Grains Come into Focus at Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Winter Conference

It was a “Wheat and Greet” that set the tone for the weekend as attendees arrived on a Friday night late last month for NOFA-NY’s annual Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York. Local breads, pastas, beer, and spirits flowed freely as tasters chatted with the growers and processors who created them. Standout products included Flour City’s emmer fusilli and Kelso Brewery’s Rauchbier made with a smoked triticale malt, both of which consistently surprised people with outstanding flavors not normally associated with beer and pasta. To the question most heard throughout the night — “Where can I buy this?” — suppliers could happily point people to the many stores now stocking their products. Not bad for a region that just a few years ago did not have much in the way of food-quality grain.

On Saturday, Greenmarket and the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network, hosted a workshop on grain processing where presenters shared their products and experiences with a crowd of current or aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to launch their own thriving business in the delicious world of grains – be it growing, malting, milling, baking, or distilling, to name just a few. Greenmarket and OGRIN debuted their recently completed technical assistance video: A local Grain Renaissance in the Northeast.

Each year, the conference features a “grains track” with workshops covering topics like how to set up a malting facility to work with the many new regional distilleries; how to grow and mill food-grade grains, and new research on crop yields and disease resistance among the many grain varieties in the region.

While there is still much to be done, the NOFA-NY conference showed that the links in the supply chain are strengthening, new infrastructure is being built, and the wonderful symbiosis from farmer, to grain processor, to consumer continues to grow.

If you missed the conference, fear not! Greenmarket and the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network host a Shortcourse on Grain Processing in the Northeast on March 2 at Glynwood in Cold Spring, NY. Contact Elizabeth Dyck at OGRIN (edyck@ogrin.org) to register.