Heritage Grains

Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage history and promotion of arid-adapted heritage grains in Southern Arizona

Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, along with an alliance of farmers and various individuals and organizations was awarded a two-year, $50,000 grant by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program in April of 2012. The purpose of the funding was to revive the production, milling, distribution and marketing of the oldest extant grain varieties adapted to the arid Southwest, including White Sonora soft bread wheat and Chapalote flint corn. 

We, along with many others, embarked on a journey, unbeknownst to us, that has led us to our current day practices and innovations in agriculture and stewarding over 100 acres of farm, grazing and gardens.  In this effort we attempted to reduce regional food insecurity, water and energy consumption, and over the last decade provided countless training and educational hands on opportunities. This opened up a portal for the future of diversified and sustainable agriculture practices in Southern Arizona.  

This original grant opportunity greatly inspired a local food movement towards improving the quality of life for all citizens and more responsible land management practices. Our efforts successfully produced value-added products as a source of income, diversifying food markets and additionally educated the general public in the myriad of opportunities and benefits of farming, ranching and gardening relative to climate change and the evolving agricultural communities and landscapes.  

Along with our volunteer farm staff at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, we were partnered with a coalition of farmers, ranchers, chefs/bakers, millers, researchers and other agricultural professionals in the greater Santa Cruz Valley including Amado Farms Joint Venture, Community Food Bank of Tucson, Cultivate Santa Cruz, Hayden Flour Mills, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance and the Tubac Historical Society.  This ultimately also led to opening our own authentic “farm to table” restaurant in Tucson, the Food for Ascension Café.  Our success in growing heritage grains enhanced our menu of locally sourced foods to benefit the patrons with various food sensitivities at our café table and introduced these native foods to their palates and pleasure. 

We are continually inspired to expand with an intention of practicing methods of creating year-round nutritional forage to lessen the supplemental alfalfa crop production necessary for animal production with cover crops and companion planting to “coexist” with our extensive Bermuda grass fields. We have adopted the practice of optimizing no-till drilling of seeds in our field crops to sequester carbon to improve soil structure, build resilience and increase microbial activity. By inoculating with mycorrhizae and implementing rotational grazing practices with all livestock we have increased natural fertilization and thus further improved our soil condition.

Avalon Gardens, Farm and Ranch is the campus and the Agricultural division of the University of Ascension Science and the Physics of Rebellion which focuses on education and providing workshops, seminars and internships to share our experiences and further expand upon the concept of community supported agriculture in embodying the hope of a self-sufficient and regenerative model of living. 

We are proud modern-day waymakers — reintroducing some of the wisdom of our “fore-farmers” of the past who worked the soil and developed a close personal relationship to their chosen profession. We have joined with those who built communities and formed lasting and meaningful connections to the land and to the people, not only from the need to survive, but the desire to build communities that included all peoples to thrive and grow in agricultural, culinary and living arts; a gift rewarding beyond words.  

We are honored to steward some of the same lands as Eusebio Francisco Kino did, a Jesuit, missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer, farmer and astronomer. He built homes, farmed the land and raised cattle; he transformed the desert into fruitful fields, populated with community, and driven with a vision and mission, after dedicating his life to his faith to his Jesuit Order as a Priest and Missionary.

Likewise, we are gathered and united here at Avalon Gardens, people from all over the world of all faiths, to serve as Human-Rights Advocates and volunteers. Growing Sonoran Wheat and other heritage grains and legumes, on the same land where Father Kino joined with Hispanic and Native American tribes growing grains and food over 300 years ago, is providential. Like clans of old united at times with other clans, we too support one another for food security in alliances of various farms formed to reestablish this nutritious food source in this region and beyond. Our efforts are to make farming a noble and profitable vocation and build a spiritual community as a solution. The long since forgotten profession of working the land has resulted in the exploitation and waste of natural resources and it is with integrity and gratitude that we continue to explore ways to live in harmony with the natural elements.

