The First Northeast Grain Gab

On Tuesday October 8, 2019 a group that included growers, bakers, brewers, academics and policymakers gathered at Yale West Campus to explore the steps toward a stronger Northeast grain economy.

The Chabaso team was honored to be co-hosting the event along with our sister business Atticus Bookstore Cafe and the Yale Landscape Lab. We called the whole thing the Northeast Grain Gab. It was fun!

Getting into regional grains

Our interest in regional grains started in the summer of 2015. Charlie Negaro (son of our founder Charles) met and read the work of Amy Halloran, a New York author who visited Atticus Bookstore Cafe during her book tour for The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.

That summer Charlie also visited the Grain Gathering, hosted by the Bread Lab at Washington State University, where he saw Jonathan Bethony of Seylou make bread with varietal wheat and where he first stood in a wheat field after already having worked with millions of pounds of wheat flour for bread.

This was when the switch flipped and Charlie realized a change in course was due. We eventually came to identify a few core opportunities around increasing the production of grains in the Northeast.

  • Increased profits for growers
  • Healthier soils
  • Better flavor and nutrition for grains products
  • A more connected and collaborative Northeast

 

Charlie Negaro speaking on a Connecticut grains panel at the Northeast Grain Gab | Monique Sourinho

Realizing the gab

Given Amy Halloran’s instrumental role in our grains journey, we were thrilled when she agreed to be the keynote speaker for the Northeast Grain Gab. When we reached out to her with our idea for a grains conference in Connecticut this was all still a pipe dream. But once Amy got on board it got very real very fast and other leading grainiacs quickly joined in to help get the ball rolling.

Prior to the event we tasked ourselves with clarifying the goals for the first Northeast Grain Gab and subsequent initiatives.

  • Connect growers, producers, academics and others across the grains value chain
  • Facilitate the sharing of grains research, techniques and innovations
  • Support the development of market opportunities for Northeast grains

 

Amy Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket, delivering the keynote at the Northeast Grain Gab | Monique Sourinho

 

Stripping cattails to help form the inner layer of an earth oven during Sam Coates-Fink’s oven building workshop | Monique Sourinho

 

Bob Florence leading a workshop on koji, miso and shoyu | Monique Sourinho

 

A cutting of breads made with regional grains during a tour of the Chabaso and Atticus bakery | Chabaso

Ellen Mallory presenting during the Maine & Massachusetts session | Chabaso

 

Seed share organized by Sylvia Davatz | Chabaso

 

Avi Szapiro leading a Regional Grains Pasta workshop | Monique Sourinho

 

Jonathan Stevens leading an Enhancing Your Local Loaf workshop | Monique Sourinho

 

Hearing from participants

The day after the event we sent an anonymous survey to presenters and attendees (100 total). At the time of this posting 30 people completed it. We were pleased to hear that participants had a positive time overall, though it was clear that there were many things we can improve on.

  • Reduce number of concurrently-scheduled sessions that likely attract similar audiences
  • Finalize and announce schedule earlier to allow for better planning and promotion
  • Improve wayfinding between session locations
  • Consider extending to 2 days
  • And many other learnings 🙂

 

 

 

 

Next steps

We’re excited to keep the momentum from the event going. Coming soon we plan to publish the Grain Gab Paper, which will distill some of the ideas shared at this year’s event, and gather new ones, all with the goal of aiding the intelligence of Northeast grains efforts. We welcome you to submit a pitch to the Grain Gab Paper at graingab.com/paper.

We’re also excited to help bring more regional grains products to grocery, schools, and other places across the region. Chabaso recently just released the Northeast Wheat Ciabatta Roll, which is made with 50% Northeast-grown wheat. We’re also exploring opportunities to bring other regional grains producers to more mainstream grocery stores in the Northeast. Feel free to contact us to continue the conversation on that.

 

The barn at the Yale Landscape Lab | Monique Sourinho

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