In many West Africa cultures food (as we know it) is divided into a number of categories. There is relish (vegetables and meat), water (which includes melons and squash) and food. Food refers to the grain eaten in a meal. If someone has had no millet or rice or corn, they have not eaten.
Since one cannot live on vegetables alone, we are forging into the final frontier of growing local food, grains. Calling grains “the final frontier” is a little ironic considering that nearly every small farm used to produce a variety of its own grains: oats, barley, and wheat for both animal feed and personal consumption. Every small town had a mill where people could bring their grain for grinding and cleaning. But what with the industrialization of agriculture and the advent of specialized machinery, all but the largest and most specialized of producers with the most ideal climate have remained producers of grain.
Gone are the local mills and the smaller scale equipment. There are no mechanical harvesters being built that are made to harvest multiple different types of grains anymore. Instead there are wheat harvesters, corn harvesters… and they are intended for use on 1,000’s of acres and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We instead use an All Crop Harvester built in the 1920’s that Pie Ranch found and had shipped here from the midwest. With the valiant efforts of Gene Richeson and Sam Kubo (our local UPS driver and strawberry sharecropper’s kid) it has been brought back to working order. But, learning how to use it is still a challenge.
Presently, none of the grains we grow are profitable, but we see it as a worthy challenge. The effort is not ours alone. Our wonderful neighbor and landlord Gene Richeson, as well as our friends and neighboring farm Pie Ranch are also partners in trying to make this work. Through the sharing of equipment and pooling our experiences and efforts we are hoping to find a way to bring delicious, heritage, organic, and local grains back to our community.
Hopi Blue Corn
Hopi blue is an native american heirloom variety from the southwest. It produces beautiful silvery blue ears of corn that make an excellent and quite sweet cornmeal. Currently we have a limited supply and only sell is a corncake/cornbread mix (which we are quite proud of, by the way). We would like to grow more of it and be able to provide polenta and cornmeal, but our rainy spring and early rains in the fall the last two years, have led to pretty scant harvests.
Sonora wheat is an old heirloom thought to have been brought to California via Mexico in the 19th century. Its low gluten makes it ideal for pastries, pancakes and the like. Though you can bake bread with it, be aware it is not a bread flour. It has less protein (gluten) and therefore tends to bake a crumblier and denser loaf. You can add vital wheat gluten (available in most health food stores) to help address this.
We sell both the fresh ground flour. Ground on an Austrian stone mill by our neighbors Pie Ranch, as well as the whole wheat berries, and also a fantastic pancake mix.