The future of beans (Part 4)
At Primary Beans, we’re focused on connecting home cooks to delicious beans grown with climate-friendly practices. In honor of Earth Month, we’ve created a special 4-part series that takes you deep into the world of beans. Together, we’ll explore beans’ treasured role in agriculture, the allure of heirloom beans, and the art of bean breeding. And finally, we’ll share how we’re playing a role in creating a feedback loop between breeders and home cooks, to celebrate the types of beans that are good for you and the planet.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we discussed how beans evolved from a single plant species and their importance to sustainable farming systems, nutrition, and culinary traditions around the world. We also highlighted the nuances that determine the array of beans you might encounter at the grocery store. In Part 3, we explored the science behind and role of bean breeding and how important it is for building up resilience and diversity into crops. Here, we’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at our role in furthering the availability of the highest quality beans to home cooks.
As a brand-new company innovating in the bean space and building a network of talented farmers, it became clear to us that we’d have to play a role in sourcing the seed to grow the kind of varieties we wanted to offer. Heirloom and landrace varieties are typically grown and saved by farmers, where they develop deep knowledge about growing these beans. For us, it became a matter of finding these beans and the right farmer partners. As we developed relationships with breeders that are working on traits important to us– whether it be ecological farming, climate change resilience, or flavor and nutrition– we discovered that there was a major opportunity to serve as the bridge between farmers and breeders to bring these beans to market.
At Primary Beans, we aim to provide a market for the groundbreaking work of farms and bean breeders by distributing these varieties directly to home cooks. As a direct-to-consumer company, we don’t need to wait until large commercial quantities are available to take these beans to market, so we can start innovating now. With the shift to e-commerce, we're able to showcase lesser-known varieties that home cooks crave and breeders are thrilled to grow.
That's the work we’re so excited to do through Primary Beans– taking the idea of knowing where your food comes from to the next level and actually giving home cooks a say into what gets put into the ground. As we build our network, we will continue to facilitate conversations between breeders and farms, and create a valuable feedback loop with the home cook for continuous improvement.
Looking ahead to the 2021 crop, a great example of how this cyclical relationship can work is seen through the improved Rio Zape heirloom variety, which hails from the Southwest US and Mexico and is celebrated for its attractive markings and bold flavor. Travis Parker of UC Davis recently developed an organic, higher-yielding, disease resistant Rio Zape that is available for farms to grow. Over the last few years, Mike Reeske of Rio Del Rey has worked with Travis to test these beans on his organic farm in Southern California. And now, Primary Beans is working with Mike to grow and market these tried-and-true beauties.
Primary Beans is in the business of making good food accessible to home cooks around the country, and championing our farmer partners as they do the hard work of growing food responsibly. Heirlooms will always be a part of that, but we encourage our community to realize that there’s a lot more grey area than we’re often told. Whatever degree of heirloom they may be, all of the beans we choose to bring to home cooks represent the kind of food we want to celebrate and see people enjoy. By doing so, we believe our health, planet, and sense of connection– to nature and one another– will benefit greatly.