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December 20, 2020

This newsletter marks the 24th edition of The Crumb delivered to your inbox in 2020—thank you for reading! You can find past editions on our website here.

It's that time of year for both reflecting on days past and thinking about what's to come. Did you take the Flour Ambassador’s Pledge as a resolution last year? It's a perennially valid goal in our minds. Please don't be shy in replying to this note with your grain-y thoughts and objectives for 2021.

And with that, we're off on a trip through the past 12 months!

2020: The Year in Review

We started the year learning with national and regional partners, attending (in person!) the Cascadia Grains Conference, Colorado Grain School, and UW-Madison's OGRAIN Winter conference. We’re so grateful for our relationships with these and other grain groups across the country, including Northeast Grainshed Alliance, CRAFT at Chatham University, Common Grain Alliance, and the California Wheat Commission, to name a few.

Photo: Jennifer Breckner

The annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference (virtual registration here) featured AGC members presenting about their grains work. The Brewing & Distilling Working Group had an informal meetup at the event; that group met a total of eight times during 2020 and began progress on objectives to illuminate the role of local grains in the regional beer and spirits value chains. Two members joined forces for a baking workshop: Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread taught, and Challenger Breadware hosted.

Photo: Alyssa Hartman

We held a variety trial baking test March 11-12th, in partnership with Dr. Julie Dawson at UW-Madison and a number of farmers and bakers from across the region. This initiative took place in collaboration with AGC's Variety Testing Working Group, a community that connects farmers, millers, grain end-users, and researchers. Brian Jacobson of U of I Pilot Processing Plant, Working Group chair, performed all of the compositional analysis on the grains tested. Wheat, barley, and Kernza® were baked into bread and cookies at Madison Sourdough, and sampled by the public. We're looking forward to supporting more of these tests in the coming years!

Photo: Jas McDaniel

After starting at the end of March, Neighbor Loaves really got rolling in April, responding to COVID-induced hunger and bread shortages. More than 20 bakeries throughout the Midwest are now participating, and half a dozen partners have replicated the program in their own regions across the country. Nearly 40 stories about Neighbor Loaves have run in public radio, local papers, TV news, and even in the national news and magazines. As we close the year, well over 15,000 Neighbor Loaves have reached folks in need in the Midwest. If you’ve bought a Neighbor Loaf, thank you! (And remember you still can!)

Photo: Hewn

We were excited to help announce the first public sales of Kernza alongside Perennial Pantry and partners (who are also AGC members) including The Land Institute, Beth Dooley's Kitchen, and University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. We're now a collaborator on a 5-year USDA-funded project, Developing and deploying a perennial grain crop enterprise to improve environmental quality and rural prosperity, led by the University of Minnesota.

Photo: Perennial Pantry

The Bakers Against Racism bake sale launched by three Washington, DC bakers (Paola Velez, Willa Pellini, and Rob Rubba) spread across the nation. Participating bakers donated proceeds to racial equity groups and AGC helped by sharing the initiative with our community and donating local flour to regional baker participants. AGC also kicked off a six-month-long virtual book club to read and discuss An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States as a community.

Image: Sample treats offered in regional BAR bake sales. (Details here.)

AGC shared an overview of our work through the Chicago Region Food System Fund's Instagram as an expansion of Neighbor Loaves. Through this forum, we launched our Grains Glossary, a (still growing) visual reminder of the key concepts behind our work, illustrated using AGC member photos. We also spent lots of time over the summer shoring up our organizational and governance systems, including developing a Steering Committee handbook.

Photo: Jeff Hake 

We held our virtual Annual Meeting, gathering with 70 of our members to identify needs and goals. With planned breaks full of cookies and a mini-accordion concert offered by AGC member Eric Schedler of Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery, the 3-hour meeting was full of laughs, connections, and excellent ideas, many of which we look forward to tackling in the new year.

Image: Amy Sparks | A Visual Spark

We kicked off a series of virtual meetups to talk about the intricacies of bread in honor of #SourdoughSeptember with the Chicago and Huron Valley Bread Clubs; these 'gatherings' have continued under the direction of author and self-described Flour Ambassador, Amy Halloran. In addition to being a valuable part of our internal communications team, Amy also coordinates AGC's Education & Outreach Working Group, where members dream up and execute projects to share the world of regional grains with the public. We also received good news on several multi-year grant projects we’re partners on, including Cornell’s OREI & UW-Madison’s FMPP.

Image: Real Bread Campaign

In collaboration with Stone Barns Center, the Northeast Grainshed Alliance, and Arizona State University, we announced and solicited applications for a Regenerative Farming Fellowship. Held virtually, this is a paid learning experience connecting grain farmers in the Midwest and Northeast as they expand their regenerative farming practices. Learn more about this year's cohort of 9 Fellow here. We also began work on a grain supply chain analysis we’re excited to publish in the spring. 

Image: Laura Stone

We re-launched AGC’s Producer Collaboration Working Group, a forum for support and resource-sharing for food-grade grain growers, under the direction of Halee Wepking of Meadowlark Organics. We also partnered with CRAFT at Chatham University in putting on their Grains & Revolution conference and began a corn storytelling series to highlight the many aspects of this crop, which is the only grain native to the Americas. We amplified Indigenous seedkeepers who are voicing the many lives of corn and look forward to continuing this dialog in the coming year.

Photo: Meadowlark Organics

We convened a short, sweet and efficient end-of-year AGC member meeting to align on focus areas for 2021. We also launched a pecan initiative with Red Tomato to connect Upper Midwest bakers and other food makers with New Communities, an alliance of Black farmers based in Albany, Georgia, growing these and other staple crops on land that was once a slave-holding plantation.

Photo: Shirley Sherrod | New Communities

Thanks again for reading along, and we hope you have a safe and happy end to the year. Stay tuned for the launch of AGC's new logo, website, and a wide variety of educational materials coming in early 2021!
Copyright © 2020 Artisan Grain Collaborative, All rights reserved.

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