In retrospect much was accomplished with the SARE grant during the short 2 year period of this experiment. The efforts ongoing with volunteers and staff currently continue to improve the garden, farm and ranching methods at Avalon Organic Gardens, Farm & Ranch.


  • December 2010
    • Application submission for the Western SARE competitive grant 
  • December, 2011
    • Hunt for combines
      • We located older and smaller combine models, we picked points on the map in some of the agricultural regions in the Midwest. They shipped 4 combines from four different locations in the Midwest, on two truckloads. This was two ‘parts’ combines, and two functional combines. They were Allis Chalmers, Model 66 All Crop Harvesters, produced in the 1950s (‘53-‘59). The two combines we got, we did in partnership with Amado Joint ventures. The other two combines went to Marana farm, and now have ended up in Elfrida, AZ and are being used by a small farm of Aaron Cardona there.
  • April 2012-2014
    • Grant Application approved
      • Including funding to promote the project at the annual Earth Harmony Festival held at Avalon Gardens in Tumacácori.
      • Avalon Organic Gardens members hosted a tour and brainstorming session with lunch at our gardens with all recipients of the WSARE Grant. Attendees included representatives from Native Seed Search, Santa Cruz Heritage Alliance, Cultivate Santa Cruz, the Tubac Historical Society, Tucson Food Bank and the Amado Farms Joint Venture partners, Gary Nabhan and Duncan Blair.
      • Participated in a collaborative grain growers tour of participating farms and gardens in Santa Cruz County. This tour was sponsored by Somos La Semilla and organized by the Tucson Food Bank, Mariposa and Baja Arizona Sustainability.
        • Along with Avalon Gardens, the tour included Native Seed Search from Patagonia and Forever Yong Farm in Arivaca, and was attended by approximately 60 visitors.
      • Avalon representatives hosted JD McClelland, film producer of “The Grain Divide”, along with Marco Bianco and Payton Curry, Chef’s with Bianco Pizza on tour and to film pre-wheat harvest footage for upcoming documentary, “The Grain Divide”.
      • July 2012 we completed the harvesting of White Sonora wheat at Avalon and in Amado, from 3,000 lbs in 2012 to 3,750 lbs in 2014.
      • Influenced a market recovery of White Sonora wheat and expanded the network of growers. 
      • In a collaboration with the local Canelo Project, a traditional Cob Bread Oven was constructed on site that has been used ever since for our community use as well as many events for the public in providing wood fired pizza and breads.
      • Hosted the Earth Harmony Festival October 6 & 7, 2012 featuring the importance of educating the public about food deserts and grain economy
        • 600 attendees, keynote speaker Gary Nabhan, educational tours on sustainable agricultural practices, including the reintroduction of heritage grains, milling and processing via our Food for Ascension Café booth serving wood fired pizzas and breads.
      • Influenced consumer acceptance of White Sonora wheat: bakers, restaurants and breweries began offering White Sonora products to the public. 
      • We opened the only 100% local, farm to table vegan eatery, called the Food for Ascension Café, featuring menu items with wheat berries, pastries, pizza pies and breads with wheat grown at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage. 
      • We established a volunteer outreach training program for the public and residents called “Hands in the Soil” where people of all ages become part of the hands-on experience of farming including harvesting, milling and preparing foods made from the grains.
      • We provided wheat for local community members, bagged and packaged flour, sold through farmers markets, and our CSA, as well as being promoted through Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, tours and events, stimulating the local food economy.
      • Consistently broadened the outreach and communication between educators, researchers and grain producers.
  • March 15, 2014
    • Sponsored “The Celebration of Heritage Foods” at our Sea of Glass Center for the Arts venue – showing the film produced by JD McCleland – “The Grain Divide”
    • Vendors Included:
      • Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company 
      • Hayden Flour Mills 
      • Barrio Bread  
      • Avalon Gardens 
      • Native Seed Search
      • NoGMO Tucson 
      • Food For Ascension Cafe 
    • Speakers Included
      • Avalon Organic Gardens & Farm, Tarenta Baldeschi
      • Barrio Bread, Don Guerra
      • Hayden Flour Mills - Emma Zimmerman
      • Food For Ascension Café – Chef Rani
      • Iron John’s Brewery – Owner John Buford

