Domestically Grown Chia Taking Root in Kentucky

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Louisville, KY—The chia seed boom is in full swing, as consumers nationwide are seeking it out due to its growing reputation as a nutritious and versatile addition to the diet.

American companies, however, have been sourcing chia primarily from Latina American nations and Australia to meet demand. Recently, a company has begun to grow and sell chia in the United States.

One reason that chia, or Salvia hispanica, has been hard to grow here is that it only flowers when daylight is short. Short days, of course, occur in winter time, but winter is also when temperatures get too cold for plants to grow in northern latitudes. But researchers at the University of Kentucky researched chia and were able to breed a new variety that flowers with longer day lengths. A company called US Chia, based in Kentucky, has begun to grow this variety and market it to horse owners as a nutritious feed source. The company has recently completed successful harvests of chia grown in Kentucky and Arizona. They are also packaging and selling chia grown in Florida for human consumption to local natural products stores, such as Louisville’s Rainbow Blossom.

Owner of Rainbow Blossom Summer Auerbach told WholeFoods that she was intrigued by the idea of bringing Kentucky-grown chia into her store. The chia is being sold both pre-packaged and in bulk from Rainbow Blossom’s several locations, as well as from at least one other local food store in Kentucky. Said  Auerbach, “If given the choice, I think that consumers generally prefer food that is grown in the United States.” But not all shoppers are savvy enough to care yet, so Auerbach is hopeful that U.S.-grown chia can make some headway as the chia trend in general continues to expand.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2014,(online 11/14/2014)