The four-year process of introducing local beans and grains to growers and consumers in the Southern Willamette Valley has been one of slow but steady progress. While farmer meetings and public outreach have been key parts of this work, the Fill-your-pantry Market events have become the Bean and Grain Project's most successful in bringing consumers and growers together. The first was in October of 2010 in Corvallis. That was followed by a second in April of 2011 in Eugene. This fall saw two Fill-pour-pantry events on back to back days, one in Shedd on Saturday, November 12 and one in Eugene on Sunday, November 13. Both events drew large numbers of buyers, ran more smoothly than the earlier efforts, and produced much welcomed sales for participating growers. Customers and growers alike expressed gratitude for the events and requests for more frequent opportunities to do it again.
In Shedd: The event in Shedd took place at what was once the Methodist Church on Highway 99. The church, recently bought by Willow Coberly of Stalford Seed Farms and Willamette Seed and Grain, has been repainted and nicely refurbished. It currently acts as an office for WS&G and makes for an excellent farmers' market in a beautiful rural setting. Read more.
In Eugene: The Eugene Fill-your-pantry Market took place at the Stellaria Building, 150 Shelton McMurphey Boulevard, the new home of Hummingbird Wholesale. The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition organized the event which was also sponsored by Hummingbird and the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project. Like the event in Shedd, customers were lined up to get in long before noon when the market opened. A steady crowd filtered through the warehouse on the south side of the building from opening to closing. From one o'clock to three-thirty, the vendors and shoppers were entertained by Skinner City old timey string band from Eugene. Read more.
While there were more farms represented at these markets (Lonesome Whistle and Open Oak attended both) than the previous two, not all were selling beans and grains; however, the diversity of products–particularly flours–has steadily increased in the last year and that is the real story of what's happening in the valley. In addition to whole wheat flour–for pastry and for bread, the rye, teff, buckwheat, oat, spelt, and corn flours are important additions to what is available now locally and serve as proof that a real effort is being made to introduce a wide variety of grains into western Oregon cuisine. In this regard the "grains" have become the key note in the Bean and Grain Project. The two new local grain mills, Greenwillow Grains and Camas County Mill, are largely responsible for this.
This is not to say that the beans haven't also made progress. Lentils and garbanzo beans have made what is likely to be a lasting impact. Both remain the best fit climatically. They need little if any water and have also shown the most promise for expanded cultivation and harvest by combine. Demand for local, organic lentils and garbanzos is on the increase. Organic heirloom beans, which require quite a bit of hand work and are not currently being planted in large plots (more than a few acres), have, however, found a niche in the local market. Twelve varieties plus the lentils and garbanzos were sold at the two markets, with most coming from Lonesome Whistle Farm and Open Oak Farm.
The two previous Fill-your-pantry Markets, held six months apart, each sold approximately five thousand pounds of beans, grains, flour, winter vegetables, honey, fish, and meat. This fall's two markets showed the same kind of numbers. On back to back days, approximately five thousand pounds of product were sold at each market–with the bulk of that being grains and beans.
As always, feedback to this webpage is welcome. If you attended either of the markets or both, feel free to offer corrections or additions. In the end, the Bean and Grain Project meetings, farm tours, fill-your-pantry markets, and these articles are meant as a forum about growing beans, grains, and edible seeds as field crops in the Willamette Valley. Discussion and the sharing of ideas are themes central to the project. Click to email.
Special thanks is extended to The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition and The Ten Rivers Food Web, Hummingbird Wholesale and the Evergreen Hill Fund of Oregon Community Foundation for their continued support of the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project.