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.
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.