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Jan 17-18: Cascadia Grains Conference helps revitalize local grain economy

Wheat field with a snowcapped mountain in the distanceOlympia, WA: Registration is now open for the 2020 Cascadia Grains Conference, aimed at rebuilding a regional grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

The 2020 Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18, in Olympia and Thurston County, Wash. The first day includes hands-on field trips at various locations in Thurston County. The event continues on Saturday at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. S.W., Olympia.

Mel Darbyshire, the head baker for Grand Central Bakery, will give the keynote address.

“This conference will bring together farmers, processors and end users as well as investors, brokers and local government officials to discuss all aspects of rebuilding the region’s grain economy,” said Laura Lewis, WSU Food Systems director and chair of the Cascadia Grains Conference. “The program will focus on regional grains used for three value-added enterprises – brewing and distilling, animal feed, as well as baking and other food uses.”

Grains have been grown in western Washington and Oregon since the fur-trade era of the mid-1800s.

“Today, plantings of wheat, barley, oats, rye and triticale are commonly rotated with high-value fruit, vegetable and bulb crops in the region,” Lewis said. “Grains play an important role in reducing nutrient loss, providing organic matter to the soil as well as breaking disease and pest cycles.”

With a Steering Committee of over 25 farmers, government officials, and value-added processors, the Conference is joining a nationwide movement that asks, “What does a local grain economy look like?” Working closely with organizers from Oregon, Idaho, and Northern California, this conference is the northwest’s platform for the regional conversation.

At the conference farmers learn about grain production, connect with scale‐appropriate buyers, and learn strategies on increasing demands for cereals used for poultry and livestock feeds, artisan breads, brewing, and distilling.
Processors and other end-users get an inside look into grain production, quality, and brokering relationships to utilize and market products using local grain.
Investors, brokers and local government officials get the scoop on rising investment and policy opportunities for the region’s grain economy.

The conference will feature 18 workshops, a Resource Expo, three meals, and entry to the Best of the Cascades Tasting Tour, featuring beers and spirits from around the region. Workshops cover a series of topics such as growing regional grains, grains for beer and spirits, grains for animals, adding value (bringing grain products to the market), and telling the unique story of Cascadia grains.

Registration and more information about the full day conference events and programs are available at Pre-conference registration is $100, regular registration is $125, and $145 for those registering at the door. Scholarships are available.

Cascadia Grains Conference 2020 is presented by WSU Food Systems in collaboration with many other supporting organizations and agencies.

For more information contact Aba Kiser, Conference Coordinator at 360-531-0312 or


Media Contacts

Aba Kiser, Cascadia Grains Conference Coordinator, 360-531-0312