The history of Greenwillow Grains starts at a salon to discuss “Food Security” in 2003 in Brownsville, Oregon, where Willow Coberly, an owner of Stalford Seed Farm, was on a panel to discuss possibilities for local food availability in case of natural or other disasters. The need for staple crops and the amount of land in grass seed rather than food production was discussed.
This led to the inception of the “local food concept.” At the salon were the Manager of First Alternative Co-op of Corvallis, Oregon and Harry MacCormack of Sunbow Farms, who asked Willow to be on the first Board of Directors of Ten Rivers Foodweb. Subsequently, she and Harry started the South Willamette Valley Bean & Grain Project.
First Farm to grow Hard Red Wheat Commercially in the Willamette Valley Since WWII
Also, First Alternative Co-op was very interested in having Stalford Seed Farm try to grow hard red wheat for them, which is the kind of wheat used to make bread and there was no local source. Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR had already said that growing hard red wheat in the Willamette Valley was impossible because of our climatic conditions. But Willow’s Stalford Seed Farm, with First Alternative Co-op’s support, planted 100 lbs of four old strains. We hand harvested in a hurry before a storm, so the field only yielded 75 lbs! But Willow realized the wheat was now acclimatized and we tried again. This time the yield was 3000 lbs. Then we knew we were on the right track and we worked to develop our own variety. Almost all hard red wheat now grown in the southern Willamette Valley is from our original stock.
Local Food Dilemma
However, this did not solve the local food dilemma because people don’t buy grain, they buy flour and rolled oats and porridge, all processed grains. Our leader realized that a gap existed in the food chain.
The only way to get local grains to local markets was to buy a mill and learn milling. Several small, renovated mills, “Made in USA,” were delivered to Brownsville and Green Willow Grains was born. This was the first small mill in the Willamette Valley to process local wheat and grain. Bob’s Red Mill(based in Portland, Or) and Grain Millers(based in Eugene, Or) buy from large storage granaries and don’t have facilities to buy direct from farmers.
Greenwillow Grain’s Commitment to Quality
Commitment to the tradition of small millers led us to buy traditional gingham flour sacks (also Made in USA). Commitment to our organic farm led to organic certification of the mills by Oregon Tilth(national recognized company that certifies organic practices and products). Commitment to the environment means that all our packaging is reusable or compostable.
We mill only crops grown on our organic farm in Tangent, OR. This gives us complete control of our “chain of custody.” We always know how our crops are grown, what fields they are grown on, who is doing the work, and what seed is used. We might even be able to tell you who was on the combine!
Since that day long ago in Brownsville, Greenwillow Grains has grown in all aspects of local food. We now have a wide variety of organic flours, rolled and porridge oats, whole grains, and clovers for sprouting and garden amendments. Our fields are bordered with organic blackberries. We have developed our own varieties of oats and hard red and soft white wheat.
Greenwillow Grains is a leader in the local food scene. We are the originators in the Willamette Valley of the now popular “Fill Your Pantry” events where local farmers and food producers come together to share their bounty at bulk prices. We work with schools and environmental programs and are part of the Oregon School Nutrition Program. We have frequent field trips to the farm to foster young farmers and educate all children about where their food comes from.
Testing for Quality
Recently, Greenwillow Grains has entered the “gluten-free” market. Our oats and buckwheat flour have been tested and have come back at less than 5 ppm gluten. (The legal threshold for gluten-free is 20 ppm.)
Our oats, which are cold rolled and therefore lose nothing in processing, have been tested for their nutritional value; they have twice the protein and twice the fiber of conventional oatmeal. So we are living up to our goals of nutrient-dense food.
Our Community is Our Strength
As our story continues, we want to hear yours! We are all part of a community that believes in providing clean, wholesome, and local products to our families. Let us know how you use our product through recipes or processes.