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Introduction

Introduction

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The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer

The ultimate guide to growing organic grains on a small and ecological scale, The Organic Grain Grower is invaluable for both home-scale and commercial producers interested in expanding their resiliency and crop diversity through growing their own grains. Longtime farmer and organic pioneer Jack Lazor covers how to grow and store wheat, barley, oats, corn, dry beans, soybeans, pulse crops, oilseeds, grasses, nutrient-dense forages, and lesser-known cereals. In addition to detailed cultivation and processing information, Lazor argues the importance of integrating grains on the organic farm (not to mention for the local-food system) for reasons of biodiversity and whole farm management.
The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer

The ultimate guide to growing organic grains on a small and ecological scale, The Organic Grain Grower is invaluable for both home-scale and commercial producers interested in expanding their resiliency and crop diversity through growing their own grains. Longtime farmer and organic pioneer Jack Lazor covers how to grow and store wheat, barley, oats, corn, dry beans, soybeans, pulse crops, oilseeds, grasses, nutrient-dense forages, and lesser-known cereals. In addition to detailed cultivation and processing information, Lazor argues the importance of integrating grains on the organic farm (not to mention for the local-food system) for reasons of biodiversity and whole farm management.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Jul 11, 2013
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THE
ORGANICGRAINGROWER
Small-Scale, HolisticGrain Production for the Home and Market Producer 
JACK LAZOR
Foreword by Eliot Coleman
 
xiiinumber of small-scale organic farms is very muchon the rise. A small undercurrent of local grain pro-
duction has existed for years, producing ours andmeals from farm-raised corn and cereal grains; more
recently, other products like rolled oats and edible
oils from sunowers and ax have appeared. The
hulling and pearling of barley, oats, spelt, and emmerpresent whole new sets of challenges, however, forfarmers in a region like the Northeast, severelylacking in the infrastructure and knowledge of grainprocessing, and elsewhere where commodity grainis the norm and “small-scale” is undervalued andnot made simply. Seed cleaning and saving, on-farmplant breeding of locally adapted varieties of grains,and the micro-malting of barley for local beer
making are all subjects in need of further explora
-tion and research as we develop a truly sustainableregional food system.In my state of Vermont, the interest in localgrain production has come from a very diversegroup of individuals. Initially, the push came fromlocalvore consumers and the retail outlets supply-ing them. Studies of demand, consumption, andsales histories were commissioned and undertakenby the Association of Neighborhood Co-ops in
 Vermont and Massachusetts and the Mad River Valley Localvores of Waitseld, Vermont. Farmers
needed to know if local grains were simply a fador economically viable alternative crops before theyinvested the energy into a crop so readily availablefrom farther away. Initial investigations by research-ers like Ginger Nickerson demonstrated strongdemand for locally produced beans, grains, andoils. And as it turned out, homesteaders and back-to-the-landers also wanted to begin growing smallamounts of their own grains on a garden scale forSmall-scale agriculture has experienced a rebirthin recent years as more and more people seek outfood that has taste and meaning. For this reason,consumers have turned to neighboring farms andfarmers for an ever-increasing amount of their food
supply. At rst, produce, meat, and dairy were the
primary staples of this “localvore” diet. As a result,local meat producers, cheesemakers, and vegetablefarmers—along with their growing ranks of cus-tomers—have developed farmer’s markets and
community-supported agriculture models. Many
more alliances among farmers, consumers, andrestaurants have developed in recent years, and sup-port for local food systems has come from variousstate departments of agriculture and a wide arrayof organizations, from the Farm Bureau to organic
farming organizations like NOFA (Northeast Or
-
ganic Farming Association) and MOFGA (MaineOrganic Farmers and Gardeners Association), to
name only a few. The recurring theme throughoutthis movement has been that many people wantfood with a story. They want to know their farmerand are willing to pay a premium for sustainablyproduced local foodstuffs.Until recently, local grain production in theNortheast has been a weak link in the localvore diet.Bulk bins at food co-ops and health food stores
were lled with dry goods from everywhere but here.
Flours came from distant mills in faraway placeslike Kansas and the Dakotas. Dry beans might come
from China, Michigan, or the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. But change is coming
ever so slowly to our local and regional food systems,and local grain products are beginning to make theirway to pantries and store shelves throughout ourcountry, and especially in New England, where the
Introduction
 
