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Rebuilding grain industry in western Washington

TACOMA, Wash. – Registration is open for a Washington State University Extension conference aimed at rebuilding a regional grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. The all-day Cascadia Grains Conference will be Saturday, Jan. 12, at the STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma. Registration and details are at The cost is $95 for those registering before Dec. 21 and $120 for those registering before Jan. 12.

Wheat growing in a test plot at the Northwest Washington research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon.
Wheat growing in a test plot at the Northwest Washington research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU. Click image to download hi-res version.

“We are working to build on the momentum of the international Kneading Conference West that was held in Mount Vernon in September,” said Lucas Patzek, WSU Thurston County Extension director. “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 a grain economy.”

Patzek noted that 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,” he said. “Grains play an important role in reducing nutrient loss, providing organic matter to the soil and breaking disease and pest cycles.”

Despite a strong and growing demand for local grains, Patzek said, developing outside markets isn’t easy for growers in coastal Cascadia.

“In part, this is due to critical handling and processing infrastructure having been moved, dismantled or repurposed for non-agricultural uses,” he said.

The conference will feature a variety of workshops, including:

  • Expanding Grain Networks and Infrastructure
  • How to Grow Grains West of the Cascades
  • The Science and Art of Malting and Brewing
  • Roles for Co-ops in the Small Grains Economy
  • Milling and Bread Baking Quality: Creating a Common Language
  • Grains as Poultry Feed
  • Financing Food and Farming

Media Contacts

Lucas Patzek, WSU Thurston County Extension, 360-867-2153