Re-Imaging Local Grains in the Pacific Northwest

Lauren Marquardt

“Give it a name, give it a place, give it a soul, and give it a taste.”

According to Dr. Stephen Jones (pictured, right), wheat breeder and Director of The Bread Lab at Washington State University, that’s how you add value to wheat.

Around 60 people came out for American Farmland Trust Pacific Northwest’s most recent No Farms No Food Speaker Series to hear from Dr. Jones. The event was held the night before GiveBIG, The Seattle Foundation’s annual day of giving, so we were grateful to have so many people come out to learn about American Farmland Trust’s work and engage in important local efforts related to food and farming.

Dr. Jones has dedicated the majority of his life to wheat – researching wheat, growing wheat, and more recently working with distillers, brewers, and bakers to find the most nutritious and delicious wheat for their artisan craft.

Not only does Dr. Jones care about taste and nutrition, he is also passionate about supporting farmers— just like American Farmland Trust. One of his priorities is ensuring the crop yields are plentiful and the grains can thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate. This approach can have a huge impact on the local food system—attracting more mills for production, earning a profit for farmers, and increasing accessibility for consumers.

Mel Darbyshire, the Head Baker at Grand Central Bakery, also joined us and made a clear connection between consumers and The Bread Lab’s work to re-localize grain production. She is a board member for The Bread Lab and a true artist.

farmland_7716While Grand Central Bakery appears to be a small operation, it still requires over six million tons of flour to meet their baking needs. Because consumer demand for artisan bread continues to rise and the bakery uses locally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients, they are at a point where an increase in the supply of regional grains is a necessity.

To top off the engaging evening of discussion, we were excited to share that Grand Central Bakery had specially baked loaves of bread for the audience made from regional grains! To say the bread was a hit is an understatement, and we heard many reports of the loaves not even making it home (not mentioning any names).

We applaud the work of Dr. Jones and The Bread Lab for all they are doing to support regional grain production, and encourage you to stop by Grand Central Bakery and get a firsthand taste of the power of regional grains.

Washington State University