THE CASCADIA GRAINS CONFERENCE brings together farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, brokers, investors, policy-makers and others to strengthen the role of grains in our local food economy by sharing the latest science, techniques, and developments, as well as by creating a space in which new business, policy and research relationships can form and existing ones can be strengthened. The first and second conferences were held in Tacoma, WA on the second Saturday in January and attracted 156 participants in 2013 and 238 participants in 2014 from across the Cascadia region and beyond. In 2015 and 2016 the conference was held on the second Saturday in January in Olympia, WA and featured workshops covering crop production, end-use quality, financing and enterprise development, marketing, and risk management planning. Also included was a resource fair and networking session. In 2016 new Add-On Friday Field Trips were created to expand the hands-on experience in local venues, including a Flatbreads with Whole Grains baking class and a Brewing & Distilling tour in venues around Thurston County.
PRODUCTION OF SMALL GRAIN CROPS – wheat, barley, oats, and rye – has been a key feature of farms in Western Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia since the fur-trade era of the mid‐1800s. Today, these crops and pseudo-grains (e.g. quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat) are grown in rotation with high‐value fruit, vegetable, and bulb crops, as well as on pastures and haylands. They have important agroecological functions on the farm, including reducing nutrient leaching, increasing soil organic matter, breaking disease and pest cycles, and providing on-farm feed sources.
CONSUMER DEMAND for local grains, whole grain products, and alternative and gluten-free grains has increased tremendously over the past few years. Farmers and processors have been responding with expanded and diversified plantings, differentiated products, and efforts to develop new supply-chains. Still, developing localized markets west of the Cascade Mountains is not easy as the Pacific Northwest grain economy is focused on a small set of market classes (e.g. soft white wheat) produced mainly east of the mountains for export to international and national markets. A primary challenge is the lack of critical handling and processing infrastructure, which has been moved, dismantled, or repurposed for non‐ agricultural uses. Also, the generational knowledge of growing grain has been lost in many corners of our region.
This conference is presented by the Washington State University in partnership with Oregon State University. It was organized in response to the growing interest in revitalizing the regional grain economy, and the conference augments the efforts of The Grain Gathering held at WSU Mount Vernon. Learn more about Washington State University’s Agriculture Programs.