For the first two hundred years of New England’s history, locals grew all their own grain. Oats, barley, rye, and even wheat were part of what every farmer planted every year. But with the coming of the Erie Canal in the 1820s, “western” grains – grown in upstate New York originally, then farther afield – could be transported to the region more easily than these crops could be grown on New England’s thin, rocky, hilly soils.

In Maine, Will Bonsall of the Scatter Seed project has been researching wheat varieties especially suited to the area’s cooler, wetter conditions; varieties tailored to Kansas and Nebraska won’t thrive locally. Thanks to efforts like these, Maine retail baker Borealis Breads uses as much local Maine wheat as it can get – over 80,000 pounds a year – to make its artisan breads. And in neighboring Vermont, a new group, the Northern Grain Growers Association, has just been established.

As a Boston-based organization, the Whole Grains Council is jazzed to see grains being grown locally. While these small-scale efforts can’t replace our commercial food supply, they serve an important role in bringing food back into our everyday consciousness. Too many of us have never seen food growing in fields, or tasted fruits, vegetables, and grains bred primarily for taste. At a time when food-safety and nutrition fear-mongering foster in us a love-hate relationship with food, the local food movement helps all of us re-establish a personal connection to the glories of good food. (Cindy – June 30, 2008)

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