, Vitamin B and minerals are just a few natural health benefits you get from wheat. I want people to know that those farmers out there aren’t just doing nothing, they’re planting wheat that could end up in YOUR pantry!