When Did Our Daily Bread Take a Wrong Turn?

Next in our series about grain and the grain industry in the Pacific Northwest, we take a look at the baking industry and how it has affected the production and use of local, organic, and heirloom flour. Growing grain is important, but access to good quality grain and flour is an essential part of the local food production system.

Bread went from being a major part of our ancestors’ food intake to being a very small part of the food we eat today.

Heavy, rich, and nutritious bread was once a daily staple; today commercial “industrialized” bread is produced in fully automated factories and is full of chemical additives and preservatives, too much salt, and has too little nutritive value.

What went wrong? Find out in When Did Our Daily Bread Take a Wrong Turn?


The Apple of Lebanon’s Eye

Apples are big business in Lebanon and supply and demand are in a delicate balance to ensure profitability for Liban Village, founded in 1992 as a farmer cooperative and now a small company that employs more than 50 people.

Liban Village works across the apple value chain, from production to sorting, packing and storage, as well as providing extension service training for smallholder apple farmers, partnering with more than 300 apple growers who employ thousands of laborers on Lebanon’s apple orchards.

For the last twenty years, the company’s fruit was sorted manually, costing a lot in time and quality. Today a new mechanized fruit washing and sorting machine has had tremendous impacts on improving post harvest losses and distribution of higher quality fruit.

Read the whole story here: The Apple of Lebanon’s Eye.


Local Grains: Taking Back Our Wheat

Eastern Washington Grain Farm

Eastern Washington Grain Farm

Those of us who live in western Washington forget that the rest of the state is truly a “bread basket.” And people living in the states south of 40ᴼ latitude and east of the Rocky Mountains have been raised to think that wheat comes from Kansas.

The truth is that eastern Washington and Oregon, and central Montana produce millions of bushels of wheat, most of which is sold by the train carload to one of just a handful of huge commercial flour mills or is exported. In fact, 50% of the wheat produced in the US is exported to over 70 countries.

Over the next several months we will be looking at questions pertaining – but not limited – to:

  • The condition of the wheat industry in the northwestern quadrant of the US.
  • The issue of scale as it affects the integrity of organic production and the incentives (or lack of) to small growers.
  • The factors preventing the re-establishment of small local and regional mills and that encourage consolidation of big processors.
  • Access to and availability of high-quality heirloom and landrace wheat.

Our “National Hymn,” America the Beautiful, opens with the image of endless skies over fields of ripe golden grain that reach to purple mountains on the horizon.

Poet Katharine Lee Bates would probably be appalled to realize that she was eulogizing one of the worst examples of mono-cropping in existence – second only to the carpeting of Iowa with corn.

Local Grains: Taking Back Our Wheat is the first in our ongoing series examining wheat, flour, and our daily bread. Watch for others in the coming months.


Ancient Grains, Modern Methods

Despite showing up in cookbooks written more than 800 years ago, freekeh—green wheat grains fire-roasted and cracked—is still mostly unknown.

The global thirst for new, innovative foods means this niche market is on the cusp of celebrity and turning up on forward-looking menus across the world.

Even renowned Jamie Oliver called it his “favorite new superfood.”

Farmers in Lebanon now have new tools to make it more efficient to roast and process freekeh; read more in: Ancient Grains, Modern Methods in Lebanon.


The Alternate to the Car? Home Delivery!

PCC-Natural-Markets-logoPCC Natural Markets, the nation’s largest natural food co-op with 10 stores (soon to be 11) located in Puget Sound, has jumped ahead of the competition by offering multiple delivery choices: Amazon Prime Now and Instacart.

Not known in the past for being an early adopter of technology, PCC launched grocery home delivery in September 2015 with Instacart and added Amazon Prime Now delivery service in late March 2016.

Check it out and learn more in The Car: Giving Grocery Shopping Consumers Choice and Convenience… or Not?


It’s a (Wo)man’s World

Carole Willis, Meat and Seafood Manager, PCC Columbia City

Carole Willis, Meat and Seafood Manager, PCC Columbia City

When someone says “journeyman meat cutter,” what image comes to mind? Probably a big burly guy in a bloody apron throwing a chunk of beef on a chopping block and wielding a cleaver… Right? Sorry, that image is way out of date!

Today’s skilled and licensed meat cutter is miles from that stereotype. Stop at PCC’s full-service meat and seafood department in the center of the new Columbia City market, and you’re likely to be greeted by Carole Willis, a charming woman in a clean white jacket with a warm and friendly smile.

How did a girl from a small-town in Louisiana end up in Seattle managing a high-traffic, high-quality meat and fish department in one of Seattle’s top natural food markets?

Find out in It’s a (Wo)man’s World: Meet Carole Willis, Meat and Seafood Manager, PCC Columbia City


How to Buy a Flour Mill

With all the talk of “gluten-free” and “low carb diets,” we seem to have lost track of the value of fresh-milled whole grain flour. The bleached white powder that most of us think of when discussing flour is so bereft of natural nutrients that they have to be added back through “enrichment.”

Fresh locally milled whole grain flour is a real joy to cook with and an especially nutritious ingredient for good health.

We’re lucky to have a skilled miller in Puget Sound who can provide us with whole grain flour “lively” enough to turn flour and water into a sourdough starter in just a day or so. We’re also lucky he was checking Craig’s List at an especially opportune time!

Learn more about how Kevin Christenson found himself to be the owner of Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in How to Buy a Flour Mill: Check Craig’s List.