The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Grain Gathering

Floydm's picture

The Grain Gathering

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.


emkay's picture

Hi Floyd, Looks like it was a wonderful conference. I wish I could have gone, but of course I was too late signing up and it was already full. The Fresh Loaf is truly a great community and an excellent go-to resource for all things bread. Thank you so much.
:) Mary

nmygarden's picture

This event always looks so terrific and generates such positive responses. Must go... and it makes me proud to be a (WSU) Coug!!


Janetcook's picture

Hi FLoyd,

Thanks so much for posting this.  I love to read about gatherings like this.  Sparks in an otherwise dismal food culture - especially these days with bread taking such a hard hit due to commercially processed breads.  Seems like there should be a different name for 'real' bread….

The hope is that gatherings like this one do educate people and I like to see the span of ages involved.  The young and the old alike learning from each other in an environment infused with passion.  

Glad you got to attend and put your hands into the 'lessons'.  Looks like all were enjoying themselves.

Take Care,


isand66's picture

Thanks for sharing your experience for those of us who couldn't attend.  I hope to go one of these years.  It's nice to hear that TFL has such a wide reach and much appreciation.


linder's picture


Thanks so much for posting this.  It is on my list of must go to places.  We are very busy this summer with house construction, but next year I hope to go and experience this great conference. 


DRJT's picture

Is there anything like this event on the east coast?

varda's picture

Looks like it would have been good to go just for the pretzels alone.  Thanks for sharing.  -Varda

CAphyl's picture

Floyd:  Thanks so much for sharing.  How much fun!  Maybe some day.....Phyllis

bakingbadly's picture

Oh my gosh, those glossy pretzels... They're so beautiful!

Thanks for sharing your experience at the Grain Gathering. Well appreciated.


geggers's picture

I'll post photos on my blog, but some of the highlights of this conference included my fortuitous timing in signing up for a wood-fired pretzel class with Jeffery Hamelman (sorry Floyd) and an udon noodle class with Sokono Sakai. A new way to mix tough udon noodle dough is to put it into a black plastic garbage bag and stomp on it with your bare feet. Fun and doesn't require a mixer! Fold and repeat. The highlight for me was Richard Miscovich's wood-fired sourdough bread. Learned a ton.... I recommend to anyone who wants to laugh and learn and meet people who are obsessed with baking like myself. :)