Landrace Grains

Richard's Interview for the Off-Farm Income Podcast


Our own Richard was interviewed recently for the "Off-Farm Income" podcast. It's a great discussion about our journey into raising landrace grains as well as old world farming practices, Volga German farming heritage, and Richard's highs and lows in high school FFA!

You'll definitely want to check it out:

P.S. Richard isn't exactly "technically inclined" as some may say. So when he shares our website at the end of the interview, he incorrectly states it as palouse colony dot com. He meant to say Safe to say he truly is more comfortable involving himself with the "old days."

Northwest Colonial Festival — Heritage Grains under the Big Top

The Northwest’s Olympic Peninsula is famous for hosting continental America’s only rain forest which averages about 150 inches of annual precipitation. That fact might make ocean-side grain culture there a hopeless prospect, but far from it on the dry and sunny north side of the Olympic Mountains. To the contrary, the imposing mountains shelter the vicinity of Sequim, Washington, from the region’s prevailing southwesterly winds to create a rain shadow effect causing only about fifteen inches of rain to fall in that area. The peculiar semi-arid climate combined with fertile landscape create ideal conditions for raising wheat, barley, and oats. Match the geography with the patriotic dream of Dan and Jan Abbot to build a full-scale replica of Mt. Vernon as a five star bed and breakfast and you get… the spectacular George Washington Inn.

Barley Field near Sequim on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (2018)

Barley Field near Sequim on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (2018)

The Abbots have been friends of Palouse Heritage since we first met several years ago at one of the WSU Grain Gathering conferences. Dan shares our interest in health and history and wanted to learn about the crops of America’s Colonial Era in order to provide a “living history” experience to visitors to the Inn. He might not have expected them to harvest the crop, but thought that establishing test plots with actual varieties that once grew at places like Mt. Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello would be a fascinating project. And so was launched a partnership between Dan, the WSU Bread Lab in nearby Burlington, and Palouse Heritage.

British Army Reenactors approach the George Washington Inn (Mt. Vernon)

British Army Reenactors approach the George Washington Inn (Mt. Vernon)

The third annual Northwest Colonial Festival was held at the Inn this past August with hundreds of visitors attending a series of special events and reenactor encampments of British regulars and American patriots. Along with demonstrations of tool making, cooking, printing, weaving, and other traditional crafts, the August sunshine brought the landrace grain plots to maturity. Many of the guests gathered under an enormous tent where longtime WSU senior agronomist Steve Lyon and I teamed up to tell about the various varieties and discuss the challenges and benefits of heritage grain production. Several once prominent early American grains like Virginia White and Red May also made their way to the Pacific Northwest by the late 1800s, and seeing bountiful stands again wave in the seaside breeze presents scenes worthy of a painting.

Three (Colonial) Musketeers

Three (Colonial) Musketeers

Early American Mediterranean Red Wheat Test Plot

Early American Mediterranean Red Wheat Test Plot

One of the winter wheats planted last fall, Mediterranean Red, yielded terrifically and represents a remarkable chapter in the history of American agriculture. Most folks are familiar with the story of Hessian troops from Germany being used as mercenaries to fight for the British during the Revolutionary War. Many agricultural historians believe that these soldiers brought more with them to the Colonies that love of schnapps and sauerkraut. It seems that a tiny pernicious pest that came to be known as the Hessian fly likely arrived with the hay and grain brought over to provision the soldiers livestock. This insect wrought enormous havoc on cereal grains that had long been raised in North America, and local news and correspondence of George Washington and other farmers from the era is full of news about the calamity that ensured which threatened the food supply. Fortunately for the new nation, enterprising “farmer improvers” introduced Mediterranean Red which seemed to have a natural resistance to infestation. Scientists today study the remarkable genetic diversity of landrace grains that developed in locales throughout the world for millennia and continue to exhibit valued traits for hardiness, yield, and flavor.

Bridget Baker,  Olympic Gold  (oil on canvas, wheat field near Sequim), Palouse Heritage Collection

Bridget Baker, Olympic Gold (oil on canvas, wheat field near Sequim), Palouse Heritage Collection

Hands to Harvest! “Bringing in the Sheaves” in 2018

Few words conjure up richer connotations of summertime, country life, and abundance than harvest. During the past three weeks we have commenced harvesting our Palouse Heritage grains and are pleased to report excellent quality and yield. Ever being interested in matters of origin, I decided to investigate the derivation of the word “harvest,” and learned that it is derived from German Herbst (autumn). That word in turn descends from a root shared by Latin carp- (“to gather”) and Greek karpos (“fruit”). “Harvest” in the sense of reaping grain and other crops came into vernacular use during the medieval era of Middle English.

Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Likely due to the light color of a wheat kernel’s interior endosperm, the word “wheat” in many European languages meant “white,” as with Old English whete, Welsh gwenith, and German weizzi. The Latin term “gladiators,” hordearii, literally means “barley eaters” since they subsisted on high energy foods like barley, oatmeal, and legumes. Roman legionaries were routinely outfitted with sickles in order to procure their livelihood throughout the far flung empire, and probably used them more often that their weapons. The helical frieze on Trajan’s Column in Rome (c. 110 AD) features a dynamic group scene of soldiers in full uniform harvesting waist-high grain with prodigious heads.

These days we don’t need to rely on sickles and legionnaires to bring in the crop. Good friends like Brad Bailie of Lenwood Farms near Connell, Washington, raise bountiful crops of organic Palouse Heritage varieties like Crimson Turkey and Yellow Breton. The latter is a soft red variety native to the northern France where for generations it was used for the prized flour essential for flavorful crepes. Farther to the northeast in the vicinity of Endicott, Washington, our longtime friends Joe DeLong and Chuck Jordan are harvestings stands of Palouse Heritage Red Fife, a famous bread grain originally from Eastern Europe, Sonoran Gold wheat, and Scots Bere barley that has become one of the most sought-after craft brewing malt grains.

Although there are some variations in climate and soil across the inland Pacific Northwest, this fertile region lies within the great arc of the Columbia River’s “Big Bend” easily identified on any map. While reading through some old newspapers recently I encountered the following poem titled “The Big Bend” by Louis Todd that was published in 1900. Little else is known about Todd’s life, but his literary expressions here make it clear he greatly appreciated this land of harvest time “golden splendor.”


No other river to the ocean

   Will a tale like thine unfold,

Of the wealth seen in thy travels;

   Of the wealth thy borders hold;

For thy thoughts the grandeur bear,

   And thy breath the sweetness breathes,

Of the boundless fields and forests,

   Of the richly laden trees.


And there grows within thy roaring

   All the fairest of the vine;

Luscious fruits in clusters hanging

   From the north and southern clime.

Great fields of wheat in golden splendor,

   Waving like a mighty sea,

Holding safe their precious treasure

   ’Till the grain shall ripened be.


Where nature works with freest hand,

   Builds her greatest work of art,

Will the feeble life of man

   There most smoothly play its part.

Oh, leave the dreary course you travel,

   Spurn the rocky path you go,

Join again your life with Nature,

   Where the fragrant flowers grow.


Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)





Seasons Change and Crops Grow at Palouse Colony Farm

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


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.


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.

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


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.