Seasons Change and Crops Grow at Palouse Colony Farm

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 Palouse Colony Farm Native Lupine and Yellow Balsamroot

Palouse Colony Farm Native Lupine and Yellow Balsamroot

This week’s post is a photo montage of recent scenes from Palouse Colony Farm where we were treated to an moist spring that benefited both crops and the native flora of the area’s river bluffs and natural grasslands. Bursts of yellow “sunflower” balsamroot (Balsamorhiza careyana )abound on the southwestern facing slopes while purple lupine (Lupinus spp.), and other wildflowers favor the longer shadows of northern hillsides. The nutritious seeds and stalks of the sunflowers have long been gathered by the region’s native peoples, while lupine blossoms served as a traditional grave decoration.

While elk have been known to frequent the canyon some miles upstream, this is the first year in memory that a small herd of about fifteen of these grand creatures lingered in the vicinity of Palouse Colony Farm. By winter they had headed eastward probably to range in the higher elevations of northern Idaho but we hope they remember the way back to our vicinity. Our bend in the river, which is the northernmost point of the Palouse, has also been home this spring to two pairs of nesting bald eagles. The males periodically swoop high above us when walking around the farm as if to make sure we’re tending to the business of the farm and check out the river for any fish that might be moving close to the surface.

 Guardians of the Farm

Guardians of the Farm

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I always marvel at how well our landrace winter grain varieties mature in the spring after looking so scrawny in the fall. One wonders how Mother Nature equips the delicate leaves of the young plants to withstand the subzero temperatures that frequently descend throughout the region in December and January. Our father, who raised bountiful crops year after year on our family’s acreage just east of Palouse Colony Farm, observed that the first two weeks of February brought more frost damage to the crops than any other period during the winter. The pictures below show two of our grandchildren standing between stands of Crimson Turkey hard red bread wheat (at left) and soft red Yellow Breton, one of France’s famed crepe grains. The contrast between the sparsely filled furrows last November with the lush stand at the same place in June attests to the remarkable life-giving forces of land and air.

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Before and After: Palouse Heritage Winter Landrace Plantings at Lenwood Farm near Connell, Washington (Left and Right: Crimson Turkey™ and Yellow Breton™ Wheats)

East Meets West—WSU’s 2018 Farmwalk Tour and Our Seattle Damsel & Hopper Friends

This past June we were privileged to take part in Washington State University Extension Service’s Farmwalk 2018 program organized by Nichole Witham and Aba Kiser of the Food & Farm Systems Program headquartered at scenic Port Hadlock on Puget Sound. Thirty-five guests showed up on a breezy morning at the end of Grove Road between Endicott and St. John to learn about the history of the farm and tour the property.

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 Founder Rob Salvino of Seattle’s Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop

Founder Rob Salvino of Seattle’s Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop

We were pleased to make the acquaintance of folks from across the state who shared our interests in health and heritage through landrace grain production, processing, and marketing. Several passed on greetings from our good friend in Seattle, master artisan baker Rob Salvino of Damsel & Hopper Bakeshop (4405 Wallingford Avenue North). Rob was the first professional baker to use the landrace grain flours that we had grown and milled courtesy of Kevin Christiansen at Fairhaven Mill in Burlington. Rob established a thriving business in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood that features both a retail sales area and subscription delivery service for an array of delicious whole grain breads, scones, pastries, and crackers made from Palouse Heritage Sonoran Gold, White Lammas, and Crimson Turkey. His shortbread cookies are to die for!

I was surprised to learn that almost half the group had traveled from places west of the Cascades to find our place tucked away deep in the rolling hills of the Palouse Country. Several appreciated that our farm’s location even seemed beyond the pale of MapQuest though they did manage to join us in time thanks to the old reliable system of a green road sign that identified Grove Road. I remember Jack Grove very well as he lived at the Colony when I was a boy and was grandfather to our distant cousins who lived in other houses there. Mr. Grove related many tales to me of yesteryear life along the river, and some of these for a book to be published by WSU Press this fall titled From Hardship to Homeland. In a future post I’ll share some extracts from that work.

