Amber Waves of Organic Grain
A look at harvest Ridge organics
We are no strangers to amber waves of grain on the Palouse.
Every spring the hills turn bright green with crops of lentils, chickpeas, and wheat as far as the eye can see. And by mid-July, golden wheat waves in the summer wind ready to be milled into flour. Much of it will be exported around the globe.
But not 100 certified organic acres in the heart of Lewiston, ID. Those 100 acres are grown by fourth generation farmers Doug and Art McIntosh of Harvest Ridge Organics. Much of it is now reserved for the Moscow Food Co-op scratch bakery, and has been for about five years.
In fact, their relationship with the Co-op was the reason the McIntosh brothers bought their mill in the first place—the same type that Bob Thomas from Bob’s Red Mill uses.
The McIntoshes grew up farming regional staples—wheat and green peas—with their father. And when asked why he still farms, Doug says, “We do something different every day. It’s always something new—it’s not a factory job.”
In the land of conventional farming it’s easy for organic farmers to stick out like a sore—if green—thumb. Harvest Ridge transitioned to growing organic crops in 2005 and became officially certified organic by the USDA in 2008. The transition was cause for some conversation among the farmers in their area.
Art says, “We get talked about a lot. Nobody likes change.”
But there is humbleness to the work they’re doing. They are quick to talk about the pros and cons of the way they grow wheat, acknowledging that organic wheat production isn’t without its flaws. For instance, their crop yields are lower than conventional growers, oftentimes the result of not using chemical fertilizers. The McIntoshes also mentioned that while conventional growers have higher fertilizer costs, organic growers have higher fuel costs.
Even given the challenges to organic farming, they encourage other wheat growers to make the transition as well. Their hope is that more conventional farmers will make the shift to organic, so they can make more use of their mill.
And while the production of organic wheat in our region is slow-growing, the Co-op’s commitment to sourcing flour from Harvest Ridge is strong. The Co-op Bakery solely uses whole wheat flour from Harvest Ridge to make our Daily Wheat loaves—a staple around here. But in the coming months customers can also expect to see more bakery items made with new soft durum flour from Harvest Ridge. This flour will be used in many of the pastry items customers enjoy.
Flour and steel cut and rolled oats from Harvest Ridge are also sold in the Co-op’s Grocery Department.
Not only are Art and Doug master grain growers, they’re also accomplished winemakers. They, along with their wives Michelle and Brenda, opened Lindsay Creek Vineyards in 2013. Art studied enology and Doug studied viticulture at Washington State University. Since beginning their winemaking journey in 2007 they’ve increased their grape production from 150 grape sticks to over 15 acres of grapes, which are used to make their seven different varieties of wine. Three of their wines are available for purchase at the Co-op: petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon, and Riesling.
You can stop by the winery, meet the McIntosh family, and taste their wine Thursday-Saturday 1-9pm and Sunday 1-5pm. Small-plate food items are also available for purchase. Their winery is located at 3107 Powers Avenue in Lewiston.