Transition Whatcom

Hi Everyone!

I love the discussion going on so far/already. This website has really gotten a good amount of use lately. I wanted to make sure that everybody knows I am starting Year Three of the Backyard Beans & Grains Project growing grain, dry bean, and seed trials, and my focus is mainly everything BUT wheat and barley and all things related. I will be trialling a few wheat and barley this year, but it seems those are all the rave with others so I think my work will be most valuable if I focus on: flax, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, dry beans, flour/dent corn, garbanzos, and soup peas. It's a hefty list and totally gluten-free (haha). It also supplements the work others are doing on wheat et al.  

My passion/interest in this project is towards small-scale, low-tech growers and gardeners. I am less concerned with marketability and economic competitiveness and more concerned with ease of growing and processing by hand and forming a well-balanced, locally-based diet. The goal here is to trial varieties and share both knowledge and seed when the results come in. I am making up seed packets of what I have found to work well and hope to have a bunch of new varieties to add come this fall. I am hoping that I can gather donations in exchange for seed and advisement because I need to be able to pay for seed and materials. I also would like to somewhat compensate the generous farmer who has been letting me use his land and tilling free of charge. 

So pass the word, but do also keep in mind that I have had some experience with the crops I listed if anyone wants to ask questions about them in this forum! I would really like to expand this conversation beyond the wheat family. There's a whole wide world of other crops out there that can help fill that niche in our diet!

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Replies to This Discussion

Yea for growing quinoa, oats, & all the diversity from those nourishing edibles from the seedy crops!

"Backyard Grain & Beans Project" is doing great growing-seeds research for our community!
Walter: I had great success with the garbanzos. If you plant mid April they are dry in the midst of the drought season. I love them and they make fabulous purple hummous.

The japanese buckwheat, do you know the species name? I grow F. esculentum, the common cover crop one here. It does fine but I wonder if there is another that is more dense with seed, higher yield.


Walter Haugen said:
Buff (or nude) oats, Avena nuda - Grew them in 2008 close to the house. Did real well and had a good crop. Sowed them again out in the field south of the barn in 2009 and the birds ate them all. This is a common problem with these oats, which don't have hardly any groat and so are easier to shell. The birds know what is good. Available from Organic Growers Supply (division of Fedco).

Black Kabouli garbanzos - grew them last year. Ripen late and only had 1-2 beans per pod. Never did harvest them as they were not ready before the rains. Big disappointment. Available from Fedco.

Japanese buckwheat - terrific. Grows fast, easy to harvest. You can just bend the stalks over a bucket and strip the seeds off. Leave them in buckets over the winter and you can coarse-grind them in a hand mill and sift out the hulls for buckwheat flour. Available from Organic Growers Supply.
I'm thinking maybe Uprising Organics Farm, our local seed-saving farm-business, might be interested in the future carrying some of these special beans & grains...purple garbonzoes...I want to taste your next batch of purple hummus!
Add lots of garlic!

I recently obtained some Lentil - Black Beluga (Lens eulinaris ?) seeds from Greenheart Gardens through a retails shelf.

Krista, if you want my sample package to grow them out and created more seeds to share with me & at our seed-swaps I can pass the package of 30 seeds on to you...Yep-only 30 little seeds in this expansive package...all grown on Lopez Island.
I don't know how easily they will be to harvest. Best if you just stopped by & get them..then you can see the little garden - Morgan knows where we are..

I grew baby beluga lentils from Greenheart Gardens two years ago. I won't grow lentils again because the yield per area was exponentially lower as compared to dry beans or garbanzos. They grow and mature fine here but are so tiny and there really aren't so many per plant. Lots of stuff threshed out for very little product. I love lentils but I wouldn't grow the teeny ones again, not sure if the larger ones will mature here as well or not.


I did grow the larger lentils last year, on the cheap. I just bought organic sprouting lentils and planted a handful. They grew fine, they ripened in time. Same problem, the yield was too low to bother with. Also, I found that they shattered easily, so the little lentils fell out of the pods and I lost a lot of the already meager harvest.

If a person has a large amount of hand labor available to weed and harvest the lentils, they are a convenience food in traditional societies. They store indefinitely and they cook in a half hour.

Krista Rome said:

I grew baby beluga lentils from Greenheart Gardens two years ago. I won't grow lentils again because the yield per area was exponentially lower as compared to dry beans or garbanzos. They grow and mature fine here but are so tiny and there really aren't so many per plant. Lots of stuff threshed out for very little product. I love lentils but I wouldn't grow the teeny ones again, not sure if the larger ones will mature here as well or not.


