Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Grain Gathering in Mt Vernon, Washington.
Formerly known as the Kneading Conference West, the Grain Gathering is the preeminent gathering of bakers, millers, farmers, malters, and breeders in the Pacific Northwest.
The Grain Gathering consists of three days of presentations, workshops, meetings, and demonstrations about making the best use of local and heirloom grains. It is very hands on: there are no shortage of opportunities to get your hands dirty!
Many of the workshops were similar to those taught in previous years, such as Kiko Denzer's workshop on building a cob oven.
And Mark Doxtader of Tastebud Farm again taught about making pizza in a wood-fired oven.
He had a fancy new rig this year. His pizzas were amazing, as always.
Highlights for me included being involved in the production line making the rolls for Saturday evening's dinner.
When I first arrived I started chatting with an older gentleman next to me, who told me "That's my wheat." I assumed that meant he grew or milled the wheat, but it turned out I was speaking to Merrill Lewis, a retired English professor turned amateur wheat breeder who had been developing this new line of wheat for over a decade.
Here we have the farmer, the breeder, and the baker. Tom Hunton of Camas Country Mill, Merrill Lewis, and Juli from Breadfarm.
We baked with Merrill's Edison wheat harvested in both 2013 and 2014 so we could compare the results. The freshly harvested performed a bit better, but both were delicious.
Another highlight for me was attending Jeffrey Hamelman's pretzel making workshop.
Aside from the lye bath, which he reserved for himself, the session was entirely hands on.
Finally, the conference ended with a chat with Dan Barber, author of the new book The Third Plate.
I have not had a chance to read The Third Plate yet, but my understanding is that the work of Dr. Steve Jones and the Bread Lab at the WSU Mt Vernon Extension Campus, where this conference was held, feature prominently.
It goes without saying, but I'll say anyway that if you ever have an opportunity to attend a conference like this, go. The sessions are great, and bread and grain people are without fail really good people.
Also, as in past years I heard lots of kind words about The Fresh Loaf and the community we have here, which I wish to pass on to you all. Many many people who never (or rarely) post here rely on the knowledge and expertise you all share here and appreciate the kindness and civility with which you share it. Thank you all!
Also, be sure to check out MC Farine's blog for a lot more great pictures and stories about The Grain Gathering.