This Saturday (the 3rd), and next, and the following (the 10th & the 17th) is the 9th Annual Holiday Bazaar, taking place in the parking lot behind the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. Amongst the many vendors of local crafts and food, Farm & Sparrow Breads can be found, and alongside Farm & Sparrow's rustic breads and pastries, sharing their tent, will be Treska Lindsey selling her wonderful children's books. I mention this for a couple reasons. The first-- the most obvious-- is that Treska is donating a portion of the proceeds to our mill project. And the second-- also pretty obvious once you see the books-- is that these books are a wonderful find and a great gift. Also, there is a rich story that connects these books to our mill project...
I wish I could say the stones are turning, but sadly, we are not quite there yet. The mill remains idle as we attempt to disentangle ourselves from the labyrinth of city code and permitting. But we are close. We received our grain. Sitting in our mill space awaiting our Certificate of Occupancy are pallets-- five rows wide by five rows deep-- each carrying a one-ton tote of NC-grown grain. Our grain stores are comprised of grain from the far eastern corner of the state, the Sandhills, and the western piedmont. We have Appalachian White, NuEast, TAM 303, Turkey Wheat, soft (pastry) wheat, and Wrens Abruzzi Rye. I just got off the phone with one of our growers, Kenny Haines, who said he just planted a little over twenty acres of Turkey for us, and in another couple days, he will be planting our twenty acres worth of NuEast. We’ve also had seed delivered to Billy Carter’s farm in the Sandhills for twenty acres of rye, and seed placed at the Hofner’s farm in Mt Ulla for twenty acres of TAM 303. Job White, a recipient of CFSA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Scholarship Program that awarded forty young farmers full scholarships to attend CFSA’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference (SAC) in early November, has about ten acres of Turkey growing in his field in Gastonia, and is hoping to have secured a small combine by June for harvest.
We were able to showcase a number of these grains at SAC, using my small mill to supply flour to the bakeries. West End Bakery made hundreds of small herb garlic biscuits with the Hofner’s Appalachian White; Farm and Sparrow Breads supplied hearth loaves of Market Bread made with Turkey wheat grown by John McEntire in Old Fort and the Looking Back Farms in Tyner. Farm and Sparrow also supplied Seeded Rye made from Wrens Abruzzi Rye grown in Old Fort by John. Wildflour Bakery supplied their insane herbed crackers, so addictive they ought to just call them crack. These savory crackers were made from soft wheat grown by Billy Carter. And Annie’s Naturally Bakery supplied focaccia made from NuEast grown by Looking Back Farms.
One last tidbit of news—in the spirit of collaboration with a holiday twist, the Riverbend Malt House brought a sack of malted barley to the mill (barley grown by the Hofners and malted by Riverbend) that I then milled (with my small mill) and sifted and then delivered to the doorstep of French Broad Chocolates here in Asheivlle. We are hoping for NC-grown malt balls for the holidays. Still waiting to hear back on the results…
From the ground up,
Our pilot group of bakeries in Western NC gathered this week to sample bread made from this year’s NC wheat harvest. Both modern and heritage wheat was baked into hearth loaves, pan loaves, focaccia, and pita. NuEast and Appalachian White grown at Looking Back Farms, Inc. in Tyner, NC, as well as Appalachian White grown at the Hofner’s farm in Salisbury were the modern varieties on display. Heritage varieties sampled were Red May-- a soft wheat traditionally grown in the Carolinas, and Sonora; both were grown at Looking Back Farms, Inc.
We are weeks away from turning on the mill. A window is being installed today to provide visitors with a view of this exquisite Austrian-built mill. Walls have been primed; fresh paint is soon to follow. And harvest is being assessed: how much of what varieties are available? How much seed needs to be held back. How many varieties should be planted? Plans for right now (August), this fall (planting starts in late Sept), next June, and the following fall are being assessed, all at once. We’re this deep in, and the simple loaf of bread—the concept of a local loaf-- is all the more humbling.
With a federal deficit bursting at the seams, lawmakers in Washington are looking not only at how much money the federal government spends, but also at what the federal government is spending its money on. Government programs put in place when a very different sentiment was governing this country are in peril, at the mercy of proposed federal budget cuts driven by ultra conservatives and libertarians. Programs built upon the concept of pubic good—the idea that we as a society have a responsibility to the elderly, the poor, the sick, and to our farmers that grow our food—are at risk. The irony that those pushing this agenda have claimed the moniker “Tea Party” smacks in the face of those who crafted the U.S. Constitution. James Madison, one of its primary authors, wrote: “The public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued.”
