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Published on June 10, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on July 8, 2011 10:19AM



Group tackles problems that hold back wheat acreage


For the Capital Press

MILWAUKIE, Ore. -- A group of Willamette Valley farmers has teamed up with NatureBake to supply grain for the company's Oregon Grains bread project.

The project aims to source ingredients grown within 100 miles of the bakery. The company's bread products are sold under the Dave's Killer Bread label.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recently toured the bakery and met with employees and growers transitioning from grass seed to grain crops.

Clint Lindsey, of A2R Farms in Corvallis, is a member of the recently formed Willamette Seed and Grain in the Willamette Valley. He told Wyden that, to survive, he and other farmers are investing in grain crops -- but the valley's infrastructure is geared for grass seed.

"We're not going to see an increase in food acreage without help," Lindsey said.

To make growing grains a feasible option for more farmers, Lindsey told Wyden that the valley needs storage and processing facilities. Otherwise, the crops have to be sold on the open market at harvest, which removes the crop from local markets and could depress its value.

Quality and quantity are relative unknowns as many Willamette Valley farmers are in their second year of growing wheat. Buyers have a difficult time placing orders that would give farmers a measure of security that allows them to continue to find wheat and grains that will grow in the region.

Lindsey, with his father, Mike Robinson, farms 870 acres, all in the second year of a transition to organic farming. The farm grows 550 acres of food crops -- wheat, oats, flax, and peas -- and 320 acres of grass seed. Lindsey recalled gazing as a child at the fields and scratching his head at all of the grass seed, destined for golf courses.

"It's almost our moral duty to grow food," Lindsey said.

Gian Mercurio of Stalford Seed Farms in Tangent, also a member of Willamette Seed and Grain, has 6,500 acres with 300 acres in organic crops and another 200 acres in transition to organic.

Like Lindsey, Mercurio's optimistic about the future of wheat and grain crops in the region -- once more infrastructure is in place so that it can be sold locally. Both she and Lindsey said that, with more trial and error, the crop can thrive and become cost-effective for everyone.

"It's a work in progress," Mercurio said. "You've got to start somewhere."


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