Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seperating the wheat from the Chaff

September 14th 2006. I cut all the heads off of straw and threw them onto my dining room table. There must have been upwards of 300 and I began the time-consuming process of taking the grains out of the husks. By rubbing the heads of the grass between my hands, the kernels fell onto the table with a triumphant sound. The real experiment is just starting now- will it bake into anything edible?

Why a local grain project you may ask?

Firstly, sedentary populations began cultivating cereal crops at least 10,000 years ago in a distinct region. Throughout time, the transference of these skills through cultural diffusion around the world has inspired innovative and groundbreaking work on the adaptability of such an important food source. This makes grain production an inseparable and highly significant part of our collective history. The ability for people in this region to watch and, if they choose, participate in the ritual of such an ancient tradition is a contribution to our collective consciousness about food production in the past and its relationship to the future. It is a celebration of sorts with the small scale; low input production system is brought to the present time- offering an alternative to the industrial paradigm of food production and distribution.

Secondly, by drawing on the resources of a committed community with diverse skills the project assures the larger population that there is practical learning going on regarding how to provide (or at least attempting to provide) local products for a local population through value-added processing at the local level. By adopting community based research strategies the learning and the project reflects varied interests rather than having only an economic bottom line. Encouraging local growers, processors and retailers to offer their contribution at various stages in the farm to plate operations will help all of us to better understand the notion of a local food community.

Lastly, a local grain project if successful will provide consumers in this region the option of local, organic grains. We need to attempt to offer these products rather than simply a discourse surrounding the potentials of local eating. We need to know for the future of a local diet what is possible and what is not; what is practical and what is not. If such a product produces a crop and is supported by local interests, the local eating movement in this region will undoubtedly benefit on a number of levels from the reintroduction of cereal grains. Organic grains would add even more variety to the already diverse array of local food, making the commitment to this type of a diet more attractive. It will help us to challenge the common assumptions about agricultural potential and what people are willing to sacrifice to eat this more local diet.
By re-introducing small scale grain production to this region we offer an important contribution to the ingredients of a local diet. Of equal importance, we also offer support to the potential of community oriented food projects to have incredible influence in re-defining food systems that are healthier for both the local environment and to ourselves.


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