Fresh bread, BC grown

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April 27th, 2009 by Admin

Check it out, it’s homegrown:

gardenbread

Our friend and Urban Grains collaborator Chris generously gave us a few kilos of his fresh, stoneground flour a week or so ago and yesterday the miracles of fermentation helped me to transform it into my first local loaf. It was one of my more successful bread-making attempts. Although I consider myself a competent baker, I am not as confident in my bread-making skills. Puff pastry from scratch – that I can do, but the perfect rise still seems to elude me. So I keep trying. I even bought a bread-focused cookbook this weekend and have been educating myself about the science behind the loaf. After chatting a while with folks at Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks, I picked up a copy of Bread Matters: why and how to make your own (by Andrew Whitley).  It has recipes, of course, but also offers discussion of the history and politics of bread making. Though the author is British (and often refers to “British bread”) the issues are valid here as well.

Does anyone have a bread book to recommend? Leave it in the comments!

breadshare

nomnom

Nom, nom, nom!

breadcut

We sliced it hot and slathered it with butter – the only respectable thing to do with a fresh loaf.  After such a fresh and flavourful treat, we are certainly looking forward to more of this. To local grains!

More CSA membership offers on the way

April 24th, 2009 by Martin

We sent out our first round of CSA share offers yesterday and the response has been terrific! Thank you everyone for your enthusiastic support — it’s great to know that there are so many people who share our vision of bringing local grain to Vancouver.

For anyone on our mailing list who hasn’t yet received an offer to purchase a share, don’t despair, more spots will be opening up next week. Not only have we yet to receive a confirmation from some people, but a number of others have decided to forgo their offer and split a share with someone else on the list, meaning more Urban Grains membership opportunities are on their way!

It’s also not too late to sign up if you haven’t already. Simply fill out the form to join our mailing list on our About page and you’ll be added to the CSA wait list.

Urban Grains is officially open for business!

April 22nd, 2009 by Martin

earlywheat

After many months of hard work, planning and coordination, I’m delighted to announce that Urban Grains, Vancouver’s first community supported agriculture program for grain, is now underway. (Edit: The timing of this announcement feels rather serendipitous. Shortly after writing this post we were contacted by Jim, our grain farmer, to let us know that he had just today finished planting the last of the wheat.)

URBAN GRAINS: THE DETAILS

There will be exactly 200 shares, each consisting of approximately 20 kg of whole wheat flour, milled from three types of wheat: winter wheat, Triticale and hard red spring. All of the grain will be grown locally by one farmer, Jim Grieshaber-Otto, and his family at Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz, B.C. Roughly 100 acres in size, the farm has been organically managed for years, but Jim is currently in the process of seeking organic certification, meaning the official status of the grain will technically be “transitional organic.” (While we believe the CSA model, which fosters a direct relationship between producers and consumers, renders the issue of certification moot, Jim said that this year’s program gave him the “kick in the pants” that he needed to finally seek certification.)

Processsing/Distribution

After the grain has been harvested in the late summer/early fall, it will be cleaned on-site at Jim’s farm and then shipped to Anita’s Mill in Chilliwack for milling and bagging. It will then continue on to Vancouver where it will be dropped off at a central, convenient location (still to be determined) for pick-up by CSA members.

Cost

Each share will cost $80 ($1.80/lb), plus an additional $10 to raise money for purchasing cleaning equipment for the CSA, bringing the total to $90 per share. A full $1/lb of every purchase will be paid directly to Jim, the grower. A per-pound rate like that is practically unheard of in the grain industry. Given that this program is a pilot project supplying a product that is nearly impossible to find in Vancouver at the retail level, we think that this price is quite fair.

We’ve even done some comparison shopping: bulk, organic, non-local whole wheat is currently selling for roughly $1.99 per lb or $88.44 for 20 kg. If you’re purchasing different kinds of wheat in smaller, bagged sizes like we are providing, you can easily pay more than $120. That means that for the price of a share in Urban Grains members get organic, local flour, for about $1.50 more than you would pay at the store for bulk, AND they are supporting regional grain growing by the inclusion of the equipment fee. We are very proud to be offering such competitive prices.

For anyone who cannot afford the $90 or is unsure of their ability to fully use 20 kg of milled flour (remember, 10 kg is typically the largest size one finds in a grocery store), we highly recommend they split the share with another friend or family.

Also Included

Included in the CSA package will be a certificate indicating the member’s involvement in Vancouver’s first grain CSA, the opportunity to visit Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz during the summer to meet Jim and see the grain in person (additional, reasonable costs will apply for transportation), as well as on-going updates from us at Urban Grains regarding the progress of the CSA throughout the year on this blog.

THE CSA MODEL

CSA stands for community supported agriculture. We selected this model because we believe it is ideal for fostering a strong consumer/producer relationship — something severely lacking in conventional agricultural systems — and for supporting local agriculture. This is especially true in regards to local grain – production in B.C. has fallen dramatically in the past half-century and our support is needed to make grain farming a viable option.

