In 1874, Mennonites from the Ukraine brought Turkey Red Winter Wheat to the Great Plains in South Central Kansas. I grew up just a few miles from the location where the first grains were planted, and count this variety as part of my heritage. I am now growing this variety for milling and baking in Minnesota.
This variety had been grown by the community on the Steppe and was hand-selected and transported in a trunk that served as the seed stock when they arrived in their new homeland in the U.S.. It was first planted in Central Kansas and was the crop that popularized wheat growing on the Plains of Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Alongside this hearty wheat, a milling and baking industry and an industrious and religious culture flourished alongside the crop throughout the 20th Century.
My family grew this variety until the 1950s until it was displaced by higher-yielding and shorter Green Revolution Varieties. Turkey Red grows significantly taller than these newer varieties, and when looking out on a large field that is nearly ripe, it has a red hue and gives an aesthetically pleasing waving effect, as if looking out on a large body of water alluded to in “Amber Waves of Grain.”