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By Lulu Chang, Digital Trends 

This isn’t your typical bread and butter. Rather, the carbs coming out of the Bread Lab at Washington State University are a combination of taste and technology, as the lab seeks to take bread where it’s never been before. By conducting research on thousands of wheat, barley, buckwheat, and other small grain lines, researchers, farmers, and bakers are coming together to bring us our daily loaves.

Initially begun in 2011 as a small lab project in WSU’s Mount Vernon Research Center, the initiative has now grown to encompass a research and baking kitchen, a cytology lab, the King Arthur Flour Baking School at the Bread Lab, and the expertise of master bakers from La Brea Bakery. Taking their seat at the delicious intersection of food and science, folks from La Brea Bakery are providing feedback to farmers and scientists to help create new cultivars, develop new strains of wheat, all in the name of epicurean delight. After all, you don’t get artisan bread simply by accident.

“We select for a number of things,” Jonathan Davis, one of La Brea Bakery’s expert bakers, told Digital Trends. As the folks closest to the bread, it falls upon Davis and his colleagues to bake and sample loaves to determine what flavors are most intriguing. “It’s key for bakers to work with farmers to let them know what works and doesn’t work,” Davis continued. And ultimately, the goal is to combine flavors of ancient grains with the performance of modern wheat, with respect to volume and flavor.

The result has manifested itself in products like La Brea Bakery’s Reserve line, which is bread made with single-origin heirloom wheat from Montana. “When we decided that we wanted to work with farmers directly to understand where our flour was coming from, it was a shock to the system,” the bakery noted on its blog. “Instead of dealing with third parties, we skipped the middle man and went directly to the source.” As the feedback loop continues among La Brea Bakery, farmers, and researchers, the hope is that we will be presented with increasingly flavorful bread.

“The experiments may take years to refine, due to the patient process so common with growing, but the end results are extremely promising,” a La Brea Bakery spokesperson told us. Those certainly seem like results worth waiting for.

Skagit Valley Bread Lab devoted to baking better bread

King 5 Seattle

BURLINGTON, WASH. – In the farm fields near Mount Vernon, scientists are working to build better bread.

“Bread is science. It’s physics, it’s chemistry, it’s biology – it’s alive,” said Dr. Stephen Jones, wheat breeder, home baker, and director of The Washington State University Bread Lab.  Since 2011, this place has explored the science of tasty whole grain loaves.    One of the lab’s missions? Developing bread that’s affordable, nutritious and delicious. Using grains grown west of the Cascades.

Bill Gates has toured the bread lab, Patagonia’s food line, Patagonia Provisions, sponsors research at the lab.  The Bread Lab even developed a healthier flour tortilla for Chipotle.

“They came to us a few years ago, and they wanted to do a few things. They wanted to take some of the ingredients out of their tortillas,” said Jones.

“Part of coming to these classes is taking the intimidation out, and having the instructors and the assistants stand by and say, ‘You know, you got this! It’s gonna make beautiful bread!’” said baking instructor Juli Hammond.

Sustainability Spotlight: The Bread Lab | Nature’s Path

Posted by Sarah West on September 14, 2017 Nature’s Path, Organic News & Sustainability

When most of us think of wheat country, we imagine the nation’s heartland – broad, flat, and covered in swaying grass as far as the eye can see. Not in Washington State’s Skagit Valley. Here, wheat grows in rotation with vegetable crops like cabbage and potatoes, the air carries a hint of brine, and the view sweeps up into evergreen foothills flanked by toothy North Cascade peaks. If the visual offers any cues, these are not your average wheat lands.

Sitting a stone’s throw from the Puget Sound, a Washington State University outpost known as the Bread Lab is also not your average agricultural research facility. Though it resides hundreds of miles from the closest large-acreage wheat farm, The Bread Lab is the nation’s undisputed hub of small grain breeding and market development, and its story is a hopeful one for eaters everywhere.