It is important to be aware that the CSA model has a degree of risk built into it. As a customer paying the share cost before a finished product is delivered, an investment is being made in the entire process. It is quite possible that because of uncooperative weather shares will not measure a full 20 kg following a sub-par harvest. For example, in Creston, BC’s 2008 grain CSA the recipients expected to receive 100 lbs of grain, but ended up receiving 81 lbs. This risk is inherent to the model – by accepting this condition you are sharing in the uncertainty that farmers face every day as they watch the skies.

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NOTE: As we made clear at the outset, CSA shares are being offered to mailing list subscribers on a first come first serve basis according to the order in which they signed up. Sales are not open to the public at this time, so please do not contact us to sign up if you have not received an email with a specific offer to buy.

It’s been a great deal of work to make this all happen, so we are obviously very proud to finally announce the launch of the program. Thank you for your interest in the CSA and local grain — your tremendous support has been truly inspiring.

Island event: seed cleaning machinery introduction

April 22nd, 2009 by Admin

If you find yourself in the Victoria area on May 5th, Sharon Rempel of (among many other things) The Garden Institute of BC will be hosting a morning of seed cleaning equipment:

… explore the various types of equipment used to seed, weed, cut, harvest, combine, clean and thresh grain. When we can understand the technology we can start thinking about designing ‘green’ equipment for our ‘local’ food production needs.

May 5, 2009. 9 am to noon. Admission $3 payable to the Society. Gord Taylor and Dave Hopkins from the Saanichton Historical Society will be our guides to the machinery
You can bring your lunch and stay around and visit with the folks after the machinery tour.

Saanich Historical Artifacts Society
7321 Lochside Drive
Saanichton, British Columbia
Canada V8M 1W4
Phone:(250) 652-5522

For more information about the event, contact Sharon Rempel, TGIBC (250) 298-1133, email slrempel@shaw.ca and www.tgibc.org for organization details.

We’ve officially launched! And other exciting news…

April 20th, 2009 by Admin

Martin and Ayla speaking at the Weaving Chains event

Martin and Ayla speaking at the Weaving Chains event

On Friday evening Martin and I found ourselves dining on pizza and beer and talking about grain. Farm Folk / City Folk hosted the grain-centred “Weaving Chains” event, which brought together a number of local business people and innovators who work on the local grain issue, and at which we were invited to speak. We were privileged to be there alongside the likes of John McKenzie, from Anita’s Mill in Chilliwack, Robert Giardino of the Vancouver-based Heritage Grains Foundation, and our friend Chris Hergesheimer, an SFU masters student who focused his research on south-western BC’s grain community. In addition to dinner and presentations, Robert had a wide range of heritage grains to show off, as well as small mills; there were bike-powered milling demonstrations; and those who attended could buy some of Chris’ flour – some of the only local flour they’re likely to see until our CSA shares are delivered in the fall.

Robert Giardino shows off a home-scale flour mill

Robert Giardino shows off a home-scale flour mill

Chris's fresh, artisan flour, milled from Vancouver Island-grown wheat

Chris's fresh, artisan flour, milled from Vancouver Island-grown wheat

Sadly the light wasn’t too great, so our pictures from the event are rather poor (you’ll just have to take our word that it was a blast!) For everyone who came, thank you so much — we hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did.

In addition to the event re-cap, I need to tell you about a few more very exciting things:

  • The official launch of the Urban Grains CSA: we took advantage of our public platform at Friday’s event to officially announce the launch of the CSA. After many months of planning we are pleased to say that we will be sending out share offers to those signed up on our mailing list beginning this week. We will work through the list in order of sign up, until all 200 shares are taken. If you are on the list and are interested in purchasing a share, watch your inbox. The final reveal of purchasing details including price and amounts of each grain included will be posted here after our first offer has gone out.
  • Collaboration with Anita’s Mill: We are pleased to announce that Anita’s will be milling Jim’s wheat into flour after harvest time. Before this week we had yet to confirm that they were able to take “transitional” grain at their certified organic mill. It turns out that organic mills are able to process any type of grain – conventional, organic, biodynamic, whatever – as long as their equipment has been sufficiently cleaned before and after each use. On Friday we had the pleasure of meeting John McKenzie, the owner of Anita’s. He and his wife bought the business from Anita herself in 2005, and have since been learning the many ins and outs of running a mill. We were pleased to hear John express his excitement about his company’s role in our CSA.
  • We’re purchasing a grain cleaner: Jim got a lead on a high-quality, compact grain cleaning machine in Manitoba and made an offer to the owner. We were still working out how cleaning would happen, so we’re very excited by this find. In order to purchase the machine every share purchased this year will carry a $10 equipment fee. In this way, the CSA members will collectively raise the money for this expensive piece of equipment. It will be owned by Urban Grains and housed at Jim’s farm. We hope that by bringing it to our region more farmers will be able to have access to the machinery needed to explore grain production, thereby strengthening the local food system.