It’s organic. It’s known to have been used in the time of Egyptian Pharaohs, and it’s readily available in the Upper Methow Valley. Emmer, also known as Farro, ancient hulled wheat, is making a comeback as a specialty grain.
As one of the meticulously cared for crops at Bluebird Grain Farms, emmer is a long, delicate grain, provides 13-16% protein, and is used as a whole grain in soups, pilafs and salads; cracked for cereal or milled for baking bread. Sam and Brooke Lucy, owners of the farm, are intent on providing the best possible nutritional value. “This is a natural strain of wheat – as pure as you are going to find,” explains Brooke. “Emmer dates back seventeen thousand years. Modern wheat has been bred for yield and requires more nitrogen. The old world grains have a lower yield. As farmers we feel the nutritional value is far more important than the yield,” she added.
Two dozen people on the Farm Walk, sponsored by Washington State University’s Small Farms Team and Tilth Producers of Washington, learned how tilling strategies, soil testing, and integrating green manures and live foliar feeds within different crop rotations produce the most desirable results at Bluebird Grain Farms.
Norman Suverly, Washington State University Extension Okanogan County Extension Director, admires the Lucy’s commitment to offer a quality product. “They are very dedicated to their business. So much of our grain in Washington is exported. It’s a great service to the public to be able to have organic grain so close to home,” said Suverly.
Crops are harvested at low moisture levels and stored in sealed, wooden granaries. The grains don’t sweat in the wood, as is often the case in metal silos. The wood absorbs any moisture from the grains so mold and rot are not a problem.
The Lucy’s have been growing grains for nearly a decade. Their on-farm milling and packaging facilities allow flours to be milled to order and, therefore, arrive as fresh as possible to the consumer. Their products are also becoming widely used at restaurants both in and out of Washington State and are also available at farmers’ markets and through their Web site.
By Betsy Fradd, WSU Extension