About Palouse Heritage
"Creating sustainable grain economies seeks to respectfully feed body, mind, and spirit. There have been thousands of wheat varieties and thousands of barleys since time immemorial. Experiencing their distinct flavors, knowing their history, and using them in old as well as new recipes can all be inspiring acts. By learning more about grains we can make foods that are healthy and taste wonderful. This is not some fashionable culinary trend, but a longstanding matter of common sense. The challenge of our day isn’t to tear down big companies or criticize dietary habits, but to transform them by promoting appreciation for these values. It starts with farmers, bakers, and brewers who are in the best position to lead the change."
—Chris Bianco, “A Link in the Chain”, The WSU/MV Grain Gathering 2016, Mt. Vernon, Washington
Rolling hills of golden grain. Such familiar scenes of summer countryside travels across America, from stories by Willa Cather and Tolstoy and in the art of Van Gogh and Thomas Hart Benton, have been known to our families since time immemorial. I found reference to the first Pacific Northwest’s crops in an unexpected place—the Ft. Nisqually Living History Museum near Tacoma, Washington, which I visited in the summer of 2011. Although a regional fur trading post since its founding in the 1830s, the site’s oldest building—a log granary, and fort journals introduced me to the fascinating world of frontier agriculture.
This experience began a quest to identify the region’s first crop varieties, study their nutritional benefits, and to revive production of these ancient “landrace” grains in a cooperative project with the WSU/Mt. Vernon Research Center and Bread Lab, Ft. Nisqually, and The McGregor Company of Colfax, Washington. Having been raised on farms in the scenic Palouse Hills of the Columbia Plateau, we formed Palouse Heritage in 2014 to promote heritage and health through wholesome farm produce and cultural resources related to these nutritious and flavorful grains.
Our ancestors lived in the Vogelsberg (“Bird Hills”) farming district of Schotten in central Hesse, Germany, where they tended fields on the fertile slopes for untold generations. Continental strife forced them to immigrate eastward to Russia in the 1760s at the invitation of Tsarina Catherine the Great, and our people made the arduous year-long trek to the western Bergseite (“Hilly Side”) of the Volga River. Here they transformed the vast uninhabited steppe into one of world’s most productive, but political turmoil ensued again and immigration to America began in the 1870s. Among the first to move were the Litzenberger, Ochs (Oakes), and Scheuerman families, who then lived in Kansas for several years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. In October, 1883, they arrived in the Palouse Hills and established the historic “Palouse Colony” on the Palouse River between the rural communities of Endicott and St. John, Washington.
The Palouse Colony soon developed into a thriving settlement that provisioned families coming from the Old Country. Scores of new arrivals stayed while adjusting to life in the new land, and today many thousands of residents in the Northwest and beyond can trace their origins in the country to this time of sanctuary along the placid Palouse. Parents described it as a “Land of Milk and Honey” for children who tended the colony’s dairy herd and raided bee hives along the river. The newcomers used farming methods of medieval origin—long, narrow Langstreifen fields (akin to English furlongs) in three-crop rotations (Dreifelderwirtschaft), a shared “commons” (Almenden) for grazing and gardens, and harvests with sickle and scythe.
In 2015 we reestablished Palouse Colony Farm to raise heritage crops on the land where it had first been established, and are now in the process of restoring the original buildings. We very much hope you will join with us by sharing ideas and resources in person and online through this forum for an enriching fellowship and cultural renewal. If you have any questions, please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.
Sincerely yours for heritage, health, and hearth,
Richard and Lois Scheuerman, Co-Founders of Palouse Heritage
The Palouse Heritage logo showcases our focus on the colorful and fascinating diversity of landrace grains. We are passionate about the variety of their flavors and the remarkable nutritional benefits they provide. The logo also pays homage to our locale as the stalks of wheat within the sheaf bend in a manner representing the distinctive rolling hills of the Palouse Country.