By Carla Wise
Rebuilding the local food system in the Willamette Valley is a lot like putting together a puzzle. Some of the pieces are here, they just need to be put back together—farmers and eaters, for example. But some of the pieces have disappeared and must be re-built. Many missing pieces have to do with food system infrastructure: grain mills, processing facilities, slaughterhouses, trucking and storage systems for foods grown, processed, and eaten right here at home. Willamette Seed and Grain is a new company created to rebuild one of these missing pieces.
Willamette Seed and Grain was formed by local farmers to process, market, and distribute grains, beans, and edible seeds throughout the Valley. It has grown out of the progress of the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project, and is a partnership between a number of the Bean and Grain Project participants. These partners are Greenwillow Grains, Horseshoe Lake Farm, Lonesome Whistle Farm, A2R Farms, Open Oak Farm, Stalford Seed Farms, and Sunbow Farms. Right now, the young company is offering seed cleaning, grain milling, oat rolling and packaging to growers of all sizes. They are also selling products, including hard red and soft white wheat flour and berries, flax, and oats produced on organic or transitional ground, directly to consumers.
According to Harry MacCormack, one of the guiding forces behind both Willamette Seed and Grain and the Bean and Grain Project, the new company is positioned to grow along with the local food system. MacCormack says growers, starting with Stalford Seed Farms, have taken the risks and shown that hard red wheat, oats, and flax can be organically grown here for local markets. Willamette Seed and Grain was formed to help them get these products to local markets. He hopes that as farmers find varieties and methods that allow them to grow beans more successfully in the Valley, the company will add bean cleaning, storage and sales to its services. And as more farms transition to staple crops for local markets, Willamette Seed and Grain will grow along with them.
According to MacCormack, this company was set up with the future in mind: He says,
“As we move further along here and the economy gets worse and worse (as it will because) we’re at the end of the cheap industrial age based on fossil fuel, we have to rebuild a local system, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re setting up a corporation…for the next generation to come along and have something in place that they can then feed into and feed the community.”
For more on the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project, see Mud City Press.