ward middleton

Ward and Jo-Anne Middleton at Midmore Farms near Morinville, Alberta

“My hope is for this wheat to not only have a good story, not only have a captive audience or clientele, but that it might become one of the assets that provides resiliency to our farm in the face of climate change.”  Ward Middleton of Midmore Farms, Sturgeon County, Alberta, has been selecting his own wheat lines for over ten years as part of The Bauta Family Initiative’s Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) program. His 850-acre farm produces organic wheat for direct and commodity market, as well as mixed grains and nutraceuticals. Recently, they have added a custom grazing partnership to their farm.

Farmers have long been on the frontlines of climate change, reckoning with the unpredictable changes in the environment that it creates, its extreme weather events, and its new pest and disease pressures. Improving seed diversity, and empowering farmers to breed their own crop varieties according to their farm needs is one of the most important ways we can help them adapt to these changes. For Ward, participation in this program is about building local capacity for seed breeding, as well as developing adaptable and resilient crops that will stand up to the challenges of climate change. So far, his Hard Red Spring Wheat line has been outperforming check varieties in the field despite heat, drought and flooding, and it has also been effectively outcompeting weeds.

According to Ward: “the two values I would tout for this PPB line are its climate change resiliency due to wider genetic variability, and strong marketability with local food movement and shorter value chain interest that we're seeing in our society now.”

As Ward’s direct market for organic wheat continues to grow, he intends to supplant Park Wheat with his PPB wheat for a number of bakers, millers, processors, and direct consumers in Alberta. The prospect of working with PPB wheat has been well received by his customers. “Of our current organic wheat customers, their response to our participation in the PPB program is resoundingly positive in supporting the notion that this PPB variety will replace the varieties of wheat that we have previously provided them with.”


Thanks to Murray Jowett who conducted the farmer interviews for this story.