Thursday, January 23, 2020

Cascadia Grains conference puts a spotlight on local grains

Karla Salp
With a focus on local grains and food, in this case barley salad,
 the Cascadia Grains Conference brought people together.

A century ago, nearly every community had a grain mill. If the dreams of the attendees at the
Cascadia Grains Conference come true, that’s the direction society will soon head again.

Last Saturday, WSDA joined hundreds of farmers, bakers, millers, brewers, researchers and others to acquire new ideas, network, and learn about growing the local grain community in the Cascadia region, a reference to a growing area that includes all of Washington and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.

The conference embodied WSDA’s “Focus on Food” initiative – diverse people with diverse interests coming together over a common interest: food.

This was most evident in the hands-on cooking classes offered at the conference, which included the opportunity to learn how to make sourdough bagels, puff pastries, and even traditional tortillas – all using local grains.

Whole grain flour and butter come together for puff pastry. 
Those interested in growing local grains could take a farm tour, learn from farmers already growing grains for local mills, and even get the latest research on growing grains locally.

While the local grain movement may bring visions of small farmers, mills, and bakers, using local grains is not just for the small guy. The keynote speaker, Mel Darbyshire, is the head baker at Grand Central Bakery for both Seattle and Portland. She spoke about building the opportunity and overcoming challenges to sourcing local grains in their large and thriving business.

When thinking of grains and their uses, visions of fresh-baked bread often come first to mind. But another loved use of grains is for brewing and distilling. Not only were brewers able to connect with growers and talk about growing malt, but attendees had the opportunity to taste several new brews released just for the conference.

The conference was a unique opportunity to bring all sectors – literally from farmer to consumer – together with the goal of improving the availability and viability of local grain economies.

To learn more, visit the Cascadia Grains Conference webpage and watch for future conferences and local events.