Jan. 11: Rebuilding west side grain economy

grains-conference-100TACOMA, Wash. – Registration is open for the 2014 Cascadia Grains Conference aimed at rebuilding a regional grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

The full-day conference will be Saturday, Jan. 11, at the STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma. Pre-conference registration costs $95; cost is $115 for those registering at the door. Registration and details are available at http://cascadiagrains.com.

“This conference will bring together farmers, processors and end users as well as investors, brokers and local government officials to discuss all aspects of rebuilding the region’s grain economy,” said Lucas Patzek, Washington State University Thurston County Extension director. “The program will focus on three value-added enterprises – brewing and distilling, baking and other food uses, as well as animal feed.”

He said grains have been grown in western Washington and Oregon since the fur-trade era of the mid-1800s.

“Today, plantings of wheat, barley, oats, rye and triticale are commonly rotated with high-value fruit, vegetable and bulb crops in the region,” he said. “Grains play an important role in reducing nutrient loss, providing organic matter to the soil and breaking disease and pest cycles.”

Despite a strong and growing demand for local grains, Patzek said, developing outside markets isn’t easy for growers in coastal Cascadia.

“In part, this is due to critical handling and processing infrastructure having been moved, dismantled or repurposed for non-agricultural uses,” he said. “Also, the generational knowledge of growing grain has been lost in many corners of our region.”

Farmers at the conference will learn about grain production, connect with scale-appropriate buyers and learn strategies for increasing demands for cereals used for poultry and livestock feeds, artisan breads, brewing and distilling.

Processors and other end users will get an inside look into grain production, quality and brokering relationships to use and market grain products. Investors, brokers and government officials will get the scoop on investment and policy opportunities for the region’s grain economy.

The conference will feature 18 workshops, a resource expo, three meals and the “Best of the Cascades Tasting Tour,” with beers and spirits from around the region. Sessions will cover a range of topics, including: linking the grain producer to the market, developing the gluten-free market, grains in eco-friendly crop rotations, growing quinoa and buckwheat, bringing back the malt house, grass-fed versus grain-finished livestock, risk management for small grains, establishing a craft distillery or brewery and more.

The conference is presented by WSU in partnership with Oregon State University.



Lucas Patzek, WSU Thurston County Extension, lpatzek@wsu.edu, 360-867-2153