Food Tank

New Endowment To Help Sustain Organic Grain Research

The Bread Lab has received funding to sustain its work breeding and testing organic grain varieties.

Clif Bar & Company and the King Arthur Flour Company just announced a US$1.5 million endowment to sustain organic grains research at the Bread Lab, part of Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. According to Clif Bar & Company’s senior director of agricultural policy and programs Matthew Dillon, “The Bread Lab serves as a model for other regions of rural America to replicate.” Dr. Stephen Jones, director of the Bread Lab and the new Clif Bar & King Arthur Flour Endowed Chair in Organic Grain Breeding & Innovation further explains, “The Bread Lab strives to keep the value derived from agriculture in the region where it’s produced. As plant breeders, we make grain varieties that work for the farmer first, and then find their best use regionally.”

The Bread Lab works in Skagit Valley in northwestern Washington to breed and test distinctive varieties of grains like wheat and barley, rotation crops that enhance soil health, for use in the region. The researchers collaborate with food producers including farmers, millers, brewers, and bakers to determine the best fit for each variety in the regional economy, whether for making beer, bread, or other products. In addition to attracting the attention of the endowment’s funders, this process has generated enthusiasm from participants. “We’ve been able to find varieties that need fewer chemicals, that can be grown organically,” says family farmer Dave Hedlin, “And also, we’ve learned to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace; they’ve helped us find varieties that have remarkable characteristics.”

This endowment is part of a larger effort by Clif Bar & Company to support university-based research into plant varieties suited for organic farming across the United States; Dr. Bill Tracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was named the first endowed chair under this initiative. For the Bread Lab’s endowment (the second of five), Clif Bar’s contribution of US$850,000 is accompanied by US$500,000 from King Arthur Flour as well as contributions by two other organizations and nine individuals. Co-CEO of King Arthur Flour Karen Colberg believes “investing in this research is an investment in the next generation of farmers. If we can help to evolve the agriculture landscape through improved organic farming, we help farmers, and we help meet growing consumer demand for more organic food.”

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