Building a Farm-Based Food System

Steve Jones, the Bread Lab’s founder and one of the world’s preeminent wheat breeders, started his tenure at WSU on the east side of the state, surrounded by 2 million acres of commodity wheat, breeding varieties appropriate for large-scale farming and bread-making systems. This intimacy with commodity farming didn’t suit his sensibilities toward organic farming, nutrition, and flavor, so Jones left. He took a job at an WSU outpost in the Skagit Valley, where wheat was an afterthought, used as a cheap way to condition the soil rather than a primary crop.

Bread Lab: For the love of local grains

Sep 3rd, 2017 | Category: Community, Features
by Mary Vermillion, Grow Northwest

Research labs don’t typically draw crowds. But when the subjects are wheat and grains that promise the revival of a piece of Skagit Valley’s agricultural heritage, you’re bound to develop a following. And sooner or later, you’re going to need a bigger lab. Such is the case for Washington State University’s Bread Lab in Burlington, which in August celebrated the grand opening of its 12,000-square-foot facility at the Port of Skagit with more than 400 in attendance.Led by Dr. Stephen Jones, The Bread Lab is equal parts research facility and test kitchen, combining science, culinary art and innovation to advance the use of whole grains. Jones and WSU graduate students work with local farmers, bakers and processors to identify wheat, barley, buckwheat and other small grains that perform well in the field and have the best flavor and nutrition for baking, cooking, malting, brewing and distilling.

Soon after the 2008 opening of its original 600-square-foot location, Bread Lab leaders realized they would need more space.  “We had so many visitors,” Jones recalled. “We wanted the community to be involved, to visit and to participate.”

The new facility, which includes labs, a milling room, meeting spaces, a professional kitchen and the King Arthur Baking School, makes that possible.

By doubling its footprint, the Lab can “do more than one thing at a time. We can be teaching in one room, doing research in another,” Jones said.

On a recent summer day, a visitor from Pakistan was in the kitchen baking loaves of bread with new wheat varieties while down the hall grad students worked on research projects. Local master gardeners and the Skagit Community Foundation board of directors are among the groups using the Lab’s new meeting rooms. This mix of activities “100 percent reflects the goal of community coming together,” Jones said.
Community has been part of The Bread Lab’s story from the start. “My first day at work, I met with Patsy Martin from the Port. The second day, I had breakfast with growers. We haven’t stopped talking since,” said Jones, who moved from eastern Washington to head up The Bread
Lab’s community-based agriculture.
He added, “we can help farmers first and keep the value where it’s produced. We’re reclaiming the beauty and tradition of raising our own grain for our own community.”

Cross-Pollinating Ideas at the Grain Gathering

Robin Asbel, Chef, Author, Instructor
Some people take time off at the end of July to visit a white sand beach.

But there’s no barley at the beach.
Instead, at 3;45 am, I found myself driving in darkness, about an hour North of Seattle, navigating country roads to get to an experimental grain field before dawn. There, as the light spilled over the silhouettes of purple mountains in the distance, I met with 38 like-minded people to follow a visionary through a field.

Of course, there was more to my trip than that. I was there to spend three days learning about grains, bread, local economies, farm policy, and of course, stuffing myself with swoon-worthy whole grain breads, pastries, and more at the Grain Gathering.

Three Days of All-Grains, All the Time

The Grain Gathering is hosted by the Bread Lab, which is the brainchild of Dr Steven Jones. Jones is the visionary who lead the pre-dawn tour of the fields, and the head plant geneticist at Washington State University. He’s also a leader in the effort to improve the taste, hardiness, and sustainability of wheat and other grains. The Bread Lab is the place where the people who breed the grains, the people who grow them, and the people who bake and cook with them come together, to learn from each other.
And it took a visionary to make that happen.

If you wonder what a bread lab is, it’s basically a bakery with a whole bunch of specialized equipment that is used to analyze the flours and doughs on a chemical level. Big bread manufacturers do this, but in this lab, it’s all about guiding the breeding of grain toward a flour or flake that artisan bakers can make into something with great texture and flavor. The kind of  flavor that makes converts out of white bread lovers, without commodity wheat flour, or enzymes, or chemical additives, just  grain.grain gathering

Local grain communities have been sprouting across the country, thanks in part to the model started around the Bread Lab. Before this new movement took hold, none of these groups talked to each other, and wheat breeding was all about yield. Growers grew and bakers baked, but wheat kept moving forward with everybody in a separate little bubble.

