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Artisan Grain Collaborative

by Alyssa Hartman | The Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) is a value chain network of farmers, processors, end-users and advocates working to diversify the landscape in the Upper Midwest. They build connections between the people who grow and use grains and strengthen the narrative and value chain for staple crops as an essential component of local and regional food systems. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, value chains consist of “all the stakeholders who participate in the coordinated production and value-adding activities that are needed to make food products”. AGC’s work brings together and supports our regional grain value chain through relationship-building, resource development, and public education.

Combining the Red Fife wheat experimental plot.

We’re so glad that Gwenyn Hill Farm is part of the AGC community. As a highly respected CSA operation with a deep connection to consumers and community, Linda and her team have a unique opportunity to educate and connect consumers to the benefits and importance of diverse grains on the landscape, while also offering delicious and nutritious products to CSA members and other farm patrons. 

Grain Food Chain

And while the work the farmers at Gwenyn Hill do will bring grains to customers, there are other players working behind the scene to make local grains possible for eaters. AGC members worked together to create a grain value chain illustration that depicts the links–and the hands!–required to get food-grade grains from a seed to a table. The graphic depicts the entire grain chain from farmer, to researcher, to eater and drinker, as well as the many jobs and connections required along the way for a grainshed to exist and thrive. The drawing and accompanying text highlight some of the connections that make this burgeoning system possible; collaboration vignettes, in the bottom section, are sample interactions that occur among value chain actors.

In making this tool, AGC leaned on illustrations that came before, including one from Mona Esposito—The Grain Lady—depicting the grain chain components of “growing a local grain movement” in Colorado. A graphic from Deer Creek Malthouse in Pennsylvania that diagrams “the journey of wheat from field to plate” also served as inspiration. Another graphic we reviewed and appreciated was drawn by Nikki Burch and published by Grist in 2015 to describe “why good bread costs more dough”—the difference between commodity and artisanal systems, from farming to distribution of bread. And, getting to the very core, this beautiful artwork that hangs at AGC member Madison Sourdough in Madison, WI depicts the union of farmer, miller, and baker.

Hopefully all of these images and illustrations serve as fodder in thinking about the many roles and steps involved in creating that bowl of local oatmeal or loaf of bread you enjoy. We’re so excited to be part of building this regional grain community in the Midwest, and for incredible farms like Gwenyn Hill that are an integral part of the movement–it wouldn’t be possible without them!

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