Bluebird Grain Farms: Cultivating for the Next Generation
Bluebird Grain Farms is on a mission to inspire other US farms to follow in their regenerative footsteps and grow for the next generation. Learn more in this exclusive interview with Brooke Lucy, Co-Owner, Marketing, Sales & Product Development.
/5 mins/ SparxTeam
Even in Washington, one of the largest wheat producing states in the US, purchasing farm direct organic grains locally is not an easy feat.
Bluebird Grain Farms went “against the grain” to become a vertically integrated agricultural producer and processor, and they’re now on a mission to make farming across the US better for people and the planet. We chatted with Brooke Lucy, Co-Owner, Marketing, Sales & Product Development, about Bluebird Grain Farms’ history, mission, and goals.
Tell us about Bluebird Grain Farms‘ mission.
Our mission is to cultivate and produce the most nutrient dense grains for our customers, and more importantly, for the next generation. This means growing and processing our ancient wheats with a minimal carbon footprint and taking care of the soil every step of the way.
Growing under an organic regenerative system means we take care of the soil, the wildlife, and the environment around us. Our employees and our community are included in this.
We want to expand our network of farmers, inspire other farms to transition to growing under an organic regenerative farm system, and prove that an organic regenerative system is good for the health of the planet and the ecological and human communities that live amongst the farm system.
What inspired you to start Bluebird Grain Farms?
We started Bluebird Grain Farms in 2004 because we could not purchase farm direct organic grains locally, even though our own state of Washington was one of the largest wheat producing states in the country.
We saw a niche. Ancient wheats clearly had more flavour, more nutrients, and were more resilient to a fluctuating climate. All these factors compelled us to grow ancient wheat.
What were some of the challenges you encountered?
Immediately, we realized that we were going to have to set up our own processing facility because there were no organic wheat processors in Washington at the time. Also, the equipment needed to process ancient wheat was very difficult to find. Learning to process ancient grains was our first initial hurdle.
Over the last 10 years, finding good employees in a small rural setting with rising housing prices has also been a challenge. It has been kind of a lonely path building our business, mostly because we are in a rural setting with not a lot of agriculture around us. Thankfully, we have always had this incredible support from our customers which has truly kept us going.
What do you consider Bluebird Grain Farms’ biggest success?
The fact that we have stayed in business for 18 years now is amazing. We are essentially running three businesses within one business. I feel that the quality of our product and the consistency of delivering a good product has been a big part of our success. Sharing our story along the way has been important in engaging with our customers about what we do and why we do it.
What makes your organization unique?
Being vertically integrated as an agricultural producer and processor has helped us understand and know our industry very well. It has not been easy, but looking back, the knowledge that we have learned has helped us strategize our growth; we intimately know the challenges of ancient grain farming and processing.
We know what it takes to grow these grains and to make a business out of it. Understanding the cost of goods to produce and process has been the key determining factor in our success.
Having a niche market with ancient wheats has been critical to the success of our business. Our products have set the stage to the emmer and einkorn market that are now developing in the US today.
How do you feel Bluebird Grain Farms makes the world better?
We make the world better by providing nutrient dense grains that require less water and are cultivated under a strict organic regenerative farm system that provides good food for the people and good soil for the future.
Our farm model to produce and process local organic ancient wheats has really sparked an incredible movement throughout the US. In 2004, there were very few producers/processors of grains; there were a few Amish farms in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Anson Mills in South Carolina.
Now, there are probably more than five or six organic mills and several farm direct grain businesses just within Washington state, and a huge movement growing in the Northeast and the Midwest. Being successful has helped ignite others to try. This is very exciting. Our role now is continuous improvement and asking ourselves the question of what can we do to be even better at what we do?
Tell us about your organization’s goals.
In June 2022, we will be moving into our new processing facility that is located on one of our grain fields. We will have increased capacity in our production as well as a great location. Here, we will be able to grow our business and show our customers how a vertically integrated organic farm operates.
People want to be connected to their food source and we want to be the connector. Our new location will allow our customers to engage in purchasing our grains, while witnessing the farming, storing, cleaning, and packaging of our products. It will be an experience, and not just a purchase.
Are there any upcoming initiatives or projects you’d like to share?
An “education component” is something that we will be implementing once we are moved into our new facility. We want to be a model farm for other organic regenerative grain farmers. We want to share and learn from others and grow our network of organic regenerative farmers in Washington state. We are not sure what this looks like yet. We are exploring partnerships with community organizations, and ideally, engaging a local university in some of our projects.
What do you most want people to know about Bluebird Grain Farms?
We have built our business on growing and selling nutrient dense ancient grain products and fresh milled flour. We hope to expand the tenets of our business beyond just the health of our product, but also the health of the planet.
To begin, we want to educate our customers about organic regenerative farming and carbon sequestering. We believe net zero farming is possible.
How can people help or contribute to Bluebird Grain Farms’ mission?
Firstly, you can engage with Bluebird by purchasing our products, visiting us, and talking with us. Share with us on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
Secondly, engage with friends and family by starting a conversation and educating them about the importance of supporting small scale organic regenerative farms.
Thirdly, eat local. This is a movement that is not going away, and it is critical to a low carbon footprint.
Fourthly, patronize restaurants and stores that sell products from small scale organic farms.
Last but not least, ask local grocery stores and restaurants to sell local products; the consumer often has more leverage than farmers and small businesses. Sometimes, they need to hear from their customers that they want to see local food on the menu and on the shelves.
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