WSU Conference Focus On Rebuilding West State Grain Industry

Jan. 12 session slated for Tacoma site.

Published on: Jan 7, 2013

This Saturday, Washington State University has set a special western Washington conference to look at ways to bring the regional grain industry back to its former glory.

The WSU Extension session will be held at the  STAR Center in Tacoma, 3873 S. 66th St., and cost  $120  per person.

Co-sponsored by Cascadia Grains, the conference will be part of the process to build momentum of the international Kneading Conference West that was held in nearby Mount Vernon last fall, notes Lucas Patzek, WSU Thurston County WSU Cooperative Extension director. "This conference will bring together farmers, processors and  end-users, as well as investors, brokers and local government officials to discuss  all aspects of rebuilding a grain economy," he says.

Western Washington farmers are seeking to return to the days when grain crops played a larger role in the regions production.
Western Washington farmers are seeking to return to the days when grain crops played a larger role in the region's production.

Grains have been grown in western Washington and Oregon since the days of the fur-trade, he notes, but the industry has declined since its peak in the mid-1880s. "Today, plantings of wheat, barley, oats, rye and triticale are commonly rotated with high-value fruit , vegetable and bulb crops in the region," he adds. "Grains play an important role in reducing nutrient loss, providing organic matter to the soil, and  breaking the disease and  pest cycles."

Despite what he characterizes as a strong and growing demand for local grains, Patzek says developing outside markets isn't easy for growers in  coastal Cascadia. "In part, this is due to critical handling and processing infrastructure having moved, dismantled or repurposed for non-agricultural use" in the western area, he says.

The conference will feature a variety of workshops, including:

•Expanding grain networks and infrastructure
•How to grow grains west of the Cascades
•The science and art of malting and brewing
•Roles for co-ops  in the small grains economy
•Milling and bread-making quality
•Grains as poultry feed
•Financing food and farming

For more on the conference, and to register, go to www.cascadiagrain.com.