 Palouse Colony Farm Manager Andrew Wolfe Speaking to Farmwalk Participants

Palouse Colony Farm Manager Andrew Wolfe Speaking to Farmwalk Participants

Thanks to Nicole, Aba, and the WSU Farm & Food Systems team for bringing producers, processors, and vendors on both sides of our state closer together through the Farmwalk program. Aba also coordinates the very successful Cascadia Grains Conference which will be held next January 18-19 in Olympia. I hope you can make it.

Grains, Goodness, and Ethos Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I joined a capacity crowd for a festive “Dinner Under the Dome” fundraiser for the Franklin County Historical Society in Pasco, Washington, that was catered by artisan baker Angela Kora and her staff at Ethos Bakery & Café in Richland (2150 Keene Road). Angela and co-owner Scott Newell established the bakery at the present location a year ago and it has fast become one of the most popular eateries in the Tri-Cities and especially known for the wood-fired oven breads and pizzas made from Palouse Heritage landrace grains like Crimson Turkey, Sonoran Gold, and Purple Egyptian.

 Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

Capacity “Dinner Under the Dome” Crowd Catered by Ethos Bakery

 Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Ethos Bakery’s Angela Kora

Attesting to the Ethos team’s catering skills was the absence of anything but crumbs on the “Dome” dinner plates. My special treat at evening’s end was finding an extra portion of Angela’s scrumptious fruit-filled pastry. Our extended family often dines out at Ethos where they serve up proprietary blends of coffee to accompany a full service menu complemented by scratch-made breads, muffins, and pastries. Among our family favorites are puff pastries filled with chocolate and croissants flavored with malted Purple Egyptian barley berries. And I’ve been known to make special morning trips there just for the raisin granola.

  Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

Ethos Baker Turkey Red Bread

 Ethos Bakery Croissant

Ethos Bakery Croissant

I was to earn my keep at the fundraiser dinner by presenting a talk on the significance of heritage and agrarian history. Franklin County is located in southeastern Washington where the county’s production of grains, vegetables, fruit and hay is a $1.3 billion enterprise. One of our Palouse Heritage growers of landrace grains is Brad Bailie who operates Lenwood Farms near Connell. Brad is known throughout the region as conscientious and knowledgeable producer of organic crops. The evening’s program took place in the presence of the majestic courthouse’s golden statue of Demeter, the Greek goddess of bountiful harvests. With area students taking part in the historical society museum’s year-end field trips, my thoughts had turned that week to the centrality of agrarian themes in classical literature and philosophy. In the event you might have interest in this topic I append below an abbreviated version of that talk:


“Founding Farmers: Washington, Franklin, and a Heritage of Goodness”

Richard D. Scheuerman “Dinner Under the Dome” Remarks (19 May 2018)

Franklin County History Society

 

…[A]griculture, is the only honest way wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for innocent life and virtuous industry.   --Benjamin Franklin

   

I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.  --George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788

 

I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.  --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787

 

America’s founding leaders like Washington, Franklin, and John Adams were schooled in Greek and Latin and knew well the significance of classical allusions to Demeter and grain and harvest so visible in this place [Franklin County Courthouse dome court]. They understood what we call “first principles” of personal and political life, principles that they knew must be renewed in every generation to perpetuate freedom and prosperity. We should note that notable exemplars of these principles in the context of agriculture were many of the Founders’ wives—women like Abigail Adams who actively supervised the plantings and harvests at the couple’s Peacefield Farm while John performed diplomatic duties abroad before a terms as Vice-President and President. We are gathered here because we support the mission of the historical society’s museum, a term derived from the Muses of mythic Greek inspiration. So what are Muses whispering to us these days? Perhaps we could revisit their timeless message of a special heritage for old and young.

