Years ago, some North Coast California farmers got together to talk about reviving grains in the area. Their collaborative effort to source heritage wheat, barley, and rye laid the foundation for the grain revival that’s growing in California and across the US. At the North Coast Heritage Grain Alliance, we seek to connect grain enthusiasts – growers and users – with resources and each other. Come hear about the Alliance and from our guest Frances Moore Lappe. I hope you can make it to our launch party on Nov 12th at the Healdsburg SHED. Click on this LINK to buy tickets.
LA is the place to be! I had a wonderful time talking with such enthusiastic and curious bread bakers. I can’t wait to get back down there to share my grains.
And it’ll happen. On December 16th, Chef Andre Guerrero will be serving a prix fixe menu based on my grains at Maximiliano restaurant in Highland Park, Los Angeles . Mark Stambler of Pagnol Boulanger will also be feature bread made from my wheat and rye.
It’s been cray-cray looking for a new place to farm. I need:
water retaining soil
Those are difficult to find in this valley or anywhere in California nowadays. But I have good news!
So, I checked in with this soil conservationist at the USDA Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS). We’ve been working together over the past year to plan how best to practice soil replenishing, water conserving farm management. She was going to advise me through a grant application this month, but I wrote to notify her that we I won’t be applying since I won’t be farming at my current site anymore. She wrote back saying that she and her husband have 3 acres of Class I soil, well-irrigated, fenced land that I could possibly use.
Milled at SHED. FINE
Delivered flour. FINE
Got on the freeway. REROUTING ERROR
Headed down 5. Grapevine flooded, Tehachapi mudslide, 101 gridlock. HORRIBLE
Gas stop. Guy with flavor savor blew me a kiss as he drove away. GROSS
Pull off break in L.A.. No on ramp to go back, side streets suddenly blocked by popo. RIDICULOUS
Almost to destination. Get stuck behind a fixed gear cyclist as the only other vehicle on the road. ABSURD
ARGH! What I do for grains!
It was worth it. I came down to present on grain farming and baking with Mark Stambler of Pagnol Boulanger and Joseph Abrakjian of Seed Bakery. There was a wonderful group of bread bakers who made it to the event and asked great questions about how grains CAN BE grown, but haven’t been. It was heartening to get positive responses to my way of farming and to see so many people excited about grains.
A great weekend with good food, friends, and fun. I <3 LA!
As the only very small scale farmer there, with 5 acres as opposed to the 11,000, 7,000, and 500 acres represented, I talked about the need for and challenges with sustainable farming. I explained how farming has the largest impact on the two major issues of our time: climate change and increasing inequality. How does a small farm address those issues and what can we do together?
The audience consisted of Plant and Microbial Biology undergrads, postdocs, and grad students, and they asked important questions about farming economics, environmental considerations, science’s role in farming, and making existing resources useful to farmers. When asked what scientists could do to support farmers, two of the panelists said, “You should do research on GMOs to prove that they’re safe for people.” When asked about how us farmers are responding to the drought, one farmer said, “All plants use the same amount of water.” Another said, “California is a net importer of water, if we consider water used to make clothes, cars, electronics.”
Let me set the record straight: mangoes and wheat use different amounts of water. Different plants use different amounts of water.
Sure, we might import a lot of water, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about how much we’re exporting. It doesn’t make sense for us to ship flood-irrigated Delta rice to Japan when they’re only using it to feed their pigs. They’re only buying it because of the Pacific trade agreement.
How can we get on the same page and rethink our agricultural system?
I was ending my day at the Food Hub and wondered what I should make for dinner. Looking to friends for inspiration, I saw that a buddy posted photos of fresh biscuits, tagged with a command that everyone make biscuits. I salivated over the thought of sweet-savory-buttery biscuits. What flour to use? I came home to find a bag of red fife I milled recently.
Yes! Now, for biscuit cutters. The only ones I found were heart shaped. What a surprising delight to end up with red, heart-shaped biscuits.
Feeling inspired to make some? Visit the Recipe page and look for the Red Fife section. Enjoy!
On Saturday I went to Hoes Down, the annual educational farming event run by EcoFarm at Full Belly Farm. David Kaisel of Capay Mills and I set up a booth to let people explore the difference between different wheat varieties and try whole wheat bread in its fluffy, flavorful form.
I am SO SO SO happy that I went and got to see people’s enthusiastic response to whole grains. David provided freshly milled flour of various wheat varieties for people to touch, and Davey of Pain Bakery brought whole grain Sonora bread for people to try. My heart filled with glee when people tried the bread samples: their eyes widened and remarked, “This is the best bread I’ve ever had!” People had lots of questions about farming, milling, and baking, particularly about my water-saving, low fossil fuel practices. They were fascinated with this different way of farming, of producing food in symbiosis with nature.
This is why I farm! To develop super sustainable methods AND share and get excited with others about this tangible, ancient, and critical thing: food.
Makes this whole year of drought, massive blood loss, and catastrophes worth it.