Like Christmas in September

Combine Doing Its Thing
Combine Doing Its Thing

About a year ago, my friend Briana sent me a link to an interesting proposal. She knew I was an active bread baker (and still am, although my production has slowed with the hot summer months) and she felt I would be interested in the Urban Grains Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for grain. The Vancouver Grain CSA started by Martin and Ayla Twigg is simple – spurned on by the ever-popular 100 Mile Diet, Martin and Ayla researched, found, and planned a way to live in Vancouver and eat local grain. I was intrigued, signed up for the mailing list, and as a result of signing up early, was one of the very lucky folks to be offered a share in April. I eagerly sent in my cheque and have been waiting patiently ever since while Martin and Ayla post pictures and other teasers along the way on the website.


Community Supported Agriculture isn’t new. Basically, the shareholders are the bank. We pay ahead of time, and our investment provides enough money to plant, grow, harvest, and process the grain and we should end up with 20kg of grain – bagged in three different varieties. A very successful CSA was started in Creston a few years ago and the concept has been practised on smaller scales for decades within groups of neighbours. And it isn’t without risk – rain or other factors could have ruined our crop and we could have technically received nothing for our investment. At one point, I was  holding my breath worried about the triticale. And because grain isn’t generally something that is commonly grown for human consumption here in the the Greater Vancouver / Fraser Valley area – most of the grain we can buy at the store comes from places far away –  it was through the willingness of the farmer to try it out that the project has  succeeded.

Our grain CSA has changed since its inception – Martin and Ayla have made the difficult and personal decision to move to the East Coast, and a new person, Chris,  is co-ordinating  the efforts. It’s been an exciting and fun journey to watch and wait for the harvest.

Sacks of Goodness
Sacks of Goodness

This past weekend, I got the email I was waiting for. My grain is ready. I’m so excited to go and pick it up Saturday I can hardly sleep. I know I shouldn’t be this excited over some bags of grain, but it thrills me – grain grown here that I can bake into loaves of bread for my family. It encourages me to continue to find alternative ways to eat without buying from Super Big Grocery Store X. It makes me feel like I have control over the food I put inside our bodies. And quite frankly, it’s like Christmas in September.

Images courtesy of

9 Replies to “Like Christmas in September”

  1. I joined the Urban Grain CSA earlier year as well (I was looking for local grain and stumbled upon it).

    I am going to take the kids out on Saturday to the UBC Farm to pick up our order.

    I am not quite as excited as you, but I am looking forward to making bread this winter, probably following a few recipes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

    I am not quite sure what the flour will be like – I usually make bread with a combo of white and whole-wheat. Hopefully Urban Grains people will post some good recipes for making bread, etc with the flour.

  2. I have the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, and it’s awesome! I’m hoping to score a little bit of Jen’s flour and give it a try. Bread-baking would be the only way I’d get through even a portion of that flour. While I do bake, it’s usually not that often!

  3. King Arthur Flour has a whole section of whole-grain recipes, but the bread they call for is “white whole wheat”; white whole wheat is made from white wheat, as opposed to red wheat (red wheat is more common in North America, and white is more common in Europe). It has a lower gluten content and higher protein content (so it absorbs more water), and tastes more like white flour (so says the Wikipedia). It is available at Galloways.

    The King Arthur page is here:

    I bought an acrylic container for storage of wheat, or making very large batches of bread.

    The grain from the CSA is hard-red winter wheat. So I suspect I’ll be cutting it with some white flour (or white whole wheat).

    I have tried making bread from 100% stone-ground, whole wheat, and it wasn’t very good at all; maybe my palate is addicted to heavily refined flour.

  4. Funny, but ever since I started baking my own bread, I have a hard time with “flffy” bread and am now seeking out the hard, dense stuff. I think I have the opposite effect as you David! I think I’m addicted to the heavy dry stuff!

  5. I confess that though I’m a total nerd for the local food initiatives, I know zero about how food goes from wheat to bread. Jen – I hope you’ll post a link when you do your “unwrapping” of your grain and your first batch of bread so we city folk can learn a little something of the natural history of CSA grain!

  6. I made my first bread last night – a whole wheat no-knead bread (2 cups white flour, 1 cup hard red spring wheat). It was very good, and a nice light whole wheat texture and flavour. There’s honey in there as well, which really compliments the whole wheat.

    Also included in the dinner was home made spaghetti, and I threw in some whole wheat to go with the semolina and eggs. I couldn’t tell the difference, and I suppose the spaghetti was healthier.

  7. Oh yum! I’d love to try making my own pasta. Will finds store-bought 100% whole wheat noodles almost inedible, but I think we ought to be eating more whole grains. So I have in mind to do exactly as you did: make my own pasta, and make it 50/50 or 60/40 in the hopes that the flavour will be lighter and the noodles healthier!

  8. How is the bread making going? I’ve made the no-knead a few times (I posted the recipe on the site so I won’t repost it.

    They posted pics of people picking up their share – the kids and I got our photo posted.

    There was a link to a book on the Recipe page @, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, and I bought it because it was all about whole-grain baking.

    I’ve yet to try a recipe, but I am going to make the desem starter tonight – it’s a levening starter that is not sour – here’s an introduction to it – this is so much more fun to talk about than city politics.

    The desem starter is made, and then packed in a 10lb bag of whole-grain flour, preferably flour that has been recently ground – for people who got grain shares, it’s the perfect time.

  9. I picked up grain for two others, and one of them passed on a sourdough starter and so far I’ve made three loaves and it’s one of those things where the work required to make it happen and how quickly the load gets gobbled up seems a bit off balance! So far I’ve used the red spring wheat straight – I like really dense breads anyway. I really like how finely ground the flour is, and I love the flavour. We also made pancakes and they were very very good. So far, I am really impressed with this grain. Storage is my biggest challenge in my little townhouse – the pantry is FULL and then some.

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