Colfax-based Joseph’s Grainery now selling Palouse-grown grains, lentils across region
The fifth-generation farmer is only half-joking about the imagined family credo. It could be the mantra of any wheat farmer who ever tired of the fickle market forces that push prices toward the expanse of Palouse sky one season and drop it lower than a giant earthworm belly the next.
It was one of those find-a-better-way moments that set Myers and his family on a new course last year. Myers says he Googled his way to websites selling wheat for $1 a pound in a 5-pound bucket – easily 10 to 20 times what he was making with the crop.
Like most Palouse wheat farmers, the Myers had always sold the entire harvest from their 3,200-acre operation to a commercial buyer – the grain trucked to a Columbia River barge and eventually shipped overseas.
Marketing directly to customers would take more work, but Myers liked the timing. Many people he talked to were eating more whole grains to try to improve their diets, and there was a growing national trend toward buying local foods.
“I’ve always wanted to educate people about where their food comes from,” he says.
Myers recruited help from his daughters, Kelli Collins and Kendra Trump, and launched Joseph’s Grainery, named for his father and grandson. He holds back the best of his harvest to sell directly to customers.
They started about a year ago, selling soft white wheat, hard red wheat, barley and lentils through the website ( www.josephsgrainery.com). Myers also spent the summer at the Pullman Farmers Market talking to customers about whole grains and selling small packages of his products.
He began by stocking a handful of stores in the area and recently added Yoke’s Fresh Markets and area Huckleberry’s and other stores to the distribution list.
Collins, who has a degree in agribusiness and marketing from Washington State University, runs the company website, where she keeps a blog of recipes and hints for using whole grains.
She also makes videos for the Joseph’s Grainery channel on YouTube ( www.youtube.com/joesgrain). Other videos show the farm fields where the crops are grown.
Trump has a WSU degree in accounting and serves as a company adviser and number cruncher when she’s not working her day job.
All of the wheat and barley sold under the Joseph’s Grainery label is grown on Myers’ family farm. When lentils aren’t in his rotation, he’ll buy them from neighboring farms.
The retail prices are about $4.50 for a 3-pound bag of hard red wheat, $4 for a 3-pound bag of barley and $5.50 for 3 pounds of lentils.
It’s a conventional operation, but Myers wants customers to know the grains are not genetically modified. He says his family has always saved seeds for the next crop and he now holds back a bit more for the direct sales to customers.
The grains are washed and stored in smaller bins, which allows Myers to skip the insecticide treatment that is used on many commercial crops. He’s used sustainable no-till practices on the farm since the 1970s.
Myers says he initially set out to sell just whole grains. One of the first videos posted on the site showed customers how to use a blender to make flour from the wheat kernels.
As he talked to customers at the farmers market during the summer, he found many really wanted the convenience of buying flour and other products along with the grain. He added a small mill at the farm and began selling flour and added whole-grain cookie base and pancake mixes to the offerings.
“That doubled our business right there,” Myers says. “But we’re still trying to find our niche.”
The new venture has been a learning process for everyone. Myers didn’t grow up eating the grains produced on his farm, nor did his family.
Aside from tossing a handful of kernels into his mouth to chew on during harvest, Myers had never tried making flour or cooking cracked wheat for breakfast until he started working on plans for Joseph’s Grainery.
“There’s a big difference between fresh-ground flour and the all-purpose stuff you find at the stores. It just tastes different,” he says.
“You know how you feel when you eat something really good for you? That’s the difference. All I know is what I like and it just tastes better.”
Collins says she had to learn quite a bit when she started cooking with whole grains for the Joseph’s Grainery blog. Many of the posts are written from the perspective of her 2 1/2 year-old-son, Joseph Collins. He’s the chief taste tester, after all.
“Before I started the blog, cooking for me was really Hamburger Helper and that type of thing,” she says.
“There was a bit of a learning curve, but it wasn’t as difficult as people make it sound. I would say it takes more planning and preparation. Cooking with whole grains does take a little more time, but if I can do it …”
In the past year and a half, Collins has posted some 200 recipes, how-to videos and more. Here are some of her favorites:
Multigrain Chicken Soup
From Joseph’s Grainery, Colfax
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1/3 cup barley, soaked for 24 hours
2/3 cup lentils
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound chicken, cut into cubes
8 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour or until all grains are tender. Check seasoning. If soup is too thick, add more water or broth to thin.
Yield: 6-8 servings
From Joseph’s Grainery, Colfax
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups Joseph’s Grainery Whole-Grain Cookie Mix base
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl combine the egg and coffee. Set aside until coffee dissolves. In the bowl of your mixer, whisk the cookie mix, shortening and sugars until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the egg and coffee mixture, molasses and spices and mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together. Form the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen cookies
Prize-Winning Whole Wheat Bread
From Joseph’s Grainery, Cofax
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening
2 cups hard red whole wheat bread flour, stirred
3 to 3 1/4 cup sifted barley flour
Soften the active dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees).
Combine hot water, sugar, salt and shortening; cool to lukewarm. Stir in whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the barley flour; beat well. Stir in the softened yeast. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and satiny (10 to 12 minutes - we just let our KitchenAid mixer do the work).
Shape the dough into a ball; place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface. Cover; let rise in warm place until it doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down.
Cut into 2 portions; shape each in a smooth ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into loaves; place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until double (about 1 1/4 hours).
Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Yield: 2 loaves bread
Cracked Wheat and Raspberry Scones
From Joseph’s Grainery, Colfax
1 cup soft white wheat, cracked in a blender for 1 to 2 minutes
1 cup soft white whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teapoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries or blackberries)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into pea-sized lumps in the mixture. Add the liquid ingredients and mix no more than 20 strokes. Mix the berries into the dough.
At this point roll the dough and cut into wedges or just form the wedges with your hands. Place onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for about 18 minutes.
Yield: 8 or 9 scones.