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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Amy Halloran

As Part of Value Chain, Regional Access Plays Part in Creation of Sustainable Local Food System

July 2, 2013 |

Regional AccessIf you are a field of grain, growing in upstate New York, how are you going to get to the distiller who wants to use you in Brooklyn?

Cue the heroic efforts of the distributor without whose wings ingredients and food couldn’t easily sail to the shops, restaurants, food buying clubs, and producers that want them.

Regional Access gives wings to many food enterprises: livestock farmers, produce growers, makers of kombucha and cheese. Organic grain farmer Thor Oechsner relies on Regional Access for distributing a fair portion of his food grade crops. Read More

In Grass Seed Capital, Market Hit Hard by Recession Precipitates Farmer’s Shift to Edibles

June 6, 2013 |
camas mill oregon

Photo Credit: Camas Country Mill.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known as the grass seed capital of the world, and grows almost the entire ryegrass crop for the United States. While most of the agricultural land in the valley is still dedicated to grass seed production, farmers are diversifying to compensate for a marketplace hit hard by the recession. Tom Hunton added edible grasses to his crop list, and started a mill.

The lateral shift makes sense because small grains like wheat, barley and rye are grasses, so farmers in the Willamette Valley have most of the equipment needed to plant and harvest these crops.

“We didn’t think the grass seed industry would ever come back to the size and scale it had,” said Hunton, owner of Camas Country Mill in Junction City, Oregon. The heavy decline in the housing market, water restrictions, and other changes in the way people live influenced the decision to open the mill. Read More

Shared Interest Between Friends Helps Regional Grain Movement Gain Ground

May 22, 2013 |
Artist and wheat farmer, Michael O'Malley. Photo Credit: Michael O'Malley.

Artist and wheat farmer, Michael O’Malley. Photo Credit: Michael O’Malley.

Lucky Dog Organics harvested 7200 bushels of Arapahoe wheat last season. Though the farm is in the Catskills, the crop has roots across the country, in the frustrations of one particular eater.

“I was living in Pasadena, and I couldn’t buy a decent loaf of bread without an effort,” said Michael O’Malley, an artist who teaches in California and has a farm near Lucky Dog. To answer the bread problem, he decided to teach himself to bake. A sculptor, his interest in bread bled into his art, and some installations that involved baking bread.

“I always bake two loaves and give one away so it serves as this kind of bridge between myself and the people who are part of my life,” said O’Malley. This bridge stretched to Lucky Dog while he was on sabbatical a couple of years ago, when realized he needed to learn more about wheat. He bought a combine on Craig’s List, and started talking to his friend, farmer Richard Giles. Read More

Massachusetts-based CSA Seeks to Put Regional Grain Products on People’s Radar

May 14, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Mark Flemming Photography

Photo Credit: Mark Flemming Photography

Kick the commodities to the curb – that is the summer dare and promise of NOGMO, the Northeast Organic Grain and Malt Offering. Andrea Stanley organized the CSA to put regional grain products on people’s radar.

“I feel the locavore movement is so geared toward vegetables and fruits and not so much towards major staples of our diets like grains,” said Stanley, cofounder of Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts. The CSA will show that flour, popcorn and of course, malt, have local roots, too.

Andrea and her husband, Christian Stanley established the first malthouse in the Northeast in nearly a century. There is no school for small scale malting, and no standard equipment to purchase, either. They scouted information on the process, and built their first one-ton malting system. Another very important thing they’ve built is relationships with farmers as they sought grain to malt. These relationships are the core ingredient of the CSA. Read More