Since becoming a part of the brewing, distilling, and baking industries, we have been overwhelmed by the support and guidance we have received from our fellow grain growers and maltsters. There is a sense of community in this field that far surpasses that of traditional grain production. We are all connected.
These industries are comprised of uniquely brilliant, kind, and forward-thinking people who lift each other up to seek success in their businesses. We come together to share ideas and support our endeavors.
My dad, James, recently had the opportunity to travel to Olympia, Washington to attend the annual Cascadia Grains Conference. A two day event that encompasses all things grains. From the people that grow it to the people that consume it, there was representation from every facet of the grain industry. Dad expressed his appreciation for the diverse learning opportunities and found the seminars to be especially beneficial. He spoke on the Malting: The New Flavor Frontier panel along side representatives from Palouse Pint, Skagit Valley Malting, and a small grain producer from the Skagit Valley.
My father has the unique ability to make friends with nearly everyone he meets. He could strike up a conversation with anyone who is willing to chat about everything from farming to beer making to art and music. There is no doubt in my mind that he made an impression on those who attended the conference and will continue to make a lasting impact on this industry.
Dad was able to network with people from across the industry and enjoyed every minute of it. Eastern Washington is home to a small, tight-knit group of farmers that share the same goals of expanding their business and entering new markets. All of whom we call friends and colleagues. However, we all are similar in size and practice. The Cascadia Grains Conference allowed Dad to meet producers of all sizes that use completely different methods of production than we do. He was surrounded by people sharing different perspectives and together they grew a community of innovative thinkers. They discussed topics around sustainability, added value cropping systems, and seeking out domestic markets for locally grown grains.
Something that my dad shared with me that I found interesting was the concept of terroir. I'd never heard this french word prior to sitting down with Dad to debrief about the conference. Terroir is the set of environmental factors that affect a crop's phenotype (physical characteristics). While terroir is usually used when discussing wine grapes, the concept is now being considered in grain production. Of course crops are affected by environmental factors, but what if it could alter the way something tastes. Considering terroir in grain production could introduce an even larger variety of flavor profiles, opening up endless possibilities to make our beers, spirits, and baked goods even more complex and interesting.
He explained it this way: a crop that gets everything it needs to grow effectively will taste vastly different than a crop that was put under some kind of stress. This could mean it doesn't receive enough moisture, it gets to warm/cold, or it's grown in a soil that isn't perfectly suited for that crop. This means that the grain we grow in Lind, Washington could be entirely different than the grain that is grown in Montana, the Palouse and Skagit Valley. It brings a uniqueness to every product, to every crop that wasn't there before.
Each time we get the opportunity to participate in events like this, I am reminded that there is still so much to learn; so much room to grow. I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to locally grown, sustainably produced grain products. There is a large community of people in our state and across the country that see the potential in these pursuits. We are excited to have stepped into that community and become a part of the conversations that happen at conferences like this one.
Maya Jane, President & CEO