On-going Growth:

  • We expanded into other heritage grains, including Blue Beard Durum wheat, and Red Fife wheat, as well as collaborations, growing other native and heritage crops, including Tepary beans, and Chapalote corn.
  • 2015, 2016
    • In 2015 we planted 7 acres of Bluebeard Durum wheat, 18 acres of White Sonoran Wheat and 13 acres of Red Fife Wheat 
    • Acquired our flour mill from Hayden Mills in June 2016
    • By the end of September 2016 we had accumulated 
      • a total of 3,000 lbs of Sonoran seed
      • ready to mill
        • Durum – 1800 lbs
        • Sonoran – 5200 lbs
        • Red Fife – 9000 lbs
      • Need for cleaning
        • Sonoran – 6500 lbs
      • Loss due to mold
        • Red Fife – 1000 lbs
      • Animal grade
        • Red Fife 1500 lbs
  • 2017 Wheat Harvest
    • 10 acres planted
      • Red Fife – 8,200 lbs
      • Bluebeard Durum – 6,000 lbs
  • 2018
    • 14 tons total of:
      • Bluebeard Durum – 8,000 lbs
      • Sonoran Wheat – 10,000 lbs
      • Red Fife – 10,000 lbs
  • 2019 & 2020
    • Sonoran Wheat – 14,000 lbs
    • Red Fife – 7,000 lbs
    • Bluebeard Durum – 8,000 lbs
  • 2021
    • Bluebeard Durum – appx 9,000 lbs
    • Sonoran Wheat – 6,957 lbs
    • Red Fife – 2,082 lbs
  • 2022
    • Sonoran Wheat – 4,000 lbs
    • Red Fife Wheat – 4,000 lbs
    • Triticale – 4,000 lbs 
    • Barley – 12,500 lbs
      • After many years of using this combine successfully, we were able to acquire a larger, John Deere 6620 Titan II combine (produced in the 1980s), which we located in Kansas. This machine is now available for the local farms to rent it or hire us out which brings a higher food security to this region and lends to the cooperative farming movement.
  • We worked with Native American communities as well introducing these grains to tribes across the country through our many “Times of Purification Gatherings”. Hosting events that honored the Native American traditions, heritage food sources and spiritual vision brought thousands of attendees to our Gardens. The exchange of wisdom and knowledge encouraged all of us to strive for a higher way of living including the agricultural lifestyle.
  • Gardening workshops for underprivileged Hispanic Community of Nogales and Rio Rico to introduce them to the knowledge of Heritage farming so they could invigorate their own families and neighborhoods with backyard gardens, making products to sell, and establish the Nogales Farmers Market.
  • University classes, with students from around the world including Israel, Japan, Egypt, Turkey… to name a few as introduced in our Earth Harmony Sustainability Seminars. 
  • Don Guerra, of Barrio Bread, taught us how to make artisan breads and has been single handedly instrumental in his artistry with grain working with growers, mills, chefs and other food producers in spreading the good work about the value of these integrated food systems.
  • We partnered with Gary Nabhan, including the Amado Farms joint venture grain production and on many of his related projects. These endeavors have led to Tucson becoming recognized as one of the 2 UNESCO gastronomy cities in the USA.
  • Our efforts led to learning how to grow many other grains and crops, as well as industrial hemp for seed & CBD products. We were licensed in 2019 as an industrial Hemp Grower and Nursery.
  • We published articles, booklets, videos and interviews promoting Heritage Grains (attached is the booklet published for the grant).
  • We were, from the beginning, part of the local food movement, and continue this age-old tradition to this day.

“Work with the soil is not a curse; rather is it the highest blessing to all who are thus permitted to enjoy the most human of all human activities.”
The URANTIA Book (751.14)