Island Grains

Welcome


2009 Island Grains participants show off stone-milled flour from wheat they grew themselves.

Yes, you can grow your own wheat, rye, oats, barley and more.

We're all pretty used to grain being grown in the Prairies on massive tracts of land, relying on tractors, combines and other expensive machinery. And yes, it makes sense to grow grain this way, in order to produce enough to feed ourselves and those in other countries. That said, it is entirely reasonable to grow grains on a small scale -- enough to feed yourself, your family, and maybe some friends.

While yields vary depending on the grain, your climate, soil fertility, weather, and other factors, it's entirely possible to grow 60lbs of wheat (for example) on 1/40 of an acre, or approximately 1,100 sq.ft. And you don't even need to own a combine. Grains such as wheat, rye, quinoa, barley and oats grow quite well here on the West Coast: it's just a matter of know-how.

IslandGrains.com is here to provide that know-how. This website is dedicated to providing easy-to-understand, step-by-step information on how to grow wheat, barley, oats, quinoa and other grains on a small scale (e.g. your garden).

Using This Website

There are many, many individuals and organizations out there with invaluable information of benefit to small-scale grain growers. We hope that this website will become a central resource to help connect potential grainies with that information. To this end, we will continue to update our Information & Resources section as our own learning increases. Other helpful sections under ongoing development are:

  • Grains 101 (a collection of information regarding all the different kinds of grains available to backyard growers, with pros and cons from a West Coast small-scale grain growers' perspective)
  • How to Grow Your Own Grains (a summary of information gathered through our 2009 & 2010 workshops, personal experience, and found resources, featuring input from some of the most knowledgeable and passionate grainies on the West Coast)

We also invite you to post your own experiences, advice, cautions and comments.

What is Island Grains?

Founded by Brock and Heather of Makaria Farm, Island Grains is a resource and support network for those of us interested in backyard grain growing. Island Grains launched as a hands-on workshop experience in 2009, and offered Vancouver Island's first grain CSA in 2010. As of 2011, Island Grains exists as an online resource to encourage knowledge sharing throughout the West Coast and beyond.

Comments (13) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I am starting up a community supported farm that will focus on growing grains and other staples. I am excited about this website. I have experimented with some of the grains for the last 3 years and have a lot to learn. It is especially a challenge to figure out the threashing on a small scale. For instance walking on the wheat in a box might be fine for the amount for one family but at the scale of 10, 20 families or more we need some intermediate scaled tools. If would especially like to have more info on specific varieties for this area. (I am on Guemes Island, East of you in the San Juan islands)

    • Sequoia — how wonderful! Grains would be a great addition to a CSA. For that size of production it would be helpful to track down a combine to use, if that’s at all possible on your Island. In 2010 we cut our wheat and rye with scythes, transported it with pick-up trucks, and fed it into a stationary combine because 1/2 acre was just too much to process by hand. (1/2 acre of mixed grains just didn’t warrant driving the combine to directly harvest the grains.) You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLEkOR5xGhw. We harvested and threshed around 900lbs of rye and wheat this way. There are also thresher machines for your scale of growing grains, but they can be expensive. We add these tools to our “Info & Resources” page on this website as we find them.

      As for varieties: most wheats (not spelt!) are easy to hand thresh. We found Kamut (“Polish wheat”) did really well, with very large seed heads which makes threshing more efficient. Red Fife grew 6′ so risked lodging (falling over) in the wind/rain. The modern wheat we grew (hard white spring wheat) was only 2′ high and consistent which makes harvesting by hand or combine very easy. Quinoa should grow well for you, since we can grow it here in the Cowichan: great yields, and very healthy. Rye grew spectacularly well, but was quite tall (8-9′) so you risk lodging. The straw is a handy byproduct. Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds may have other recommendations for you: http://www.saltspringseeds.com. Hope that helps! Please keep us posted on your own findings :)

  2. I was absolutely thrilled to find your site. We’re a small farm just southeast of you in Snohomish County. We’ve been experimenting with small grains for both rotational crops, human consumption and livestock consumption. All the small grains we’ve tried to grow have grown very well but harvesting has been an issue. We’ve been reviewing the equipment options for harvesting amounts from 1/8ac up to about 5ac. I did find the Ferrari site and looked through those options, but top of the candidates list right now is an AllCrop if I can find one. Thank you for all the work you’re doing to bring small grains production back to Western WA and backyards everywhere.

  3. Greetings! Would love to host you up here on Cortes Island at Linnaea Farm for a workshop. Interested?
    Tamara

  4. I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. Finding your website has been such a help here. I have been growing some organic grains and teaching others, but I needed to know more. Thank you.

  5. We don’t see much of this out East, unfortunately! I live in Quebec and have been interested in backyard grain growing since my grandpa started talking about it years ago… nice info, thank you…

  6. I have seen a number of small scale walk-behind combines such as this one:

    http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1085477670.html

    Usually produced in China seemingly for the east Asian market. They come either self-propelled, or as an attachment to a walking tractor, costing (if my conversions are correct) between $1000 and $4000, and in most cases the specs claim that they work for both rice and wheat.

    Does anyone have any experience with these? I am sure they work, given the apparent size of the industry. How hard are they to import to the US/Canada? How reliable/efficient? How adequately do they thresh?

  7. I am interested in buying rye oats barly and wheat to grow in south surrey B.C. I beleive people have lost touch with clasical survival skills. I am an accomplished gardener. I grow many types of plants from lilies to goji berries and I would like to learn the lost art of growing my own grains. I believe too many people depend on going to the grocery store. I find growing my own food very fulfilling even eggs. I intend to also cultivate fungus. I am curious how much it is to buy some of your grain seed for cultivation.

  8. Hi, we have a small test plot of spring rye and some of the heads have ergot. We are close to harvesting but of course do not want the ergot mixed in. Should we cut off and destroy the entire grain head or just remove the ergot before harvesting? Thanks.

  9. FWIW, I also grind my own flour and I find that light chaff left in the grain just comes through the grinder unaffected. It is then really easy to remove with a strainer or flour sifter.

  10. does anyone know where I could get Kamut seeds?
    cheers


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