PORTLAND -- Move over pinot noir. A new crop is popping up in the Willamette Valley, and it could mean big money for Oregon farmers.
For the first time, the small grain-like seed quinoa is being grown in the Willamette Valley.
However, it’s not farmers growing the seed, it’s the Marion-Polk Food Share, the non- profit food bank in this area.
At only ten acres, the food bank’s crop is considered the largest quinoa crop in the region. With the rising costs of tuna and peanut butter, the food bank needed to find another high protein, highly nutritious food source to feed the thousands of families it serves.
Quinoa, known a "super-food," was the perfect answer.
The food bank started making it into quinoa veggie patties. But when the quinoa, which is traditionally grown in Bolivia or Peru, became too expensive the agency decided to go local and grow its own.
“What quinoa takes in its ideal situation is early spring rain, dry summer. Well, we have that,” said Rick Gaupo, president of the Marion-Polk Food Share.
Gaupo says imported quinoa can cost up to six dollars a pound.
By growing its own, the food share is paying less than 50 cents a pound for it. Its goal is to quadruple its quinoa production by next year.