What can you all share about high protein grains that grow well here? I am concerned about quinoa and the pressure that recent spikes in US demand is putting on south american cultures that depend on it for nutrition. I know it can't grow on the westside and am curious about alternatives. Also, has anyone attempted a variety of buckwheats?


Hi Walter,

I'm pretty good on the nutrition education. I should have clarified:

Is there a way to connect with those who are growing a variety of grains that do not have gluten? I am particularly looking for buckwheat, millet and dried beans and peas.

Does trade or purchase of these already happening outside of the stores?

A few farmers are selling some at the farmers market (Growing WA, Nooksack Nine, etc) but varieties are still pretty limited and are very expensive to eat every day, or even every week.



Hi Laura,

I have been underwhelmed with quinoa and amaranth's ability to perform consistently here, which is a shame. Perhaps it's just a matter of selection over a period of time. I do have great luck with dry soup peas, garbanzos, dry beans, buckwheat, flax, dent corn, all great forms of vegetable protein in one combination or another. Walter is right that it's not yet too financially feasible to grow these for sale. I have sold some in the past, and there are people willing to do the work trade and/or $6 a pound. But because I don't want to grow acres of crops or use machinery, I personally focus on the seed trial and multiplication aspect. Anyone who wants help growing these vegetable protein storage staples can come to me for help. The more of us growing them the better we can share with more folks. I think that is the key, spreading the seed around as much as possible so that there are enough of us growing to share/sell to those without yards or big acreage!

my space right now is very small - about 6x8 and 2x3. I can't realistically grow grains so I'm considering my options. I'll focus on peas and bush beans this year. Any advice about garbanzo cultivation? 

I'm not surprised that quinoa doesn't do well here - it likes an arid climate.

Maybe we can encourage the Okanagan growers coop to start growing it over there, and bring us some when they bring peaches and plums. I know that this notion is not without it's major oil limitations, but it is a short-term fix for the international trade crisis in South America. eanwhile, while folks in our region continue to bolster knowledge, amount of acres and varieties that grow well here. I bet we will be in a very different place in terms of diversity of crops in about 3-5 years.


  Great idea Laura of 'importing' quinoa' from Okanagan farmland! Skeeter & others come over the mountain during growing season with the fruit crops and sell to folks wholesale direct – by word of mouth...then some of us can or dry the fruit to last till the next harvest.


Farmer friends - I've been thinking we ought to add the local staples of potatoes (& possibly squash), into the mix of this groups focus on 'small-scale grain/bean' ? Thoughts?


This year I've found potatoes to be the one winter staple that I can usually obtain locally, that has nourished me (along with squash). They grow so well in Whatcom county, that I was told by Ag Extension scientist, that it is 'illegal' to grow more than an acre of potatoes in Whatcom, and that is why we don't have many dairy farmers rotating their corn & rye grass crops with potatoes. Apparently the law exists to protect the crops of the seed-potato farmers.


The largest amount of whatcom soil is used to produce dried milk and raspberries, that are then exported outside of our county...This means, our fertile farmlands are being used for exports, before they are used for feeding local families. Also with seed-potatoes, the crops is being exported, and the local markets don't carry whatcom potatoes. The last I checked, the coop had potatoes from Oregon on the shelves!


This year, I'd like to find some fertile land to purchase together with a few families & couple farmers, to together grow some of these basic calorie crops (potatoes, beans, oats), that need more space than a small backyard green/fruit/& herb garden can provide. With the right piece of land, we could encourage an experienced farmer like Krista and a couple other 'land-less' farmers to join in the farming.

If anyone finds good land with healthy soil & water in the area's of Squalicum Mt, Laurel, or Goshen area's let me know.  I'd like to be part of bringing the people together working on the land with experienced farmers, closer to where I live and could bicycle or walk to.  I can imagine a group of folks pooling their savings to purchase farmland, and then working together with a couple farmers. There is a chance the Kulshan Land Trusts farm program may be helpful in such a venture.


Yes, the KCLT Farm Incubator Program would be great. I'm still waiting....

Transporting quinoa from Eastern WA is better than Colorado, where it is grown now.

A farm co-op for growing staples would also be great but most of us are dirt poor so it is a challenge! 

Sure, potatoes deserve a place in the discussion, but since most folks know how to grow them, that's why we didn't focus on them. To be sure, we shouldn't focus so much on "bringing back" the beans and grains that we forget what our climate is ultimately best suited for. Potatoes are the easiest calories for us around here and we should definitely not forget about them!


what about engaging people through celebrating what we do have - I'm thinking of a potato variety tasting event that simulataniously educates about why this is unique potato growing region, and why large scale potato growing is limited here. Focusing on what is unique to here, on the people and the taste of the diversity of varieties is a great way to learn, and to create stronger community.


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