 

Purpose and Meaning             

As someone who worked for over forty years in public and private education, I had recurrent reason to muse about purpose and heritage. Each fall for the past many years at Seattle Pacific University, I welcomed incoming cohorts of teacher candidates at the annual graduate studies retreat on beautiful Whidbey Island. I never let that opportunity pass without asking in the first few minutes why they had come. What is the purpose of education, why perpetuate a cultural heritage—through school, a museum, a library, a society? To have a job, to raise test scores, to exhibit interesting old objects? I received many answers ranging from the idealistic (“I love working with kids”) to the extrinsic (“free summers”). While some tended toward first principles, many did not. And I might add that to my mind “loving kids” is an insufficient basis for teaching. Most people anywhere love children, while serious dedication to their present well-being and future world is something rather different.

In this day of debate about the validity of facts, permit me to offer one: Plato, Cincinnatus, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln—while living in different times and places—would have been in basic agreement on the significance of our cultural heritage and purpose of education. They wrote about it in explicit terms. The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education… is to make people good. This simple yet profound truth bears repeating: The value of our cultural heritage, the purpose of education is to make people good. You’d be surprised what quizzical looks I got from the many teacher candidates to whom I explained this fact over the years.

 

Goodness as Service

Goodness in the classical sense, well known to our nation’s Founders, was not some vague notion of nice feeling. Rather, it was a course of action. While the writings of these thinkers offer slight variations on the theme of goodness, they agree to a remarkable extent on the core qualities of honesty, hard work, and public service. This has important implications for a historical society like this one, and its relevance to society at large and the next generation we seek to engage.

This room is full of exemplars of such a mission. The members, supporters, and volunteers of this organization are living expressions of honest, hard-working public servants. This is the timeless key to purpose and meaning, and goodness. Moreover, it is the antidote to what syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer has termed “meism”—the selfish “what’s in it for me” mentality that threatens to derail the well-being of any community or country. It’s much easier, after all, to sit home and complain about things than it is to get involved, to vote, to attend, to compromise, to work.

While leaders like the Washingtons, Franklins, and Adamses may be more popularly known for democratic ideals, they all found vivid expression of their beliefs in agrarian affairs. They acquired farmland, helped organize rural societies, and wrote extensively about what they called “agricultural improvement.” They found through relationship with the land an incredibly enriching expression of goodness.

Washington devised some of the earliest and most comprehensive schedules for soil amendments to increase the fertility of his lands, Thomas Jefferson helped build some of the country’s first mechanical threshers, and Benjamin Franklin introduced numerous clovers, grains, and other crops to the new nation. New relevance is being found today consistent with their vision and labors to promote sustainability and prosperity. This is exciting! This is meaningful! This is goodness in full measure. Through your abiding support, may past be prologue to make our founders proud, and to inspire our youth to purpose and service.

 

Progressive change to promote the public good and wellbeing of future generations can be unwisely limited by amnesia as well as nostalgia. Amnesia is to forget about cultural legacies bequeathed by ancestors and society, and nostalgic appeals to life in some halcyon past often overlook the challenges of such times. But memory is a critical discipline, We remember places, mark Scriptures, and listen to elders’ stories in order to foster human flourishing and stewardship of resources and experience for tomorrow.   –-RDS

Agricultural Researchers Unite! Landrace Grains and the 2018 National Biennial Conference of the U. S. Agricultural Information Network

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Agricultural scholars and librarians from across the country converged on Pullman, Washington, last month for the National Biennal Conference of the U. S. Agricultural Information Network. I had been asked last year to serve as guest speaker for one of the sessions and was pleased to accept as a token of my gratitude for the organization’s valued help in completing my book, Harvest Heritage: Agricultural Origins and Heirloom Crops of the Pacific Northwest (WSU Press, 2013). As part of my research for that study I spent an entire day at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland, during a visit to Washington, D.C. I remember well walking in stifling summer heat from the end of Metro line to this impressive repository of USDA materials and other records on farm history. My trek was well worth it and led me to an array of early 19th century sources on landrace grains and other crops of early America.

 Dr. Paul Wester’s Presentation on the National Agricultural Library

Dr. Paul Wester’s Presentation on the National Agricultural Library

My remarks featured a summary of that research and description of the heritage grains we have been raising at Palouse Colony Farm. Many members of the audience were from eastern states so had special interest in learning about the original Colonial White Lammas (Virginia May) wheat and Scots Bere barley that we have restored to production. Demonstration plots can now be seen at the National Arboretum, Colonial Williamsburg’s Great Hopes Plantation, and Mt. Vernon Living History Farm.

