Conservation of Heirloom Seeds

Anatolia Foundation agricultural projects in the Kars Region of Eastern Anatolia bring back traditional crops in danger of extinction.   These plants, well adapted to the soils and climate of the region, are an important source of nutrition  and an integral part of village life. They also  are important safeguards for sustenance in the face of dramatic climate change, and can be a good source of income in today’s organic foods marketplace.

In 2007, Anatolia Foundation  introduced organic certification to seven villages near the city of Kars, selected for their importance to biodiversity, conservation and ecotourism. The program was enthusiastically received by the farmers and 180 families signed up to participate. With the 2014 Harvest, more than 300 families are in the project and over 12,000 acres of land is under certification.


İsmet Kızıltepe, Emmer Farmer, Aydıngün Village

riticum Dicoccum

This nutritious grain, a relative of einkorn and spelt and a regional staple crop over millennia, was rapidly heading toward extinction. It is  gratifying to see that, after four years of Anatolia Foundation presence in the region, the once disappearing Emmer is re-establisehd as an important food crop in the region.

Kavılca (ka-veel-cja) is the local word used for Emmer. This highly nutritious grain is one of the earliest domesticated wild wheat varieties known to mankind. Traces of wild Emmer were found in archeological excavations of Neolithic period settlements  in Anatolia. It is nowadays grown only in small pockets along the countryside and is mostly used as fodder.

Emmer survived in the Kars region mainly because it is traditionally served as a side pilaf dish to tandoor cooked goose during the cold winter months. Anatolia Foundation team visited up to 40 villages in 2006 and bought the 2 MT of Emmer seed they could locate. The stock was then distributed to project farmers and was propagated with organic farming methods. As the news circulated through the region, interest grew and farmers further propagated it by swapping their seeds. The most recent harvest indicates that the initial 2 Metric Tons (MT) of Emmer seeds distributed to project farmers at the beginning of the project has increased to almost 100 MT. The total estimated amount in the region has reached over 200 MT.

One reason Emmer has become endangered is the difficulty involved in separating the primitive double-kernel grain from its husk. Presently, it is cracked, sifted, hand sorted at the local water-mill. Modern equipment is needed to obtain the intact whole grain. A nutritious whole grain, Emmer makes delicious pilaf. Besides being a rich source of complex carbohydrates, it adds fiber to the local diet, which is high in animal fats. It is low in gluten and may be tried by those who are wheat intolerant.

Processing and packaging locally produced Emmer for the international organic food marketplace is the project's goal. Growing Emmer can be a good source of income for Anatolian rural families, and also help conserve agro-biodiversity. This task requires sophisticated machinery.

''Your Generosity is Key to the Success of our Projects''
Anatolia Foundation is now accepting DONATIONS to supply project farmers
with necessary harvesting,
processing and packaging equipment
All donations are Tax-Deductibl


Linum usitatissimum

Village woman holding Anatolia Foundation Project's Flaxseed

Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil were used in the region since Antiquity but have recently disappeared from the local diet. Flaxseed was a very important commercial crop in the region until 1980s, when Turkey started importing it from more economical overseas sources. Locals revered the seed for its health benefits and claim the regular usage of Flaxseed and Emmer protected them from heart disease and colon cancer.

Local Flax Seed Zeyrek, and Flax Seed Oil Bezir have been used for food and medicine in the region since Antiquity. One can still visit the remains of an early flax seed oil pressing facility at the ancient site of Ani, near Kars.

Ani Antique City, Kars, Flaxseed Press Area

Flaxseed production has become rare in the region mainly because of changes in market demand. Village elders attribute the rising heart and intestinal health problems to the disappearance of flax from the local diet. Anatolia Foundation team distributed the last 1MT Zeyrek they found from elders to project farmers who multiplied them. But Zeyrek was once harvested and processed by oxen-driven equipment. The project now needs modern equipment to become sustainable.

''Your Generosity is Key to the Success of our Projects''

Anatolia Foundation is accepting DONATIONS to  supply our farmers
with the necessary farming equipment for the Flaxseed Project.

All donations are Tax-Deductible


Village elders say that they miss the taste and aroma of the traditional Tandoor Bread made from Red Wheat. This sturdy, traditional variety of wheat is known to withstand climatic changes and is still cultivated in the region, although rarely, due to the introduction of other wheat varieties. Project farmers also propagated Red Wheat. As a result, organic red wheat flour is used again in the region.