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Technical Assistance and Research & Development

Education and research are core missions of the Regional Grains Project. Here you can tap into the knowledge and experience of practitioners and pioneers in the field through technical assistance videos, fact sheets, case studies, webinars, and more. Check back for frequent updates. 

Videos

On Growing

Thor Oechsner, grower & partner of
Farmer Ground Flour

On Baking

Stefan Senders of
Wide Awake Bakery

On Malting

Andrea Stanley of
Valley Malt

Watch more videos on GRGP's  channel.

 

Call it the Grains Olympics

“Mixing come-together,” “proofing tolerance tackiness,” and “crumb-texture suppleness” -- terms only the most dedicated bread-bakers would know. 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 evaluation is a key piece of the “Value-Added Grains Project,” a long-term nationwide effort to equip farmers with the information they need to get into the grains business. More and more growers in our region want to start raising grains for food as opposed to animal feed. But because food-grade grain cultivation vanished from our region long ago, they’d have to brave the challenges of a fledgling industry -- namely a lack of infrastructure and a weak value chain -- and work harder to turn a profit. The project team, which includes GRGP and researchers and experts around the country, is working to help farmers overcome these hurdles.

The team is evaluating many more grains than just the 7 in the baking trials. The ancient grains spelt, emmer, einkorn, as well as dozens of spring and winter wheats, both modern and heritage, are in the running. The 300 varieties are in their second year of “grow out” at four research sites -- two in New York, one in Pennsylvania, and one in North Dakota.

There are plenty of interesting nuggets to be found in the results, particularly for grains nerds like us.

  • The gold medal for yield went to a new variety called Tom. Bakers liked it too -- scoring it highest during the mixing and final crust phases.
  • The heritage spring wheat called Red Fife won the bronze in protein content -- probably the single most important measure for bakers. High protein content typically means stronger, stretchier dough that’s easier to bake with.
  • The height competition was dominated by older heritage varieties like Fulcaster. Height is important to organic farmers because they need lots of straw for bedding.
  • Surprisingly, the modern winter wheat called Warthog showed lots of promise - particularly for its high test weight -- or grain density -- which means millers have an easier time with it. Its high yield wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. It also baked well despite its low protein content.
  • The ancient grain emmer proved why it’s called “ the rescue crop.” When farmers can’t get into fields on the optimal planting date because they’re still frozen, emmer rolls with the punches and performs well even with a late planting.

But the main event is yet to come. Stay tuned for results from the “sensory profiles,” when a panel of trained sensory analysts ate the contestants -- both as bread and as bowls of cooked whole grain -- and scored them for taste and other sensations like feel and smell.

Evaluating grains is but one piece of the Value-Added Grains Project. Our team also sources new varieties, connects growers with processors, bakers and chefs, and educates people about the virtues of working with and consuming regional grains. Project partners include the Northeast Farming Association of NY, the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network, and Cornell University.

Learn More

eOrganic Webinar – Evaluating the sensory qualities - and milling and baking performances - of heritage and ancient grains, for the 2014 Organic Seed Growers Conference. 

eOrganic Webinar – The Ancient Grains Emmer, Einkorn and Spelt: What We Know and What We Need to Find Out.

The Story of Ancient Grains: A presentation by Frank Kutka and  partners from the OREI Value-Added Grains Project

Northeast Organic Wheat’s report on making wheat varieties better suited to northeast conditions for end-use in artisanal products.

 

About our Funding

We are fortunate to have our work funded through these grant programs: 

Value-added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems. USDA, Organic Research and Education Initiative (OREI)

Greenmarket has joined a national team of sustainable agriculture researchers and other experts to develop and scale up the production of food-grade, high-value wheats and other grains, with funding from the USDA. Our partners are studying how to optimize grain quality and market potential of heritage wheats and other grains, through their improved growth, processing, management and marketing. Greenmarket’s role is chiefly to explore strategies for accessing local and regional markets.

Growing Agricultural Businesses around Regional Grains Production. USDA, Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program, (RMAP)

The RMAP initiative led to the creation of technical assistance tools for farmers, millers, bakers and other entrepreneurs hoping to start careers in food-grade grain processing and baking. With funding from the USDA and in partnership with the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN), we produced technical assistance videos, hosted workshops, and published online fact sheets and case studies.

From Farm to Bakery: Building Value Chains for Regionally Grown and Milled Grains. USDA, Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP)

The first grant-funded initiative of the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project was “Farm to Bakery,” in which we matched flour mills sourcing grain from regional growers with commercial and home bakers in New York City. The project, which resulted in the Farm to Bakery report, was a partnership with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Pratt University, and the New York Industrial Retention Network.