Fortunately, the artisans who gathered in January to evaluate these and other baking qualities were up to the task.
Call it the Grains Olympics.
Tapped by the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project and its partners, a select group of esteemed baker-judges led by award-winning master baker and educator Jeffrey Hamelman met at Wide Awake Bakery in Trumansburg, NY, to score the performances of 7 different flours, each made with a different wheat variety. The scores will be combined with those of three other events -- how well the wheat can be cultivated, how easily it can be processed and milled, and how it tastes in the final loaf.
These trials lie at the heart of a USDA-funded "quality evaluation" that is scrutinizing the characteristics of 300 varieties, from ancient to modern to brand spankin' new. The goal is to equip farmers with the information they need to get into the grains business. The evaluation is a key piece of the “Value-Added Grains Project,” a long-term effort to help revive regional grains economies here and throughout the country.
Check out our Technical Assistance page to see the results!
We are still buzzed from the success of the NYC Brewer’s Choice event in February, hosted by Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s 43 and host of Heritage Radio Network’s Beer Sessions Radio, and held at the Wythe Hotel. This year, the marquee event of NYC Beer Week focused on beer made entirely with malt from New York-grown grains. Over 25 brewers were pouring their truly local specialty IPAs, stouts, ales, and more. Craft brews made with spelt, danko rye and warthog wheat blew our expectations away. And of course we were thrilled to see pints flowing of our own Greenmarket Wheat beer, which we created with Brooklyn Brewery last summer. GRGP helped make the event possible, connecting brewers with the featured maltster, Valley Malt of Hadley, Mass.
Serendipity Single Malt
GRGP witnessed accidental greatness recently during a visit to Breuckelen Distilling, where we sampled a fresh batch of single malt whiskey in the company of the masterminds behind its creation: grain farmer Thor Oechsner, maltsters Andrea and Christian Stanley of Valley Malt, and head distiller and owner Brad Estabrooke.
“That single malt is certainly the most exciting thing we are doing at the moment,” said Brad.
And to think that the malt, which Brad called “perfect,” came from barley that was all but useless after being pounded by the 2013 rains.
Thor credits Andrea for rediscovering the lost art of “providence malting -- an old technique for sprouted barley,” he said. “She is the star here. She saved my crop for Brad. She figured out how to work with it.”
A budding regional grains system at work!
Just a few years ago the sprouted barley would have meant a major loss for Thor. Instead, the flourishing new markets of local malt, local whiskey and local beer mean that Thor can remain financially viable, continue feeding the regional demand for grains, and thrive as one of the region's finest farmers. And thanks to people like Andrea, Christian and Brad, that means we drinkers get to taste those grains in our favorite beers and spirits.
Here’s the story in Andrea’s words….
Visiting Breuckelen was the highlight of our visit to Brooklyn where we were able to see our malt in action. Being in a room together with the farmer and distiller is a rare occurrence for me as I am usually just hanging out with my malt, but not always seeing where it goes.
The backstory of the barley and the malt we made for Brad was really interesting, or at least interesting if you are a malt nerd like me. 2013 was a cruel year for grains in the Northeast. We were plagued with rain in the most inopportune times, especially right when the barley was supposed to be harvested. Thor’s winter barley was beautiful to look at, but under the surface something had happened when all that rain hit it after it had matured. The natural tendency of the barley seed is to sprout and reproduce. However we don’t want this to happen in the field, we want it to happen in the malthouse.
We identified that Thor’s barley had pre-harvest sprouting through a Falling-Numbers test and attempted to malt it with little luck. Textbooks say PHS is a deal breaker for the maltster. The first batches we tried to malt went for animal feed.
Then luck struck in November. The barley/malt/whisky Gods decided to intervene. Through the wisdom of a retired maltster, we learned of an adjusted steep schedule that would allow us to malt this PHS barley. We ran a few test batches, got things sprouting and BA-BAM we were making malt from Thor’s barley. We sent a few tons to Brad at Breuckelen and he was very happy with the results. In fact the lower PH mash that this malt produced was exactly what he wanted for this single malt whisky. Given the crazy turn of events, I think this should be called Serendipity Single Malt.
Join GRGP "Inside the Malthouse" with Andrea Stanley of Valley Malt, featured maltster at this year's Brewer's Choice
NYC Beer Week will throw the spotlight on New York-grown grains during its marquee NYC Brewer's Choice event, when regional brewers will be pouring pints of the specialty beers they created with malted grains grown entirely in the state. As a preview to this first-time extravaganza of truly local beer, the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project invites you Inside the Malthouse with Andrea Stanley, co-founder of Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass. Valley Malt is the first micro-malting facility to operate in the Northeast Region in over a century. Malts from Valley Malt will be featured at this year's Brewer's Choice.
