vol. 1, issue 5 | S E P/ O C T 2 0 14 | M A D E L O C A L . C O O P
Grain Gain By Leilani Clark
Will our local heritage grain movement save us from ourselves?
hen Peter and Mimi Buckley started Front Porch Farm, east of Healdsburg in a valley near the Russian River, they did the unthinkable in grape-growing country—they planted grain. On a recent blisteringly hot day in late July, sun-baked winnows of straw cover two long fields at Front Porch. These are the last remnants of an earlier-than-usual harvest that yielded literal tons of rye, oats, barley, polenta, and other grains. Might these humble, grass-laden fields be a harbinger of the future of farming in Sonoma County? “Growing grain is the right thing to do for an outfit concerned more with the resiliency of local food systems than becoming wine magnates,” says Front Porch Farm manager Johnny Wilson. “What do people eat on a day-to-day basis? Bread, hopefully produce, meat, wine.” The farm’s ultimate goal is to sustainably produce food for the entire table, Wilson adds. They’ll sow 15 acres of organic grain this fall. Farming-wise, grains and grasses work as part of crop rotation, Wilson says. Vegetables strip the soil of nutrients, making it unwise to plant them in the same location year after year. As a low-labor crop that overwinters, needs little to no water, and lends itself to multi-functional uses after harvest, grains make sense. “In a mature grain economy, you keep the Grade A stuff for market,” Wilson says. “Anything cracked or filtered out becomes fodder for the animals or carbon sequestration for our compost. Grain is part of the larger story of creating a thriving local food system.” Lou Preston has run his Dry Creek Valley farm and winery for 40 years. Lately, he’s moved away from monoculture in favor of crop diversification. A hobby baker, Preston began to toy with the idea of growing the grain for his sourdough bread a few years back. At the time, he used MidwestCONTINUED ON PAGE 15
Published on Aug 26, 2014