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Red Tail Grains & Their ‘New American Stone Mill’

“We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.”  ~ Wendell Berry

Danny Cowan - Red Tail

Halfway between Greensboro and Raleigh, North Carolina, sits Red Tail Grains, run by Danny Cowan and George Allen. They pull an Oliver Superior grain drill behind their tractor during planting months. Reconnecting as roommates in 2011, they chose food and agricultural careers. Both George and Danny learned organic farming and mechanics, while Danny chose a pathway in artisan baking. Both had an appreciation for farming and wholesome food. But after years of working at the local farmer's markets in North Carolina, they noticed a need for more heritage and heirloom grains. They worked with their close friends, Luther and Karen, who offered them a few acres to give grain farming a shot. 

Red Tail Grains

Red Tail Grains Milling Pathways to Success

Wheat Red Tail Grains

By 2012, they began buying seeds and equipment, planting their first ¼ acre.  Throughout the season, they monitored the wheat; it looked beautiful, and they were excited to harvest their first crop. On the first day out, they dropped the wheat and let it cure.  Unfortunately, heavy rains destroyed what would have been the best Proof of Concept new farmers could have asked for in a harvest. Danny and George did not give up and returned to planning the following year; they received Red Fife seeds from Abraham at Box Turtle Bakery. Later, they planted Appalachian White, a modern, non-hybridized variety, released in 2009 by David Marshall, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service - North Carolina State University. They planted the wheat and secured a buyer named Abraham Palmer, owner of Box Turtle Bakery. A new farmer rarely has a buyer at the beginning of the planting season.  

Red Tail Grains International Tractor

By the end of the growing season, Danny and George diligently tracked the weather and controlled the harvest as much as possible. They successfully harvested and dried the berries, preparing them for Abraham. After their successful Proof of Concept, they continued, building on their momentum and success. Hiring a new employee, Izzy Pezzulo, the guys added farmer’s markets and online sales over the next few years. Today, they are farming 36 acres of cash crops yearly, rotating 70 acres for locals like Chicken Bridge Bakery, Box Turtle Bakery, local brewers and home bakers.  

Sample Crop List  

Red Tail Grains Inforgraphic

Red Tail Grains Flour

The RAFI Grant 

 In 2021, Red Tail Grains moved into a fully integrated model, making plans to design and build out their milling operation.  The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI) is a non-profit dedicated to working with start-ups and small farms, ensuring farmers access to the tools needed to be successful in their craft - offering access to farming and food production equipment through grant opportunities. Danny and George applied for and worked to purchase a 26” stone mill from New American Stone Mills with the help of  RAFI grant monies. In 2022, RAFI awarded Red Tail Grains a grant to cover the costs of a new machine and the eccentric flour sifter. On Saturdays, you can buy their stone-milled product at Carrboro Farmers Market, Durham Farmers Market, Greensboro Curb Market, and Cobblestone Farmers Market. All grains are found online and can be shipped directly to you from their website. 

New American Stone Mill For Red Tail Grains

Red Tail’s Planting & Growing Practices 

Danny and George focus on growing modern and heritage grains, following minimum tillage practices, and maximizing soil health by growing cover crops and using organic fertilizers. Red Tail manages and minimizes soil disturbance and maximizes crop diversity. They improve biodiversity through nutrient management by maintaining cover crops and implementing crop rotation to build on healthy soil management through nutrient management planning. They rotate winter cereals, red clover, buckwheat, millet, sunflowers, soybeans, cowpeas, and corn. Red Tail’s growing practices are not certified organic but align with organics and soil health philosophies, and they plan to secure more land and grow milling operations. 

Danny & George

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