Grain-Processing Workshop from the Value-Added Grains Project Proves Huge Success
When to harvest, how to fix a combine, how to repurpose an old mill -- these were just a few of the juicy tidbits covered at a recent workshop on grain processing, held at the White Frost Farm in Washingtonville, PA. Kit and Cathy Kelley shared tips from their experiences integrating small grains into production on their 39-acre farm, like the challenges of spring-planting and how to grow black emmer in northeastern soils. Renowned grain grower Thor Oechsner gave a hands-on demo on how to maintain a combine and unleash its full potential. Joel Steigman of PA-based Small Valley Milling gave sage advice on producing a flawlessly cleaned and dehulled grain on refurbished equipment.
The event was organized by our partner, Elizabeth Dyck of the Organic Growers' Research and Information-Sharing Network, and co-hosted by PASA as part of the ongoing Value-Added Grains Project, (of which GRGP is a partner). Other experts from the USDA-funded project were on hand, like economist Brian Baker, who explained how grain-growers could turn a nice profit by dehulling and cleaning the grain, and Robert Perry of NOFA-NY, who showed how to repurpose a grain cleaner to make a small-scale dehuller.
You can read more about the event here. Check back for a list of PASA and & NOFA-NY field days on grain production that will be held throughout 2014.
GRGP Partner, The Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society's Farm Breeding Club, Wins Prestigious Prize for Innovations in Seed Breeding
Congratulations to our partners at the NPSAS and their Farm Breeding Club for winning the annual Bush Prize for Community Innovation, a testament to their groundbreaking work in seed-breeding and testing. The breeders at the FBC work closely with farmers to share knowledge and seed stock, creating more and better varieties that are easily accessible by farmers, the "original plant breeders," as the FBC calls them. Despite the moniker, farmer access is increasingly under threat by corporate control of seeds and their genetic material. FBC, a program of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agricultural Society in North Dakota, was given this illustrious award so they can continue their fight for seed sovereignty and sustainability, which benefits the environment, the farmer and the consumer.
Greenmarket Wheat Beer Chosen as Finalist for Good Food Award
The word is out: Good grain = good beer. What better proof than the recent news that Greenmarket Wheat Beer is a finalist for the national Good Food Awards! Congrats to our growers from North Country Farm and Tremblay Apiaries, our maltsters from Valley Malt, and our brewmaster Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery. Cheers!
Greenmarket Farmers Reap Benefits of Cover Crops
More Greenmarket farmers are using cover crops, working small grains into their rotations to suppress weeds and pests and improve water management and soil health. We hear all about the cover cropping of three of those farmers, including how they’re harvesting some new products for market, in these great interviews brought to you by our FARMroots team at GrowNYC.
Baking Video Launches: Baking Bread with Local Flour
Watch our short video, " A Local Grain Renaissance in the Northeast, Part 2: Baking Bread with Local Flour," featuring some of the most skilled and experienced bakers talking about their techniques and the rewards of using local flour.
GrowNYC and Brooklyn Brewery Launch Greenmarket Wheat Beer
GrowNYC and Brooklyn Brewery are excited to announce the launch of Greenmarket Wheat, a beer collaboration between local farmers, maltsters, and brewers that captures the flavor of regional agriculture in a bottle.
Greenmarket Wheat is a wheat beer made with raw wheat from North Country Farm in Watertown, NY, Pilsner Barley Malt from Valley Malt in Hadley, MA, and Wildflower Honey from Tremblay Apiaries, Chemung County, NY. Read more.
Serendipity Single Malt: A Visit to Breuckelen Distilling
Italian Chef & Ambassador of Food, Gisella Isidori Reveals Her Secrets on Making Pasta with Local Grains
Interview with Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver
Grains Come into Focus at Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Winter Conference
April 28, 2014
Join us at the legendary Organic John Myer Farm for a field tour, spring weed and winter grains assessment, rotations, and corn culture discussion. A growing-for-a-distiller conversation will be followed by an open discussion with Joe Myer and tour of the distillery. John and Joe Myer are fifth generation farmers; John has operated several hundred acres of certified organic crops for over 35 years, and Joe is an accomplished dairyman, pure breed Holstein sire operator, musician, artist and distiller.
Registration: $10/person, or $15 for 2 or more from the same farm. Register with Stephanie by 4/25 at 585-271-1979 ext.509, or online.
This program is supported by the Organic Research and Education Initiative of the USDA.
A Century of Change in the American Loaf: Or, Where are the Breads of Yesteryear? by Karen Hess. The definitive essay on the transformation of American bread, delivered as a keynote address at the Smithsonian "History of American Bread" symposium. April, 1994.
A Short History of Wheat, The Valley Table Magazine, December 2008
The Rye Bread Project, started in 2010 by Copenhagen-based chef and regional farming advocate Trine Hahnemann to reintroduce heritage rye grains to the northeastern U.S.
Making Wheat Varieties Better Suited to Northeast Conditions for End-Use in Artisanal Products, a 2012 report by Northeast Organic Wheat for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE).
What's at Stake: Organic Research, the third in a series by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coaliation on the Farm Bill. October 16, 2012
The Organic Grain Grower by Jack Lazor