I was on the phone the other day with Dr David Marshall, public wheat breeder and pathologist with the USDA’s Plant Science Research Unit of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Raleigh, North Carolina. We were discussing the proposed budget cuts that threaten to do away with the ARS. Dr Marshall is the lead researcher for the Uniform Bread Wheat Trials launched in 2002 breeding for regionally-adapted bread wheat varieties that can withstand the higher rainfall and humid conditions of the eastern U.S. He is also the U.S. leader in a global community of wheat researchers seeking sources of resistance to a new race of stem rust pathogen-- UGG99, first discovered in Uganda in 1999-- that threatens wheat production worldwide. This new pathogen is capable of overcoming most of the stem rust resistance genes in almost all of the global wheat germplasm, as in all the wheat grown around the world.
I know Dr Marshall because I am a part of a consortium of bakeries, millers, and growers in the Carolinas that are trying to establish a market for regionally produced grains. To revive the link between the farmer, miller, and baker in the Carolinas; to produce high quality organic flour with regional significance; and finally, to create a truly local loaf of bread—this has been our raison d’etre. Dr Marshall’s work on new regionally adapted bread wheat varieties has provided the backbone for our efforts. NC growers are now planting bread wheats-- both heritage varieties as well as higher yielding modern varieties and it is thanks to Dr Marshall and his team that we have access to modern varieties that can thrive in our climate. When we realized that all the rye grown in the Carolinas had been bred solely for feed and fodder and not for flour, Dr Marshall incorporated rye varieties into his trials, accessing varieties from Italy and France to test in our climate. When two young entrepreneurs interested in launching a micro-malt house (the soon-to-be Riverbend Malthouse) inquired about malting qualities of Carolina grown barley, Dr Marshall incorporated two-row barley into his trials. He responds to my emails, whether he is in Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, or wherever his work takes him. “It sounds noble and corny, but we want to feed every person on the planet,” he says in describing their efforts. He is accessible to the public. He is a dying breed.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century nearly all professional plant breeding was done by the USDA and Land Grant Universities (LGU). LGUs were established during Lincoln’s administration. Creating LGUs and cooperative extension agencies meant taking the university to the people, assisting farmers with research and breeding to help them solve on-farm issues. All of these institutions were established with a public-minded spirit. It is a very different picture now. Public breeders have become an endangered species as private companies with more money and fewer factors to consider have pushed out practically all of the public corn and soybean breeders; wheat being the red-headed stepchild-- not as easy for the private sector to profit by-- still has its Dr Marshalls, but proposed budget cuts threaten to do away with or greatly affect our public breeding programs. A June press release issued by House Conservatives asserts, “Many of the functions of the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture could be consolidated or accomplished through private-sector efforts” And yet, private companies and public breeders are not interchangeable. Private companies do all of their breeding in the Midwest, home to mega agri-business. Diseases are not the same in the various regions of the United States. Although testing of varieties is done in different regions, it is short lived, with the intention of assessing best yield. Also, private companies want fewer and fewer varieties because each variety costs them money, and for private companies, money is the bottom line. Dr Marshall’s elite plots-- those varieties that have made the cut and are being selected for public release-- contain one hundred and thirty different varieties of wheat. Growers are encouraged to plant more than one variety to mitigate risks posed by weather and unforeseen disease. Public breeders are breeding for disease resistance and regional adaptivness. From the UDSA-ARS website, “Our job is finding solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day, from field to table.”
I asked Dr Marshall if he had a sense of the how much his budget may be cut. He said he really didn’t know—that it could be anywhere from no cuts at all to a complete wiping out their program. One thing is clear—there is a very real sentiment coming from an outspoken faction on Capital Hill that wants to see a reduction in federal programs, if not the complete elimination of them.
The House already passed their version of the Ag Appropriations Bill; in that Bill, the House recommended a 15% reduction in all funding to the USDA. This Bill has now gone to the Senate, which is currently in recess. The Senate will write their own Bill, which could agree with the entire House Bill, or offer another version. Following the approval of the Senate Bill, the two versions of the Bill will go to a Conference Committee (made up of Ag Appropriations Committee members from both the House and the Senate) and a final compromise Bill will go to the President for approval or not.
