Scheduled for Jan. 19-20 in Olympia, Washington, the Cascadia Grains Conference brings together farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, brokers, investors, policy-makers and others to strengthen the role of grains in our local food economy by sharing the latest science, techniques, and developments, as well as by creating a space in which new business, policy and research relationships can form and existing ones can be strengthened.

This conference is presented by the Washington State University Food Systems Team. It was organized in response to the growing interest in revitalizing the regional grain economy, and the conference augments the efforts of The Grain Gathering held at WSU Mount Vernon. Learn more about Washington State University’s Agriculture Programs.

Field trips are scheduled for January 19, and the conference will be held on January 20.

The conference will bring together 300 farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, brokers, investors, policy-makers. and others to strengthen the role of grains in the agricultural and food economy of the maritime Pacific Northwest.

The day-long event features workshops and hands-on classes that focus on three value-added grain enterprises: poultry and livestock feed, brewing and distilling, and artisan baking.

Production of small grain crops – wheat, barley, oats, and rye – has been a key feature of farms in Western Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia since the fur-trade era of the mid?1800s. Today, these crops and pseudo-grains (quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat) are grown in rotation with high?value fruit, vegetable, and bulb crops, as well as on pastures and haylands. They have important agroecological functions on the farm, including reducing nutrient leaching, increasing soil organic matter, breaking disease and pest cycles, and providing on-farm feed sources.

Consumer demand for local grains, whole grain products, and alternative and gluten-free grains has increased tremendously over the past few years. Farmers and processors have been responding with expanded and diversified plantings, differentiated products, and efforts to develop new supply-chains.

Still, developing localized markets west of the Cascade Mountains is not easy as the Pacific Northwest grain economy is focused on a small set of market classes (e.g. soft white wheat) produced mainly east of the mountains for export to international and national markets. A primary challenge is the lack of critical handling and processing infrastructure, which has been moved, dismantled, or repurposed for non? agricultural uses. Also, the generational knowledge of growing grain has been lost in many corners of the region.