Join leading thinkers, farmers, millers, and bakers as the Good Food Festival & Conference delves into the future of Ancient and Heirloom grains! Fred Kirschenmann and Stephen Jones will join miller Gilbert Williams, farmers Andrea Hazzard, Molly Breslin, and Terra Brockman, and heirloom gardener and advocate Vicki Nowicki for a series of workshops following Ancient and Heirloom grains from seed to table!
- post by Lily Baker
Ancient and heirloom grains might sound like cute, trendy fads for urban foodies, gardeners, and gluten-free zealots to latch onto, but they’re really much more than that. An unlikely group of bakers, seed breeders, farmers, and researchers, are coming together to see if these grains, and the biologically diverse agricultural systems that they are a part of, could form part of a new, more sustainable, resilient food system.
The first thing that Fred Kirschenmann says when I ask him about ancient and heirloom grains in the new Good Food system is, “Well, first you have to look at the history.” Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and somehow still finds time to manage his family’s 2600 acre certified organic farm in North Dakota.
When Kirschenmann says you have to know the history, he really means history. In order to understand the growing interest in local grain production, he first takes me back to the 1700’s, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution.
Kirschenmann’s sketch of history hits on some points that might be familiar to you if you were paying attention in high school. During the industrial revolution, large numbers of people moved into cities, leaving fewer people farming the fields. This, among other factors, drove fears about the scarcity of food, and ultimately the beginnings of the transition to industrial agriculture.