Sandra sent me a link to this recent article from The Tyee which discusses a cooperative grain CSA project being started in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island:

Hand over $65, and McLeod and Walker will lease you a 200-square-foot slice of Makaria Farm, their 10-acre organic spread near the town of Duncan, in the fertile Cowichan Valley. They’ll also give you a grain seed of your choice, seminars with guest experts, and basic infrastructure support, including irrigation and tools.

The idea is that they take you through the growing season with support, workshops, help you harvest and thresh your grain, and then you get to keep the grain you grew in your own plot during the season.

There is so much interest in growing grains: last year we grew out some of Dolores de la Torre’s kamut in the demonstration garden at the Community Resource Centre in Powell River, and it was beautiful and delicious (I ate some right out off the tops as it was drying, still in the ground). And grain advocate Chris Hergesheimer visited the Open Air Market during the summer to talk about growing wheat, kamut, and other grains. He also handed out free samples of various types of grains for people to try.

Here is a fun fact about how little space is needed to get started:

Quoting tables provided in Gene Logsdon’s book, Small Scale Grain Raising, McLeod explains that 1,100 square feet — a 10 foot by 109 foot plantation — could produce about 60 pounds of wheat.

“You can probably get about two loaves of bread per pound,” he says, “so that would be up to 120 loaves of bread per harvest.”

That’s two loaves per week for a year. Out of what might presently be a lawn.

And while we’re on the subject of grains, here is a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative being started in Vancouver:

Urban Grains is a community supported agriculture program based in Vancouver, B.C. Currently in the early stages of development, we hope to be the first ever CSA to provide local B.C. grain to people living in the Vancouver area. Our first year of operation (2008/2009) will be a pilot project, aimed at increasing the viability of grain farming for B.C.’s producers, while also broadening the options for local eating in our region.

Although we are not yet soliciting members, we encourage everyone interested in the program to join our mailing list. Not only will we keep you updated on the project’s development, but you’ll also be given priority when we begin the membership registration process. Keep in mind that, while no commitment is necessary, spots are limited, so we highly recommend that you sign up early.

If you follow the link above, you can sign up for their newsletter. Here is the latest one:

Much has happened since our last newsletter in January – we’ve moved in leaps and bounds, in fact. As many of you know, in December we held a meeting with a small group of farmers who are growing grain in the Delta region, primarily either as a cover crop or wildlife set-aside. Although the meeting was quite encouraging from the point of grain availability (there is no question, these farmers have grain for sale), we were confronted with two key hurdles: 1) our original vision of a CSA model, similar to the one in Creston and Nelson, would not work in Delta. It became clear that if we were to base the program in Delta, we would be forced to adopt a more conventional distributor role requiring significant start-up capital and a less direct consumer/producer connection; 2) the region was lacking the necessary infrastructure. Before grain can be milled, it has to be cleaned, and we were unable to find any individual or business nearby with the capacity to clean for human consumption.

Unsure where next to turn, we were contacted by a part-time farmer living in Agassiz, who is keen to become involved in the project. Jim Grieshaber-Otto, together with Diane Exley and their two children, manage a community-minded family farm that has been growing small amounts of grain for several decades. About 100 acres in size, Cedar Isle Farm partners with a neighbouring dairy farm to produce silage and hay (for both cows and horses), and pastures Angus beef cattle, layer hens, and free-range broiler chickens. The farm grows a few acres of grain each year – mostly oats and wheat – which is either used as animal feed or sold to friends and neighbors. This year the farm has three acres of fall-sown winter wheat and one acre of triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and will soon be planting two acres of hard red spring (bread) wheat, for harvest this autumn. Jim estimates that, given a decent growing season and harvest conditions, they will have enough grain both for the CSA and for their own on-farm and local use. Although not certified, the farm has long operated under organic principles and is in the process of seeking certification.

Despite there still being some questions about infrastructure, our partnership with Cedar Isle Farm places us in a relatively strong position. The farm has a well-maintained 1958 combine (pictured in the attachment) and a functional, heritage (circa 1901!) fanning mill for cleaning grain. While the current cleaner should work in a pinch, we’re trying to track down a better piece of equipment, possibly paying for its purchase through funds raised in the first year of the CSA. We have spoken with the people at Anita’s Organic Grain and Flour Mill ( in nearby Chilliwack, and they appear willing to custom mill the relatively small quantity of grain we would need. We have also identified a small-carbon-footprint transportation and distribution option; an Agassiz-based delivery truck operator has agreed to add wheat and flour to his regular delivery trips into the Vancouver area.

That’s all to report for now. While we do have some other exciting plans to announce, they are all rather tentative, so you’ll have to wait until the next newsletter. We hope to be visiting Cedar Isle Farm sometime in March to check on the progress of the grain, and then determine the logistical details (price, size per membership, delivery schedule, etc.) for the CSA program. At that point, if all goes well, we will start accepting memberships.

Thanks for your interest and support. Stay tuned!

Martin & Ayla at Urban Grains

All these little tentative projects give me hope that we’re working on lots of possible solutions to the big food security problems we’re facing. I’d love to see some kind of cooperative grain project get started around here. Anyone interested??