Inspired by the early work of the Anderson Valley Foodshed group, The Mendocino Grain Project was launched eight years ago by Doug Mosel, Sophia Bates, and John Gramke. A CSA (Community Support Agriculture)-style grain-share was adopted for growing and distributing grain and flour locally. It was an exciting time for the farmers and early grain-share members. Used equipment was gradually assembled from various parts of the country, with a trip all the way to Canada for the first small combine. Lauren graciously consented to the use of her restaurant as a distribution point for grain shares.
Doug grew up in on a farm Nebraska, which was a significant influence on his eventual return to farming after a professional career. Familiarity with farm machinery has been an asset in learning about and using specialized equipment for growing and processing grain. He envisions a local food economy as a more resilient and flexible model, based on relationships rather than commodities. Mendocino County has proven a good place to test that vision.
The grain-share was extremely time-consuming work – especially when combined with the actual farming. Working mostly alone, Doug grew, milled, packaged, and delivered as many as 600-700 bags of heritage grain and flour throughout the county and beyond. We would wait with great anticipation to pick up our orders at Lauren’s.
However, distribution of grain shares proved overwhelming, and Doug transitioned to selling directly to bakers, retailers, chefs, and individuals. He sees the Food Hub as having the potential to make a big difference in the ease of distributing grain and flour, with its Ukiah node near the granary. Orders can also be picked up at the granary, with advance notice.
The wheat is 100% stone milled with Carolina granite stones. Doug mills to demand so flour is always fresh, and can also provide un-milled grain. In Anderson Valley the monthly Grange breakfast features pancakes made with his Red Fife flour; the Boonville Hotel is starting to use flours from three different grains. The Boonville General Store now has a supply Khorasan flour for its breads and pizza. Mendocino Grain Project flour is also being used by Schat's Bakery, Pelican Bread, Eliot's Whole Grain Bread, Rampone's pasta, and Honore Mill. Flour is available at Westside Renaissance Market (including whole grain), Ukiah Natural Foods, and at Boont Berry in Boonville. Flour or grain may also be ordered directly by contacting email@example.com.
The grain project is a lot of work for one outstandingly capable, yet aging farmer. Doug is at the granary or in the field for 8-12 hours a day, usually seven days a week. With custom cleaning and milling for others, along with storage of more than 20,000 lbs. of grain in 55-gallon drums, the granary is a busy and crowded place.
Along the way, Doug has had to learn not only about grain varieties suited to our region, but also how to find affordable small-scale equipment and how to adjust and repair it. He's designed an effective grain cleaning system and continues to develop methods for storing grain to ensure its quality. Mastering the art of flour milling and dressing millstones have been part of the journey.
The 2018 crop was abundant and of good quality – the best production in five years. Doug now hopes to grow lentils, barley and oats again, with expansion to Round Valley, Potter Valley, and the Coast. The Mendocino Grain Project is once more in transition, this time in search of new, younger owner-operators to keep local production of grains and legumes going into the future...and making it possible for Doug to retire.
(Connecting With Local Food articles are brought to you by AV Foodshed in an effort to encourage eating locally grown food. Mendocino Grain Project flours are being highlighted during C’mon Home To Eat in October this year. Doug will be hosting three successive Ag & Ecology hours on the future of food and farming in Mendocino County--the third Tuesdays on KZYX, beginning in October. The Decaters of Live Power Farm will be his first guests. You can check out the previous CWLF articles and the full C’mon calendar at www.avfoodshed.com. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)