And some real numbers—
The USDA-ARS Raleigh FY10 budget is $9,528,034.
The percent reductions would be:
% Reduction- Amount reduced
1%- $95, 280
A 1% reduction ($95,280) would be one technician plus approx $20,000 in materials and supplies. A 5% reduction would be the new people (3 technicians, material and supplies, travel, and all operating funds to conduct any wheat stem rust research (including funds we give to NCSU and other Universities to assist in stem rust research). A 10% reduction would include all at the 5% level plus all other technicians, other support staff, and operating dollars. A 20% reduction would be the equivalent of the entire ARS wheat research program in Raleigh.
If you feel moved to voice your concern, please contact your Senator and tell him/her how you feel.
from the ground up,
Carolina Ground, L3C
|American Society of Agronomy | Crop Science Society of America | Soil Science Society of America |
Science Policy - Action Alert
Urge your Representative to Oppose the Chaffetz Amendment
WHAT: Call your Representative now and say: "As a constituent, I urge (your Representative ) to OPPOSE THE CHAFFETZ AMENDMENT (H.AMDT.428) to the House Fiscal Year 2012 agriculture spending bill, which cuts funding for the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) by $650 million (the bill currently provides $993 million)." You can add that this amendment puts in jeopardy the ability of American agriculture to remain competitive; it will set back the innovation and development of new knowledge and technologies needed to ensure food security, sustainable renewable energy production, and adaptation to climate change.
HOW: Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Representative’s office. If you do not know who your Representative is, there is a zipcode look up at: www.house.gov
Note to Federal and University employees: check with your supervisor about any regulations concerning citizen advocacy prior to taking part in this action alert.
BACKGROUND: Funding for the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is under attack. Specifically, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill which would slash funding for salaries and expenses of ARS by $650 million (the bill currently provides $993 million). If this draconian cut is passed, many ARS facilities could be closed and hundreds of ARS scientists may be let go. Decadal long studies will be lost, and the very ability of American agriculture to remain competitive will be in jeopardy. In addition, Rep. Chaffetz’s amendment would also cut funding for the Economic Research Service $43 million (the bill provides $70 million); reduce funding for the National Agricultural Statistics Service by $85 million (the bill provides $150 million); and reduce funding for Food For Peace Title II Grants by $1 billion (the total amount provided by the bill). Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Address all comments to the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Science Policy Office: email@example.com
The ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Science Policy Office organizes events to educate Congress and the Administration about how agronomic, crop, and soil science can be used to solve related challenges facing society. The Science Policy Office also performs advocacy on behalf of members in support research and development programs related to our sciences. To obtain more information about our activities, visit: www.agronomy.org/science-policy, www.crops.org/science-policy, and www.soils.org/science-policy.
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May 20th, 2011: We gathered under an EZ-Up tent-- the only shade available in a field of wheat. We were assembled at the Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory in Raleigh to see the Uniform Bread Wheat trial plots and hear from USDA-ARS wheat breeder, Dr David Marshall, as well as USDA-ARS plant pathologist Dr Christina Cowger. The Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory is the main breeding station for the Uniform Bread Wheat Trials, propagating hard wheats and some soft wheats as well as a bit of barley and oats. It is one of 11 sites ranging from the panhandle of Florida all the way up to Pennsylvania and over to Kentucky.
CFSA in conjunction with Carolina Ground, L3C present:
NC-Grown Bread Wheat: From Field to Hearth
Friday, May 20th from 1:00-4:00pm
Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh, NC
On Friday, May 20th from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory in Raleigh, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and Carolina Ground will host a workshop entitled NC-Grown Bread Wheat: from field to hearth. USDA-ARS wheat breeder, Dr David Marshall will be present to discuss the Uniform Bread Wheat trials planted at the field lab. Dr. Marshall will also lead us in a tour of the plots. Dr Chris Reberg-Horton of NCSU’s NC Organic Grains Project will follow Dr. Marshall’s talk, and will address organic methods of production for food-grade grain as well as potential markets. And Karen McSwain, CFSA’s Organic Initiatives Coordinator, will speak about the EQIP-OI program, eligibility, the application process, and examples of some scenarios applicable to grain production. She will also talk a little about her role in making the program more applicable to organic/transitioning farmers. This workshop, which is free and open to the public, is geared toward growers.
To register please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org