Modern Farmer Article

A Grainshed Rises in the Northeast

A new network of brewers, maltsters and bakers is looking to rebuild a local breadbasket.

The Northeast Grainshed Alliance has 109 members and aims to increase demand for Northeast grains by building a network of farmers, bakers, brewers, and others. – Photography courtesy of Buck Farms Grains

Jacob Buck and his two brothers were looking for a way to ensure their Maine potato farm could support the next generation when they found craft grain. The enthusiastic brothers went all-in—planting acres of barley, converting a potato storage building to a malthouse and teaching themselves how to malt the grain they grew in the hope local breweries would want to use it in their beer. Then they loaded up their truck with their malted barley, an essential ingredient in beer, and contacted every craft brewery in Maine.

The response from brewers for this local ingredient was so positive that, two years later in 2017, their business, Maine Malt House, was able to double its production. Today, it runs at five times its original capacity. One brewer in particular, Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing Company, was so enthusiastic about using local malt that he and Allagash’s founder Rob Tod, made a public pledge to work up to using one million pounds of local grain by 2021. Five years later, they’re primed to hit that target and are hoping to pave the way for other breweries to follow suit.

Although 99 percent of the malt used by US breweries comes from large commercial malthouses from western states, according to data from the North American Craft Maltsters Guild, more partnerships like this one are popping up across the country. Northeast farmers, along with the producers that turn their grain into craft beer and spirits, have come together and formalized their intent to grow this regional grain supply by forming the Northeast Grainshed Alliance, which celebrated its first year last month.

These symbiotic relationships also exist between artisan bakers, flour millers and the farmers growing these specialty grains. Farmers such as Todd Hardy of Vermont’s Thornhill Farm sends the organic rye he grows and smokes to Elmore Mountain Bread, where it is ground and baked into a crusty country loaf. Some of his rye is turned into whiskey at a nearby distillery.

The idea of a localized food system for this staple crop is far from a new one. Before the Industrial Revolution centralized grain production westward and turned it into a commodity, it was the norm for every community to have their own grain supply.

“Everywhere in the Northeast was its own bread basket at one time,” says Amy Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket.

With the vision of rebuilding that local bread basket, the Northeast Grainshed Alliance, with 109 members and growing, aims to increase demand for Northeast grains by building a network of farmers, bakers, brewers and others to enhance collaboration and educate consumers on the value of regional grains. They work in tandem with other organizations across the country such as the Midwest-based Artisan Grain Collaborative and Cascadia Grains in the Northwest.

The Grainshed, which covers New England, New York and New Jersey, held its first symposium last January, bringing together more than 200 stakeholders to share ideas. The group has created an online grain directory where consumers can find the Northeast farmers, millers, maltsters, breweries, distilleries, bakeries and restaurants dedicated to using local grains.

Not only do these grains come with a feel-good origin story for locavores, local grain growers and bakers maintain that they taste better and contain more nutrients than those grown by larger operations. The grain in your average bag of flour comes from the giant monocrops of the Southeast or Inland Northwest, and it generally includes a mixture from many different farms to get the protein count just right before the nutrients that have been bred out of the wheat are artificially added back into the flour.

The predominant wheat varieties grown in the past 100 years have been bred with two goals in mind—high yields and to make white flour whiter, says Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder and director of Washington State University’s Bread Lab. Flour gets its “whiteness” by having a reduced ash count—a measurement of its mineral content.

“The ash is made up of the micronutrients iron, zinc and other metals that are important in our diets,” says Jones. “Modern wheats are lower in ash, thus lower in micronutrients. So, even modern wheats used at 100-percent whole grain have fewer nutrients.”

Craft wheat varieties come from heirloom grains. Breeders like Jones work with these varieties to increase yields while still maintaining the grain’s nutrients. Many bakers notice these extra micronutrients equate to greater flavor.

For Halloran, the benefits of baking with craft grains starts with taste, “because it is incredible,” she says. “We think of flour as a structural component, but it’s actually a taste component.”

Local food advocates see many benefits of a regional food system centered around a staple crop such as grain. Regional food systems can address food insecurities at a local level, and they can have smaller carbon footprints, advocates say.

Only 5 percent of grain consumed in New England is grown in the Northeast, according to a 2014 report by an organization called Food Solutions New England, something the Grainshed is hoping to change. Commitments from brewers like Allagash go a long way in securing future growth. The brewery now incorporates at least some local grains into all of its beers. Perkins acknowledges the higher price of craft malt has been the biggest challenge, but for Allagash, the benefits outweigh the costs.

“It’s been great to see the growth of the industry as a whole,” says Buck, who helps other farmers in the Northeast learn how to grow barley. “There’s been a team effort there to all rise together.”

Black History Month

Black History Month
Hey, y’all it’s Hannah here @soulfulsoils 👩🏾‍🌾 and I am an Outreach Leader for Northeast Grainshed Alliance. Today may mark the shortest month of the year, but it is still an opportunity to pay ode to the complicated and lengthy history of the Black and African American history of our country.
  1. The best way I find to connect our great regional grain system to the Black people’s beautiful and dark history is the amazing book Farming While Black @farmingwhileblack by Leah Penniman @leahpenniman @soulfirefarm 
  2.  Black people have paved the way for all farmers @poughkeepsiefarmproject has a perfect article elaborating on these contributions.
  3. @nofavermont Is offering a month-long virtual conference with over 20 workshops and amazing keynote speakers. All BIPOC farmers and attendees can register for FREE!
🌾We truly are all in this together. Let us educate ourselves and contribute to a harmonious future full of prosperity and local grains!🌾

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

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! 

Local Grain Economy: Bakery Tour!

