2011 Season in Review Part 2: Processing and Infrastructure
March 15, 2012
Millers and other grain processors took great strides in keeping up with demand for regional grains in 2011. Infrastructure for processing grains is relatively new to the Northeast, but its expanding rapidly.
Several mills added equipment this past year, including Farmer Ground Flour and Wild Hive Farm and Mill. Both operations more than doubled their production capacity as a result.
Other types of processors saw exciting growth, as well. Valley Malt, a pioneer in regional-scale malting, introduced a Brewers Supported Agriculture program, where local commercial breweries purchased shares of grain production, and then used the resulting malt for their beers. Participating brewers remarked on the incredible quality and aroma of the brews this produced.
Finally, local-scale distilling using locally-grown grains is becoming more and more prevalent, leaving New York City customers with an expanding menu of local-grain-friendly beverages to enjoy.
2011 Season in Review - Part 1: On the Farm
January 17, 2012
2011 was an incredible year for local grains. There were significant gains in production as more farmers planted grains, new processing facilities were built and more bakers are incorporating regional flour into their breads and pastries. Warthog, a variety of winter wheat came into commercial production, Valley Malt, a small scale malting facility opened in Western Massachusetts lifting the last barrier to the production of local beer, which we saw come to Greenmarket this past spring. New distilleries are opening providing an essential market for grain growers.
However, it was a tough year on the ground for farmers as Mother Nature managed to give us one of the worst years on record. Heavy rains, followed by a dry summer which was then followed by more heavy rains in the fall.
In Pennsylvania, crop fungus threatened grain quality. New York farmers, on the other hand, faced reduced protein content an important characteristic for bread flour. Fledgling crops of barley slated for more local beer production were lost to floods.
Farmers and millers found a variety of ways to cope with the seasons difficulties such as blending lower protein grains into all purpose flours, and remain optimistic that 2012 will prove a better year for local grains.
Warthog is here
January 14, 2012
Warthog is a hard red winter wheat. Winter wheat is planted in fall, and grows to about four inches tall before becoming dormant in the cold winter temperatures. Then, it undergoes a process called vernalization; this period of dormancy is required for the plant to put up a seed head the following spring. The wheat is then harvested in July. Winter wheat tends to produce a higher-yield, lower-protein product. Oechsner describes Warthog as a hardy, strong, good-looking crop. To top it all off, it is amazingly easy to harvest.
While Warthog is relatively new to the United States, its commercial presence has grown in the Northeasts regional grain shed since the tasting event two years ago. This is because, in addition to its great flavor, it is currently the best available hard red winter wheat variety. A reliable, clean seed supply has been accessible to Northeast farmers. It holds a high falling number, which means it resists sprouting in seed, an important quality for good baking flour. Its protein content is also considered decent for a winter variety.