My talk at the WSU conference was preceded by an address from Dr. Paul Wester, Director of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at the National Agricultural Library. He presented an fascinating overview of the USDA’s history including information on its establishment by President Lincoln at a time when he certainly had other things on his mind with the Civil War raging. (The Pullman conference convened on the 156th anniversary of the department’s founding.)

 Morrill Hall, Washington State College, Pullman (1895), Named for Justin S. Morrill, Father of the 1862 Land Grant College Act, Drawing by Rob Smith (2012)

Morrill Hall, Washington State College, Pullman (1895), Named for Justin S. Morrill, Father of the 1862 Land Grant College Act, Drawing by Rob Smith (2012)

Dr. Wester shared that the library’s strategic goals are four-fold: 1) To ensure efficient delivery of USDA programs; 2) feed and cloth the world; 3) strengthen stewardship of private lands through teaching and research; and 4) provide access to a nutritious and secure food supply. We met together after our presentations and he expressed special interest in emerging markets for landrace grains. He also offered to help with transportation to the library on my next visit to D.C.! My thanks to conference organizer Lara Cummings and WSU’s Dawn Butler for facilitating my participation in this informative gathering.

A “Farm to Table” Milestone—The Grain Shed Opens!

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After seven years of patient labor begun with extremely limited quantities of rare landrace grain seed, we were thrilled to attend a soft opening of The Grain Shed in Spokane’s South Perry district (1026 E. Newark) on June 9. The event marked the culmination of our vision to complete a heritage grain-based “Farm to Table” market devoted to principles of “flavorful authenticity.” Imagine the rich, warm aroma of artisan breads made from whole grain Crimson Turkey wheat, the progenitor of most all modern bread wheats, accompanied by a glass of Scots Bere ale (“The grain that gave beer its name!”).

 Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Hat’s off to the remarkable cadre of committed souls whose dream for a place dedicated to serving healthy landrace grain products in an atmosphere of good fellowship was matched by months of careful planning and hard work. Palouse Colony Farm co-founder Don Scheuerman teamed up with Grain Shed co-founders, Joel Williamson, malster-brewer of LINC Foods,  brewer Teddy Benson, and renown Spokane artisan baker Shaun Thompson Duffy of Culture Breads. The result of these innovative endeavors is this first of its kind co-op producer/worker/service model in the region. 

 Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

 Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Shaun designed the bakery’s enormous wood-fired oven where he applies the skills of a culinary artist to transform fresh-milled flour from The Grain Shed’s stone mill into succlulent Old World-style pastries and breads. Among his specialties are whole grain rye Volkornbrot and pain de mie, a soft French sandwich bread. As an indication of The Grain Shed team’s caliber of service, the informal opening was such a hit with locals that they sold out of both specialty loaves and house Scots Bere and Purple Egyptian ales. May the fates smile and allow you to enjoy the unforgettable experience of “flavorful authenticity” on your visit to The Grain Shed. Congratulations Don, Joel, Shaun, and Teddy!

Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition and Agrarianism (Part 2 of 2)

Reconciliation and The Threshing Machine

 Among the World Columbian Exposition’s most magnificent paintings was Russian master Grigoriy Myasoyedov’s monumental Time of Toil—The Reapers, identified at the fair as Harvest-Time. Nearly nine feet wide and covering forty-five square feet of canvas, the expansive painting and gilded wood frame may have been the largest at the exhibition, and appropriately dominated one of the Palace of Fine Arts’ four large halls as a gesture of cultural goodwill from Tsar Nicholas II’s personal collection. One marvels not only at such immense treasures, but at the time, expense, and labor needed for crating and secure global transport. Harvests and other agrarian scenes painted by artists with personal experience in farming like John Linnell and Parisian Albert Gabriel Rigolot (1862-1932), who had instructed Evans and the “Utah Missionaries,” depicted the new order in realistic scenes that were at once natural and humane.

