Locus Focus on 11/21/11
Re-creating a Local Food System - The Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project
There is a lot more to eating locally than buying produce at your neighborhood farmers' market. What about all the staple foods we rely on, like grains and beans, that provide most of the calories in our diet? In Oregon's Willamette Valley we have the agricultural potential to feed the valley residents twice over, yet most of the fertile valley land is dedicated to growing grass seed and commodity wheat that's exported to China. Meanwhile ninety-five percent of what we eat in the Willamette Valley is imported. But with the price of all fossil fuels on the rise, a lot of people are beginning to think that this makes no economic or agricultural sense.
On this episode of Locus Focus we are joined by Willow Coberly, co-owner of the largest grass seed farm in Linn County (touted as the grass seed capitol of the world). Her husband Harry Stalford has been a grass seed farmer all his life, but Willow is convinced that they should be growing more food on their land and using organic practices as well. Willow has been working with organic pioneer Harry MacCormack (founder of Oregon Tilth) to transistion several hundred acres of her 6,000 acre farm to growing organic wheat, grains and beans. Several years ago she helped Harry MacCormack form the the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project, a small group of farmers and local food system advocates focused on rebuilding the local food system and promoting food security in Oregon's Willamette Valley. We talk about how they are working to stimulate the cultivation and local marketing of organically grown beans and grains to provide a nutritionally dense foundation of year-round food staples in the valley.
Willow Coberly is co-owner of Stalford Seed Farms, a 6000-acre agricultural operation. She and Harry MacCormack started the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project five years ago, because most grass seed producers scoffed at the idea of growing dry-land beans or hard red wheat in the western Oregon climate. She had begun in 2003 by beginning to transition 130 acres of her farm to organic bean and grain production. Without this opportunity, the Project could not have gotten off the ground. And in the ensuing five years, Ms. Coberly has steadily transitioned more and more of her farm's acreage to organic, expanded her food crop production, added bean cleaning and grain milling capacity to her farm, and spoken regularly in public about the Bean and Grain Project and her belief that food production and a working local food system are the future of Willamette Valley agriculture.