In the last newsletter (Late Winter/Early Spring 2022), there was an article about the history of grain growing in the Northeast and the current grain renaissance in the region, and a run down of where the Co-op currently gets its grains.
In that article, it was also mentioned that Hickory Wind Farm, South Cambridge, N.Y. would shortly be supplying the store with some of their product. Well, as of the end of March, it’s in stock both of the shelves and in bulk! You can officially buy very locally-grown Turkey Red wheat berries (in the bulk bins), and packaged oat flour and whole wheat flour. The Co-op is excited to have such high-quality local grains grown by two thoughtful producers.
Kristoffer Ross, one of the farmers of Hickory Wind Farm grains, was kind enough to answer several questions about the farm and their plants and plans.
MC: What got you started thinking about growing diversified grains*?
KR: While I have been interested in growing grain crops for many years as an offshoot of home gardening, I hadn't considered them as a farm-scale crop until the first year of the pandemic. I had been temporarily laid off from jobs in the technical theatre industry, and could return to spending more time on the family farm than I had been able to for some time. My interest in grains was reignited and strengthened while re-reading the late Jack Lazor's book The Organic Grain Grower, and as I spoke to more people over that spring and summer, it became apparent that local grains in Upstate New York are very much in a renaissance at present. It's exciting to be seeing more awareness and ideas [for the grain renaissance] locally, from both producers and consumers, spilling over from a deeper understanding of how meaningful and important local staple foods can be, much like the explosion of interest in local produce a decade ago.
MC: Why are you leasing land from fellow Co-op member Susan Sullivan and Steven Sanford? - (note: Susan is a Co-op member, and a former Board President)
KR: We are fortunate to have many wonderful neighbors here on Gannon Road, among them Susan and Steve. With shared values of conservation and regeneration of the land by appropriate, varied usage, our farm was able to acquire the lease for the additional twenty one or so acres of their cropland. Most of these fields were able to go into hay without plowing up the sod, except for two which had a large weed seed bank of burdock, goldenrod, foxtail, and ragweed. These fields' need of rejuvenation was a perfect match for the process of rotating in grains, and we seeded our first winter wheat crop in September 2020. We are regenerating these fields by use of the grains' natural weed suppression, stale seedbed tillage, clover inter-seeding, compost, and cover crops. We avoid use of herbicides on our farm already, and are managing the grain fields in line with organic guidelines. I'm happy to report that this approach has worked quite well thus far, with no significant weed population even at the harvest of the first year of wheat.
MC: What plans do you have for the future of grain growing on the farm?
KR: I’ll keep pursuing my interest in heirloom wheats: this year (2022) we will be growing 1.5 acres each of Turkey Red Hard Winter Wheat and Red Fife Hard Spring wheat, two varieties from the 19th century which are known for good milling and baking qualities. I am also working to acquire a state food processor license by this summer to allow us to mill all our flours and rolled oats on the farm (see below). My brother Matthew is looking into adding barley straw to our farm crops elsewhere. Hickory Wind Farm primarily remains a maple, hay, and forage producer. Currently our family manages some 65 acres in perennial sod for high quality dry hay and baleage.
MC: Do you mill your own grains or do so locally?
KR: Currently our stone-ground flours are milled in the commercial kitchen at Pompanuck Farm, thanks to the kindness of Scott and Lisa Carrino, but I hope to soon have the necessary state license to do this in our own granary, which would allow us to do larger orders and possibly add some new products, such as freshly rolled oats.