When Jim Grieshaber-Otto, a farmer located in Agassiz, originally contacted us in the winter about his interest in our project, we immediately began to dream of the many possibilities he might bring. In the months that have since passed, we’ve cultivated a relationship with him over e-mail and via long phone calls, learning about his farm, his family and his enthusiasm. Over the phone, we agreed that he would be the man to grow the grain that would supply Vancouver’s first locally sourced flour distribution system. And over emails, we discussed details like what exactly he would be growing, how much he’d get paid and who would mill it. Planning progressed smoothly, yet all of these decisions were made without us ever having met in person. So this Wednesday morning when Chris pulled up outside of our house to pick us up, we were eager to make the drive out to Agassiz to finally meet our wheat, and the farmer who would raise it.
Cedar Isle Farm is located in Agassiz, BC, down Highway 1 about 20 minutes past Chilliwack, or about an hour and a half’s drive from Vancouver. We lucked out and had a gorgeous day for the trip – the brightest sunshine we’ve had in weeks – which I’m inclined to take as something of a good omen. As we pulled up into their driveway, Jim and his dog Sheila welcomed us. After a quick introduction to the hens and cows, we were taken out to a field covered with 4-inch high grass.
If you didn’t know what you were looking at, it would be easy to ignore this field. We knew, though, that in just a few months these short sprouts would yield up to a tonne of winter wheat, ready for milling.
Back at one of his barns, Jim had set out buckets containing cleaned and uncleaned wheat for us to run our hands through, giving us a real idea of what would be harvested from those fields. We got a tour of the beautiful old equipment that serves him for most of his processing needs, including the turn of the century (the last century!) fanning mill and combine from the 1950s pictured below.
Over a delicious lunch prepared by Jim’s wife (who apparently chastised him, “You can’t walk around the farm and cook!” before she put it in the oven that morning) we sat around the table working out details of the production and processing that will happen this summer.
Much was discussed during the few hours we visited, and when we said goodbye we left feeling quite good about the direction we’re heading in. After months of planning, this Urban Grains project is finally beginning to look like a reality. Soon, we’ll be emailing members of the mailing list with details on how to purchase a share.