June 10, 2005

Wheat - Part III

  (click photo for larger image)



Incentives and Barriers to Sustainable Wheat Farming

"The ultimate goal of agriculturists and environmentalists is the same - to have an abundant and nutritious food supply produced in an environmentally safe manner," says the National Wheat Growers Association. Yet, agriculture still degrades the land. We can see this in Walla Walla County. Last September very heavy rains created deep gullies in wheat fields and filled streams and ditches with our rich topsoil. Not only soil, but pesticides and fertilizers contaminate our water supplies."

"In order to make sustainable wheat farming a more viable option more information must be available about alternatives, support structures must be increased, and the economic situation must be addressed. But this cannot be done without the involvement of local farmers. If local farmers are left out of the planning process, not only might they feel disenfranchised and not want to participate, but plans for sustainability are liable to ignore site specific details crucial for change."

A Case Study on the Use of Best Management Practices for Wheat in the Walla Walla Valley
By: S. Tianna DuPont

Web Link - Case Study


Grains of truth about WHEAT
quoted from the Wheat Foods Council web site

"Wheat is a member of the grass family that produces a dry one-seeded fruit commonly called a kernel. More than 17,000 years ago, humans gathered the seeds of plants and ate them. After rubbing off the husks, early people simply chewed the kernels raw, parched or simmered. Wheat originated in the "cradle of civilization" in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, near what is now Iraq. The Roman goddess, Ceres, who was deemed protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today---"cereal."

"Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed everyone in the world, over six billion people, for about 2 weeks. An acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day. (Source: Wheat Scoop; 12/30/99)

"One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels.

Bread photo from Wheat Foods Council web site - recipes available

Web Link - Wheat Foods Council

Quote from the Great Harvest Bread Company web site

"There doesn't need to be a lot of ingredients in great whole wheat bread - just whole-wheat flour, water, something sweet, salt, and yeast. In fact, we'd say bread is better when you keep it simple. It's even better when you use the highest quality ingredients you can find. For us, that means fresh-grinding all of our wheat in our stores. Wheat is like coffee in that regard; it grows stale the longer it is left out. For the best whole-wheat taste, it's important to rush flour from the mill to the mixing bowl. Anything else is second best."

Web Link - The Great Harvest Bread Company

Other resources
Web Link - Bread Bakers Guild of America

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Mature heads of wheat
Each head contains 45-50 grains (kernels) of wheat. Note the similarity of structure to the seed heads of wild and domestic grasses.

Farmer's market breads
Some appealing examples of highest and best uses of wheat. All breads, rye, oat, potato and so on, use some amount of wheat flour as a base to provide gluten.

Harvesting wheat North American style

One of these combines (the term used for automated wheat threshing machines) can harvest 40 to 80 acres per day depending on wheat density and moisture. Combines are often used in teams enabling farmers to harvest one 160 acre farm in one day.

Harvesting wheat Asian style

In substantial parts of Asia, as much as 70% of wheat is harvested by hand.

There is great interest in changing these methods to those used in the U.S.

Wheat is the dominant grain of world commerce. It is easily transported and stored and it is used to produce a large variety of foods that include many kinds and types of breads, cakes, noodles, crackers, breakfast foods, biscuits, cookies, and confectionary items.

A staple food

Wheat is the staple food of millions of people. It is also an important part of the daily diet of many millions more. Only rice challenges wheat for the title of most important food grain in the world.

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Wendell Berry

The Unsettling of America

"- farmers are plowing their waterways and permanent pastures; lands that ought to remain in grass are being planted in row crops. Contour plowing, crop rotation and other conservation measures seem to have gone out of favor or fashion in official circles and are practiced less and less on the farm. This exclusive emphasis on production will accelerate the mechanization and chemicalization of farming, increase the price of land, increase overhead and operating costs, and thereby further diminish the farm population. ...the fertility of the soil will become a limited, unrenewable resource like coal or oil.

"More and bigger machines, more chemical and methodological shortcuts are needed because of the shortage of manpower on the farm... And the Progressive Farmer predicts the disappearance of 200,000 to 400,000 farms each year during the next twenty years if the present trend continues.

The Art of The Commonplace
The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
by Shoemaker and Hoard 2002

George Beggs 6/2005 - Feedback is welcome

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