A grain farmer applies Buddhist principles to preserve the land — and maximize taste

by | Apr 12, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — The first time Mai Nguyen tried bread made with hard Red Fife wheat, it was unlike any bread they’d tasted. It was nutty and sweet, like marzipan. Later, Nguyen tried a slice of milk bread made with Chiddam Blanc de Mars, a soft spring wheat that Nguyen had planted and harvested on their own. The wheat smelled like pecans and honey, and like bright sage. It was umami and creamy, said Nguyen, like a bowl of porridge.On a farm in Sonoma County, California, Nguyen grows heritage grains cultivated centuries ago in Kazakhstan, Mexico and South Africa, using organic, drought-tolerant and soil-enriching methods. Instead of spraying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, Nguyen keeps the soil healthy with crop and animal rotations.
This holistic, diversified approach to farming requires less water than most conventional grains and relies on human and animal power as much as possible. The only water Nguyen uses is rainfall, even in California’s driest years.
Nguyen’s approach, based on Buddhist principles of interconnectedness, is designed to minimize negative impacts on the larger community of animals, people, plants and air.

“My Vietnamese and Buddhist upbringing taught me about interconnectedness and how we need to be concerned not only about our consumpti …

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