Updated Grainshed Gazette – Fall 2020

The Northeast Grainshed was awarded 2020 – 2022 USDA Regional Food System Partnership Program Funds!

“Raising Grain – Reviving the Northeast Grainshed”

The Northeast Grainshed received 2020 – 2022 planning and design funds from the USDA Regional Food Systems Partnership Program!

Thirty partners providing time and expertise, representing 19 entities, joined us.

Now we can really roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Raising Grain: Reviving the Northeast Grainshed
The Northeast Grainshed Partnership consists of a diverse and growing number of key stakeholders in the Northeast (New England, New Jersey, and New York) regional grain system: grain growers, processors, producers, organizations, institutions, researchers, and the public. The Partnership operates as a networking hub and planning initiative, primarily to connect grain-related businesses and organizations. The Partnership’s vision is to revive a functional and resilient regional grain system.

Develop an Action Plan that provides the background and current status of our partnership, the direction our partnership is heading, and how we plan to get there. Specifically, the Action Plan will establish regional priorities, timelines, strategies, metrics to measure progress, and a structured process to improve communication among Northeast grain-related businesses, institutions, and organizations. The Action Plan will increase our effectiveness at a regional scale, rather than an individual or state-specific level, and address the current limited coordination between key players in Northeast grain-related businesses, institutions, and organizations, by creating a structure for our process.

Design an innovative, effective, and consistent consumer awareness and education campaign about Northeast grains. This campaign will bridge the gap in consumer awareness of grains as an agricultural product, reconnect grain farmers and grain processors to communities, increase demand for regional grains, and educate consumers and institutions about the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits of supporting regional agriculture. Directly connect consumers with the predominant cereal grain within all breads, pizza, cakes, crackers, donuts, snack foods, etc.

Determine limitations and needs throughout the physical, economic, and institutional infrastructure in the Northeast grain system. Subsequently, connect wholesale grain buyers (bakers, dairy farmers, brewers, grocery stores) to local farmers via local processors, to identify opportunities for understanding and addressing each other’s needs. We will use information gained from this approach to (a)  guide our grain-related infrastructure improvements; (b) develop synergistic resource sharing (grain harvesting equipment, storing, cleaning, testing, etc.); (c) establish a rapid response system that connects consumers at a community level to assure supply equilibrium; (d) redefine a regional (rather than commodity) scale grain system; and (e) rebuild functional market relationships in the Northeast.

Develop a collaborative program to test and recommend new varieties of grains that are suitable for the Northeast environment, resilient to climate change, and meet the quality requirements for baking and malting. Essentially, determine the best varieties to grow, support, and source, and summarize the findings into a grain resource fact sheet to share with grain growing cooperatives, at conferences, and through other educational outlets.

Northeast Grainshed Ethnography

Gray Hunter is a senior at Sterling College studying Sustainable Food Systems. He reached out to the Northeast Grainshed about his senior project in July and we have been connecting him with grain folks in the Northeast.

Gray’s objective is to gather data that helps paint a picture of the relationships that make up Grainsheds at large, while highlighting what makes each individual/business unique and important. He has been conducting interviews with many members of the Northeast Grainshed over the past few weeks.

The final Ethnography of the Northeast Grainshed will be shared with our members, interested public, and highlighted on the Northeast Grainshed website. 

After graduating, Gray plans on continuing to work towards a more integrated grain system by utilizing locally-grown grains in farming, brewing, and baking at a professional level.

Gray’s passion and enthusiasm for regional food systems is inspiring! Please share your story and experiences in grain with him. The future of regional food systems is in the hands of dedicated young professionals, like Gray. 

If you want to learn how you can get involved with this project, please email Emily at northeastgrainshed@gmail. com.

Northeast Grainshed’s sister organization PISCES, is doing an amazing community grain project in Africa!

The Savanes, Land of Millet and Maize
The Importance of Cereals in Northern Togolese Culture 
By Michael Curcio – Co-Founder of PISCES

PISCES, a sister organization to the Northeast Grainshed, is fiscally sponsored by Tiny Seed Project. It is a small organic teaching farm that is currently based in Northern Togo, West Africa.

Grains play a very important role in northern Togolese food culture since they grow quickly during the short rainy season and are more drought-resistant than other crops. But you may be wondering, where exactly is Togo?

Togo is located in western Africa, sandwiched between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east. The approximately 7 million people living there speak more than 40 different languages, including French, which is used in government as well as schools. While the country is less than 100 miles wide, it is about 350 miles from north to south, wherein it encompasses an astonishing array of habitats and growing environments. The southern part of the country, which borders the Atlantic Ocean, is filled with lush farmland and rolling mountains where bananas, coffee, pineapples, avocados, and other tropical produce is grown. As one moves further north, the land becomes progressively dryer and poorer, and the landscape transitions to a savanna of annual grasses and sparsely populated trees. Here the seasons are not divided up into Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter but into the Rainy, Windy, and Hot seasons.

Located on ten acres of land in Northern Togo, PISCES is a non-profit farm that teaches sustainable agriculture. By applying and demonstrating techniques such as composting, agroforestry, intercropping, crop rotation, and live fencing, PISCES supports a more sustainable future for farmers in the region. To learn more, please visit our website at piscestogo.com.

Also – check out this Podcast featuring PISCES co-founder Michael Curcio HERE

Grainshed Roundtable Discussion at Sterling College, Vermont & Local Grain Harvest! 

Amy Halloran, Barry Labendz, and Len Bussanich (advisory board members) and Emily Cayer (coordinator) of the Northeast Grainshed joined Sterling College’s Intensive Farming Practicum in early September. Students learned about the realities of regional food systems, specifically Northeast grain systems during this discussion.

As part of this class, 1/4 acre of Red Fife was grown on the campus farm over the summer and harvested last week. Using scythes and a foot-pedal thresher, students learned hands-on harvesting of local grains!

Northeast Grainshed Collaboration Beer Funds

Thank you, Wormtown Brewery, and all the partners on the Northeast Grainshed Grisette – Collaboration Beer! Wormtown Brewery donated over $10,000 to the Northeast Grainshed from sales of this tasty and refreshing Northeast made beer!

Regenerative Farming Fellowship 

We’re excited to have the Northeast Grainshed partnered with Arizona State University, Artisan Grain Collaborative, and Stone Barns Center to offer a Regenerative Farming Fellowship!

About the Program

The Regenerative Farming Fellowship (RFF) launched in 2019 to support farmers in their transition to regenerative farming practices. The program’s peer cohort model fosters participants’ development as both practitioners and ambassadors of regenerative farming.

Grain farmers who would benefit from a deeper understanding of Midwest and Northeast regional grain models were invited to apply.

By supporting two regional cohorts of farmers working with similar crops, we hope to facilitate a transition to regenerative practices by farmers across these regions whose actions will significantly improve the health of farmland and local communities.

Grain growers in the United States face many challenges. Transitioning acreage into regenerative practices is critical to helping farmers improve their farm viability while caring for soils and farmland, but that transition will remain out of reach if it is attempted in isolation. In order for this transition to be economically–and therefore practically–feasible for farmers, we must also address the lack of market demand for ecologically grown grains and strong regional supply chains to help usher in regenerative systems.


  • Join us! We have 90 members and growing of the Northeast Grainshed representing the following member types: Farmer, Processor, Baker/Brewer/Restaurant, Friend, Sponsor, and Research member.
  • If you are not a member yet, please join us! 

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