The Organic Grain Grower 
xivNortheast to my delight. It is the purpose of thisbook to provide practical, hands-on informationto help anyone and everyone interested grow grainorganically, from the tiny homestead garden plot to
the large eld of a more commercial operation.My own personal farming saga began in theearly 1970s. While attending Tufts University in
politically turbulent times, I somehow decided thata simple life providing for myself from the earth
would be more fullling to me than political protest.
Books like Helen and Scott Nearing’s
 Living the Good Life
helped me solidify my plan of action, and I even
created my own major focusing on the history of ag
-riculture. Summers found me working as a costumedinterpreter on the historical farm at Old Sturbridge Village, a living historical museum located in central
Massachusetts close to where I grew up. My rst
exposure to grain was spending the day riding onan old combine harvesting rye on a neighboring farmin 1961, and at Sturbridge Village I got to harvestrye by hand with a curved reaping sickle. The hand-cut grain was tied off into bundles that were stood
up to dry in the eld. Later I got to thresh this grainout on the barn oor with a handheld ail.In 1973, I moved to Warden Farm in Barnet, Ver
-mont to work on an old-fashioned dairy operationwhere there was lots of evidence of a once thrivinggrain culture. One of the farm’s outbuildings was agranary that contained many old grain-harvesting
tools like reaping sickles, grain cradles, ails, andwinnowing pans. My employer, Robert Warden,
told me many stories from his earlier days in the
1920s and ’30s when they grew oats and int corn
as a matter of common practice. Circumstances
took me to rural southern Wisconsin in 1974 and
1975, where I found a culture of dairy farming withfarmers growing their own grain as well as hay fortheir cows. I spent many hours with my friend and
mentor John Ace of Oregon, Wisconsin, learning all
about oats and ear corn for the dairy. There was alsoa thriving Amish community around New Glarus,
south of Madison. My partner, Anne, and I went to
home consumption. High-priced imported organicfeed grains have also encouraged small-scale organicdairy farmers to consider growing and storing some
of their own grains for homegrown rations. Many
different individuals and groups have converged at asingle crossroads—and the time is ripe for a rebirthof grain growing on a small scale.
 As interest in this subject has grown over the
past few years, a small and dedicated group of in-dividuals has worked quietly to lay the foundationfor this rebirth of grain culture in the Northeast.University of Vermont Extension agronomist Dr.
Heather Darby began organizing eld days at
 Vermont grain farms shortly after she began work
in her new position in 2003. Workshops were held
at the farms of long-established as well as newergrowers of grains, and interest was surprisingly
strong; the meetings were very well attended by a
wide variety of people interested in the productionof grains for both human and animal consumption.This led to the inception of a yearly grain confer-ence featuring experts from all over North Americawho could speak on a variety of themes pertinentto reestablishing a culture of grain here in Vermont
and the rest of the Northeast. We’ve hosted aca
-demics from leading agricultural universities whohave spoken about wheat and corn breeding, weedscience, and plant diseases, and innovative farmersfrom grain-producing regions of the United Statesand Canada have shared their successes and failureswith a very eager and attentive group of interestedindividuals from our region. These workshops andconferences have grown exponentially over the pasthalf decade, to the point where many of us deemedit necessary to found a formal organization topromote this work of encouraging grain productionhere in the Northeast. Thus, the Northern GrainGrowers Association was established in 2008, andinterest has continued to grow to the point that wehad almost two hundred attendees at the 2012 con-ference in Burlington, Vermont. Large-, medium-,and small-scale grain farming has reemerged in the

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