Building up the ‘Grain Chain’


'Clipper' grain cleaner

Local farmers are giving antique machines new life to help supply a growing demand for BC wheat.

By Colleen Kimmett
The Tyee

At 90 years old, Clipper is still as active as ever. She’s had a few parts replaced, tuned and added, but she is still the same machine she was nearly a century ago. After sitting idle for several decades, she was on her way to the Chilliwack dump last year when Jim Grieshaber-Otto rescued and refurbished her to use at Cedar Isle, his 94-acre farm in Agassiz.

The Clipper #6, an antique grain cleaner manufactured in the 1920s, is a sign of the times. Or rather, a sign of the return to a time when small-scale farming was the norm and certain local products weren’t so hard to find. Produce has been the low-hanging fruit for many people wishing to eat local. But local dry goods including wheat, the staff of life, is much more difficult to source in British Columbia.

As demand grows, however, more farmers are experimenting with wheat production. What’s lacking, they say, is ready infrastructure to process that wheat — which is why clunkers like the Clipper are forced out of retirement.

100-mile diet authors spurred grain growth

Until recently, Grieshaber-Otto was just growing a few acres of wheat and oats for his livestock. All that required was a combine; the horses and cattle didn’t need it hulled, cleaned or milled into flour.

Then two years ago, he heard Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon on the CBC talking about the 100-mile diet quest and how difficult it was to find local wheat. “I popped them an email saying, what would you like?” he says. And it snowballed from there. The following year, Martin Twigg and Ayla Harker approached him and said they wanted to start an urban grain CSA, similar to the one in the Kootenays, in the Fraser Valley. Would he grow wheat for them?

“The possibility of growing a crop that was higher value than hay, the economic benefit, was attractive. Also making connections with people who wanted high quality food and wanted to know where it was coming from,” says Grieshaber-Otto when asked why he decided to jump on board. “And to be honest, Ayla and Martin were so enthusiastic. It was hard to say no.”

Read full post at The Tyee

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