Tour of Philmont Community Bakery & Hawthorne Valley Bakery

 On October 6, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT, get a close look at the local grain economy with a recorded video tour of Philmont Community Bakery and Hawthorne Valley. They grow and mill a portion of their own grain and bake for their communities.  Grain farmers and farmers will learn about local grain markets and get a look at two small-scale mills for processing grains. Bakers and those looking to start a bakery will see how baking is done on a small-scale at these two bakeries and why they mill a portion of their own flour.  We will also take a couple of minutes to explain the 20-C Commercial Processing License issued from NYS Ag & Markets which is needed for food processing.

For program questions contact Aaron Gabriel (CCE – CAAHP), 518-380-1496, or Christian Malsatski (CCE – Ulster), 845-340-3990,

For registration questions, call (518)765-3518 or email

The Tour will begin at 7:00 PM EDT.  If you would like to practice using Zoom, I will be available at 6:00 PM and you can practice using the link to the meeting.

Please register by noon October 6, 2020.  $5 registration fee.

October 6th, 2020 7:00 PM   through   8:00 PM
ZOOM Meeting
United States
Event Fee(s)
Event Fee per person $ 5.00


Northeast Grainshed Members and Neighbor Loaves Participants A&J King Artisan Bakers make front page news!

Jackie and Andy King (A&J King Artisan Bakers), and the Salem Pantry team up though the Neighbor Loaves program to help each other out. Read about how this partnership helps grain farmers, millers, bakers and people in need! To learn more about the Neighbor Loaves Program, click here!

Read the whole article here. 


Northeast Grainshed on the Blue Flame Radio Hour

Thursday, July 2, 2020 – Emily Cayer from the Northeast Grainshed joined Ali Berlow on the Blue Flame Radio Hour – a show about food and cooking, hope, change and deliciousness hosted by Ali.

Ali Berlow serves up beautifully worded, informative, and hopeful conversations around food and community. Tune in to The Blue Flame Radio Hour with Ali at 107.7 FM – WVEW – Brattleboro Community Radio, Vermont.

Listen to Emily Cayer and Ali Berlow’s conversation about the Northeast Grainshed – here!

Bakers Against Racism – Professional and Home Bakers Raise Money for Social Justice

Northeast Grainshed members Andrea Stanley and Neftali Duran are joining Bakers Against Racism, a global effort with over 1,000 bakers and chefs raising money for social justice.
From Andrea Stanley, founder of Ground Up Grain and Valley Malt, in Hadley, Massachusetts.
“As a small business in these times, we know how difficult it is right now and yet we all see so many of us caring, loving, and supporting for those experiencing even more difficulty. As privileged people living in a privileged community, our time has come to do everything we can to uproot and end racism here in our community and around the country.
Over the weekend we learned about the national effort #bakersagainstracism and decided this was one way we could activate our anger, frustration, and hunger to get to work and support change we want to see. We reach out to the organizers and got permission to join the project.
If you are interested in getting involved, we are looking for 30 businesses in the area to join us.
This is the Plan (suggestions welcome):
  • From June 15th-20th you can commit to baking a particular product of your choosing and donate 100% of the proceeds to The Peoples Fund  Mass Bail Fund or a BlackLivesMatter organization.
  • We will give you the flour to bake your item.
  • We will help promote and we will also host a Socially Distanced Bake Sale on June 20th in Hadley (location TBD most likely on the town common)
  • We will keep track of everyone’s efforts and tally up our impact to share with you.
  • You can sell the baked good through your normal sales channels: at your bakery, restaurant, delivery service, etc)
  • You can have a Virtual Bake Sale with drop off, pick up or mailing out.
  • You can join us in Hadley on June 20th for our Socially Distanced Bake Sale (flyer coming soon)
If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #bakersagainstracism to see what other bakers, chefs, and home bakers are doing across the country and world. There are some beautiful baked goods that will make you drool.
Sign up if you want to participate and we will send you more details about how to do this.
Thank you and we hope to work together and bake up a better world for all.

Small Grains Field Day – June 4, 2020

Join Gary Bergstrom and Jenn Thomas-Murphy from Cornell at the Small Grains Management Virtual Field Day!

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are not able to hold our traditional, in-person, Small Grains Management Field Day at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm this year.  However, we invite you to participate in our first virtual Small Grains Field Day via Zoom.  This will be an opportunity to learn about the latest in small grains development, management, and markets.  Highlights this year include an introduction to Cornell’s first ‘Born, Bred, and Brewed in New York’ spring barley variety.  All participants on the call will be invited to ask questions and make comments. No registration is required.  So please plan to log-in to Zoom (instructions below) before 10 AM on June 4.  Looking forward to hearing and seeing you on Zoom!

Questions? Gary Bergstrom ( ) or Jenn Thomas-Murphy (


Join Zoom Meeting
Password: smallgrain (you will be asked to enter this before you are admitted to the call)

Meeting ID: 961 7088 0521

One tap mobile
+16468769923,,96170880521# US (New York)
+16465189805,,96170880521# US (New York)

If you have never participated in a Zoom meeting, you will need to install the Zoom software before you can attend our virtual field day. Instructions for installing the Zoom client on Windows and Mac Desktop computers, Apple iOS devices, Android devices, and ChromeOS devices are available on the Cornell IT website at


  • Please ensure your mic is muted and camera off while presenters are speaking
  • Wear appropriate clothing in case you are seen on camera
  • Be aware of noise around you, and try not to watch in a busy location. This will make it easier for you to hear as well as everyone else in the session if you come off mute
  • Camera and mic can be used for questions during open discussion segments
  • Use the ‘chat box’ and ‘raise hand’ functions of Zoom to signal to the hosts that you’d like to ask a question