Oechsner Farms & Farmer Ground Flour
Spend 5 minutes with Thor Oechsner and I bet a bag of malt you will want to be an organic grain farmer.
When he was a kid Thor loved visiting his uncle’s dairy farm. By the time he was a teenager, he convinced his parents to let him tear up their suburban yard—to plant corn.
Thor now farms almost 1000 acres of all kinds of grains from emmer to oats.
At first, his grains went for animal feed. Watching land get snapped up for housing, he realized he needed to make more money on his rented acres. Thor thought first of flour because his German grandfather was a pastry chef.
In 2009, he started a mill, Farmer Ground Flour. Two years later he helped start Wide Awake Bakery, a Community Supported Bakery that uses his wheat. This farmer-miller-baker partnership is a great model of how small scale production builds businesses and relationships.
We met Thor in 2011 at the NOFA-NY conference, and began hounding him to sell us some of his 9% protein Warthog wheat. The stalking got so serious that Thor knighted Andrea Stalker Babe.
Earning this title was energy well spent. We love Thor's Warthog wheat, and so do our customers.
Grange Corner Farm
Sam Mudge is in his third season of grain growing at Grange Corner Farm in Lincolnville, Maine. Since his first season Sam has been in hot pursuit of small-scale grain equipment from augers to combines, seed cleaners to gravity bins. His aspirations focus on developing his farm into an integrated livestock, grain, and strawberry business in the coming years.
In March of 2010 we started talking with Joe about growing grains in Hadley. He was the first farmer we ever worked with. There was a 10 acre field on Stockbridge Road that he was transitioning into organic and as Joe put it, he was “curious about growing barley." We sourced Conlon seed from Minnesota and gave it to Joe to plant.
In April, with the broadcasting method, he sowed all 10 acres and by the second week of July we were harvesting. The barley field was a bit weedy and the yields were less than 1,000 lbs per acre. The following year Joe tried another 2 fields in North Hadley, which yielded about 1,500 lbs per acre -- a failure by most standards.
We thought for sure that Joe would not want to grow for us again but he did. We found a winter malting barley that would hopefully out compete weeds in the spring and give better yields. Joe found a beautiful 10-acre field by the river to plant this barley. We also found a grain drill at the UMASS farm that he was able to borrow to use for seeding.
Apparently the third year was what it took.
Yields were over 3,500lbs per acre and the barley was beautiful and plump. Like any good farmer, Joe knew that it was going to take time, patience, and the right combination of soil, seed, and know-how to manage this new and exciting crop.
Joe grows over 400 acres of diversified crops in Hadley. This consists of squash, carrots, parsnips, strawberries, peaches, tobacco, and many other unusual crops such as malting barley. He has farmed his entire life and cannot remember a time when his family did not farm. Every generation of his family, as far as he knows has been farming.
Martens Farm and Lakeview Organic Grain
Penn Yan, NY
At the ripe old age of 23, Peter Martens farms 450 acres of organic crops including: barley, wheat, rye, spelt, corn, soybeans, and dry beans.
In 2012 Peter worked for 6 months on an organic farm north of Hamburg, Germany. This experience opened his eyes to the different farming methods in Germany. The farming equipment is expensive but very versatile and efficient.
Peter and his dad Klaas Martens have been growing 2-Row Winter Barley for us since 2010. It is what we use for most of our NY 2-Row American Pale.