Humans domesticated grains over 10,000 years ago, and grains remain an important part of our diets. In Canada and the U.S., we are particularly reliant on wheat. Every grocery store seems to have massive amounts of shelf space dedicated to breads and cold cereals, many of which are made with enriched, white flour. In contrast, few gardeners grow grain. We rely almost exclusively on the processes and decisions of people we never meet in large companies about which we know very little.
In 2011, I was shopping for a particular flax product for my horse; the product seemed to be difficult to find on the west coast. As I researched, I found a company called Vancouver Island Grain and Milling. When I spoke to the owner–Wayne Smith–I realized I had stumbled upon a very special initiative. On the surface, this is an inspected and certified grain storage and milling company on Vancouver Island. But under the surface, it is much more. I consider Wayne to be:
- a humble and ethical entrepreneur
- an advocate for healthy people, communities and environments
- an advocate for food security
- a customer service wizard
- a catalyst for people wanting to get started with organic grain farming
- a resource for people interested in any aspects of grain, healthy eating and organic farming.
I began to order and use his products, and was amazed by their quality. I started baking bread again, and making pasta and many other things I had not bothered with for years. It wasn’t only because of the good flavour and nutrition. I was reading and learning more. I was thinking about hybridization, the value of heritage varieties, ways in which economic and ecological systems connect or collide, how to contribute to my new island home, and many other things. I began to distribute the products to friends and neighbours. I began milling grains as I needed them for cooking and baking. For decades I have had a big stoneware crock of white flour within easy reach on my kitchen counter, and it has now been over six months since I have had white flour in the house.
Hopefully this gives you a sense of why I have become interested in grains and in this company in particular. In related blog posts, I will share resources, insights, recipes, research and photos. Enjoy!
If you live on or near Gabriola Island, BC and want to order from me, send an e-mail to Alice@IslandHealth.Info with questions or a current price list request.