Cascadia Grains Conference

The Cascadia Grains Conference brings together farmers, processors and end-users, as well as investors, brokers and local government officials to support rebuilding a grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The focus is on three value-added enterprises: brewing and distilling, poultry and livestock feed, and artisan baking. Wheat, barley, oats, and rye have been in cultivation in this region since the fur-trade era of the mid‐1800s, and today, grains are commonly rotated with high‐value fruit, vegetable, and bulb crops, or are grown in place of hay. Consumer demand for regionally‐produced grains has increased tremendously in the past few years, and farmers and processors have responded with expanded plantings, improved products, and renewed ties to local supply chains. Through this new annual conference we aim to strengthen the role of grains in our local food economy by sharing the latest science, techniques, and developments, as well as by creating a space in which new business, policy and research relationships can form and existing ones can be strengthened. The conference will be held January 12, 2013 at the STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma, WA. It is jointly presented by WSU Extension in Pierce and Thurston Counties. It was organized to augment the efforts of the international Kneading Conference West held annually at WSU Mount Vernon. The full conference program and additional information can be found here: .


Grant Information

  • Project ID: 129
  • Project Status: Complete



A preliminary version (beta stage) of the online Cascadia Grains Asset Map was developed as a
continuously evolving visualization of grain‐related assets and resources across western WA, OR,
and BC. This tool will allow members of the grain‐shed (e.g. farmers, processors, educators, etc.) to
identify themselves on a digital map to facilitate the formation of new supply‐chain relationships,
and to expose barriers and gaps. This interactive tool is embedded into our website
( Our website (together with its associated Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr
accounts) is maintained as a central repository of grain‐related information and news for western
WA, OR and BC. This includes presentations from the conference, which are freely downloadable.

Additional Funds Leveraged

$8,260.00 – registration fees
$6,250.00 – sponsorship support and program ad sales
$5,000.00 – Pierce County MOA support
$19,510 – TOTAL additional funding secured


Short‐term impacts include increased knowledge concerning grain production and end‐uses,
including variety selection, nutrient management, and growing on‐farm feed. Other impacts include
increased knowledge of baking, malting/distilling, and feed quality, as well as baking gluten‐free,
organic certification, business legal structures, and financing options. Participants were asked to
rank the workshops they attended on a scale from 1 (Not Informative) to 5 (Very Informative) on a
paper survey, and averaged over all 15 workshops, the median score was 4.1. The three most highly‐
ranked workshops were: Kicking the Commodity Habit (4.7), Business Entity Types and Models (4.5),
and Grains as Poultry Feed (4.3). The average score for a workshop did not fall below 3.5, and only
five of the 15 workshops were rated below 4. Asked to describe three things that they plan to do
within the next 6 months with the information gained from the conference, the top three responses
were: (1) to grow grains (either expand plantings or plant for the first time) (26% of participants), (2)
continue strengthening the supply‐chain network by maintaining relationships and forming new
ones (25%), and (3) learn more about grain production, processing and business planning (21%). A
large majority of attendees (83%) would participate in a second conference on this topic. Those who
would not consider attending again mentioned that the conference was “too far away” or they
“needed something more basic.”

Intermediate‐term impacts include new, regional business relationships between growers and
processors/end‐users, specifically: improved grower‐to‐miller/baker, grower‐to‐maltster/brewer,
grower‐to‐distiller, and grain grower‐to‐animal producer connections. Additionally, other impacts
include an increased investment in infrastructure needs, including grain storage, dryers, mills, and
malting facilities. Follow‐up conversations (in‐person and phone‐calls) with key conference
participants demonstrated that the conference had some influence on the formation of new
business‐to‐business relationships relating to grain. For instance, Chad Robbins and Ezra Cox (both
conference participants) established the Cowlitz River Distillery to malt and distill locally‐produced
grains in Lewis County, and they credit the conference for providing some of the inspiration to form
this new business venture. Similarly, Wilcox Farms was able to connect with several southwest
Washington grain farmers who will be growing feed grains, particularly organically‐certified feed
grains, for their poultry operation. Lastly, a feed producer‐buyer cooperative is beginning to form in
the South Puget Sound as a direct result of the conference. More time will have to pass to be able to
honestly assess what intermediate impacts the conference had, but the initial signs are quite

In the long‐term, the impact of this annual conference will be a transition to a localized grain
economy where locally‐grown wheat, barley, oats, rye, triticale, and other crops feature
prominently in local food, feed, and malt systems. Additionally, alternative (or pseudo) cereal crops
will feature prominently in local agriculture and processing, including quinoa, amaranth, and
buckwheat. It is too early to assess these long‐term impacts.