Which brings us to the Grain Gathering. Since 2011, this annual event has drawn bakers, growers, millers, chefs, cereal chemists, malters, and a bunch of other folks interested in the cross-pollination of grainy information to a beautiful spot in the Skagit Valley.

And there’s beer. It’s made from barley. Tasting beer is serious business, even if it looked like a bunch of people having a good time.

Read complete article here.

The Grain Gathering: Building an Interconnected Food System Through Bread

Words and photos by Communications Manager, Molly Goren

“100 years ago, 90% of us were home bakers,” Dr. Stephen Jones tells a crowd of sleepy bakers, farmers, and brewers at the 7th annual Grain Gathering.

It’s 4:30am, and we are preparing for a sunrise wheat field walk just outside of The Bread Lab in Skagit Valley. In addition to serving as a research center for Washington State University plant breeders, Jones’ Bread Lab is also home to the King Arthur Flour Baking School. Thankfully, that meant we were able to sneak in to the kitchen for a whole grain croissant, fresh-from-the-oven, topped with lemon curd and Bow Hill blueberries before our stroll. The smell alone of butter and nutty grains woke us right up.

Throughout the weekend, Steve was sure to underscore the word “gathering” within the event name. “This isn’t a conference,” he told us. “Poke your head in to workshops, even if you don’t have a seat. Take it all in. Think of these three days as the beginning of an ongoing dialogue.”

The Gathering is designed to bring together folks from many sectors of the food movement, with the end goal of creating a sustained local grain economy that elevates the unique characteristics of the place we call home. Of the nearly 300 attendees, 7 countries and 26 states were represented.

From sourdough and ramen workshops to tours of the milling facility and lectures on the Farm Bill, the Grain Gathering reaches across the spectrum of our food system with its offerings.

Read the complete article.

The Great American Grain Gathering 2017

grain gathering
Palouse Heritage

The seventh annual July 27-29 “Grain Gathering” sponsored by Washington State University’s Bread Lab at Mt. Vernon/Burlington in northwestern Washington State once again brought together a vast throng of folks interested in farming, baking, nutrition, and heritage. Representing 23 states and 7 countries, some 350 attendees heard presentations on a variety of topics including whole grain baking, bagel rolling, and barley teas!

Huge thanks to Stephen Jones, Steve Lyon, Wendy Hebb, Kim Binczewski, and army of Bread Lab volunteers. The three-day event is a remarkable opportunity to meet others who share interests in restoring healthy local grain cultures and rural economies, and also serves as a grain reunion with fun and fellowship shared around delicious breads, brews, and other regionally sourced products.

Newly featured this year were German muesli with fresh milled oats supplied by Wolfgang Mock who came from Germany, San Francisco baker Josey Baker’s sprouted, flaked breads, and a range of satisfying barley teas shared by Dr. Andrew Ross of Oregon State University. Andrew comes his interest in barley tea naturally; seems that this flavorful restorative beverage is popular throughout his native Australia and that brands like Robinson’s are said to be the secret of Queen Elizabeth’s beautiful complexion.

Read the complete article.

Fresh bread from Vetri now in Whole Foods

Marc Vetric Bread
by Allison Steele, Staff Writer,

A one-of-a-kind baguette arrived this week on the shelves of the Whole Foods store in Callowhill: a whole-grain loaf crafted by chef Marc Vetri and developed in Drexel University’s new Bread Lab.

Made with wheat freshly milled by the Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, the loaves were baked in-store and went on sale for the first time since they were developed in the lab, a research center launched by Vetri and others last year to explore product development, nutrition, and ideas around community access to grains.

The Bread Lab was created as an East Coast branch of the Bread Lab at Washington State University, which is led by Stephen Jones, an heirloom-grain expert and visiting fellow at Drexel’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation.

Read the complete article here: