The area surrounding the Willamette Valley in Oregon is not short of farmers' markets and co-ops.
Yet when Dan Armstrong and Harry MacCormack started looking at the make-up of the food eaten in their community, they came back with a rather astounding figure:
About 2% of it was local.
Driven by what they saw as converging threats of climate change, peak oil, and volatile global commodity markets, they became involved in a community-wide push to grow a more diverse, robust and truly local food system. And while organic zucchinis and heritage beef are all delicious to have when times are good, they argued that the staple of food security comes in more basic form: beans, grains and edible seeds. (That's why biointensive gardening, for example, puts a huge focus on beans.)
The Bean and Grain Project was born:
The Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Valley Project is a step by step strategy to rebuild the local food system by increasing the quantity and diversity of the food crops that are grown in the Willamette Valley. The Bean and Grain Project also seeks to evaluate deficiencies in the food system infrastructure, build buyer/seller relationships for locally grown food, and compile information on organic and sustainable agricultural practices specific to this region. As the name of the project states, central to the task is stimulating the cultivation and local marketing of organically grown staple crops like beans and grains to provide a foundation for year-round food resources in the Willamette Valley.
The Bean and Grain Project has since worked with local farmers to transition help them transition from grass seed cultivation to a more diverse variety of staple crops after prices collapsed. It's helped them to build a market for their products in local co-ops, and to support them in switching to organic agriculture. And it's even helped them to develop some of the largest compost tea brewers around. The results have been astounding, with many big farmers discovering that local beans and grains can be the most profitable thing on the farm.
Below is a short video summary of the project, as well as a fascinating in-depth interview with the ever-awesome Peak Moment TV.