  Grigoriy Myasoyedov,  Time of Toil—The Reapers  (detail, 1887),   Wikimedia Commons

Grigoriy Myasoyedov, Time of Toil—The Reapers (detail, 1887), Wikimedia Commons

Linnell’s Storm at Harvest, which was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and Rigolot’s The Threshing Machine, painted that same year but not shown in Chicago, both exemplified prospect of an emerging cultural consilience in the aftermath of what agricultural historians term the Second Agricultural Revolution. (The first took place with medieval farmers’ introduction of crop rotations to increase soil fertility and grain yields.) To be sure, the workers in Rigolot’s painting appear too intent on their duties to sing harvest folksongs, which probably could not have been heard above the din of the thresher anyway. But as with the group scenes in the 1870s Harvest Time pictures by William Hahn and William Rogers, they still work together. In Rigolot’s canvas a woman helps to feed a similar stationary thresher, and the team likely eats together, converse throughout the day, and are probably grateful for the mechanical marvel that spares so many weeks of toilsome flailing. The scene is vibrant from the artist’s admirable talent for rendering the soft, hazy effects of summertime heat, and balances a spirit of innovation with the adjacent timbered farmhouse and barn where as many animals are seen as in any Barbizon painting.

  Albert Gabriel Rigolot,  The Threshing Machine; Loiret  (1893), Wikimedia Commons

Albert Gabriel Rigolot, The Threshing Machine; Loiret (1893), Wikimedia Commons

Similar views are in Albert Kappis’s many German harvest works like Farmyard Threshing Machine (1885) which shows no less than twenty people—men and women feeding the enormous wooden Dreishmaschine while children play among chickens, turkeys, and geese. One can almost hear the whine of pulleys and belts as an elderly man stokes the engine’s fire with a shovelful of coal. The overall wholesomeness of paintings by Linnell, Rigolot, and Kappis reveal a hopeful oeuvre in which agrarian landscapes with agricultural innovations need not represent contradictory values, but complementary ones. Their works also represented an important middle way between the aesthetic tensions of an age that divided critics and commoners into rural and urban, traditional and progressive, mystical and visionary.

  Albert Kappis,  Farmyard Threshing Machine  (1885),   Columbia Heritage Collection

Albert Kappis, Farmyard Threshing Machine (1885), Columbia Heritage Collection

 

World’s Fair Journalism and Sculpture             

Popular Iowa journalist and novelist Alice French (1850-1934), who authored many stories under the pen name Octave Thanet, visited the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 for two “Sketches of American Types” Scribner’s Magazine articles, illustrated by Pennsylvanian A. B. Frost 1851-1928), “The Farmer in the North” (March, 1894) and “The Farmer in the South” (April, 1894). Frost was colorblind which may have enhanced his notable use of grayscale for photorealistic art as seen in A New England Type, his tender Scribner’s depiction of a young girl in a harvest field who appears to deliver a lunch pail to an elderly worker.

French’s approach as a local colorist emphasized rural custom and dialect in sentimental prose that described various farm folk she found visiting the fair:

Sunshine seemed to fit her; for she was a comfortable and ample presence in holiday black, brightened by the red rose in her bonnet and the pink on her comely cheeks. She listened to a monotone of complaints of the crowd and the weather and the restaurant fare...; she was sympathetic but she was unflinchingly cheerful. I perceived that here was one of those homely saints who hide their halo under a zest for laughter…. I know she bakes the wedding-cake for the rural brides, and has fifty sensible, homespun remedies for sickness, and comes to watch with the very sick, and helps babies come into the world, and is a sturdy comforter and provider to the rural clergy.

…All the classes and divisions of the American farmer were at the great Fair. There was the prosperous farmer of the New England states, and the equally prosperous farmer of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa; there was the tenant-farmer of the South, who may not prosper, but is always sure of cornmeal, pork, and molasses as long as his planter landlord does not go bankrupt; and the unprosperous farmers farther West, with their mortgaged farms and their discontent. Nor did it take any especial gift of discrimination to pick them out, the one from the other.