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Local DIY Wheat processing yields over 600 lbs.

As reported on this website a few days ago, a group of us went out and hand-harvested a bunch of wheat from a field outside town. We have since processed it, which involved threshing and winnowing. This took a few days, many people, and yielded over 600 lbs. of wheat berries! Now it is being distributed through a creative scheme that rewards monetary investors and worktraders alike.
Buckets o' wheat berries
Buckets o' wheat berries
Closer look at berries
Closer look at berries
Folks threshing - stomping on wheat spikelets on tarps
Folks threshing - stomping on wheat spikelets on tarps
Troy winnowing off stems with basket
Troy winnowing off stems with basket
Andrew winnowing in front of a fan
Andrew winnowing in front of a fan
Scale and flour with grain grinder
Scale and flour with grain grinder
Bread dough rising using sourdough starter kicked off with this flour
Bread dough rising using sourdough starter kicked off with this flour
PDF showing wheat yields, distribution, hours, other stats
PDF showing wheat yields, distribution, hours, other stats
We threshed it on tarps in the driveway under a fir tree in the Hawthorne district. We winnowed it in front of electric fans, pouring from bucket to bucket. One helper found that a basket with just the right holes in it worked well to sift off the straw and big pieces before bringing it to the fan. This discovery led to cleaner berries and less time in front of the fans.

The grand total for the harvest: 636 lb.!

Under an arrangement that was hatched this winter, 40% of that will be divided among the people who spent time helping -- worktrade, 40% will go to the people who donated money to cover the monetary budget of the project (which is multi-crop, not just this wheat), and 20% remains with the farm, to feed the farmer and provide seed for the next crop.

The way it broke down: people who helped will get 1 lb. for every hour they worked. The monetary investors are getting 24 lb. for every $250 they invested (and they get shares of the other crops coming in too). The overall productivity rate -- from harvest through winnowing -- was 2.6 lb. per hour. 42 people helped altogether, contributing a mean average of 3.5 hours each.

All these numbers are in spreadsheet form in the attached PDF, if you'd like to see more details.

If a wheat crop is undertaken again, it would likely take less time to harvest and process, just due to shortcuts we learned this year. Also, we have seen that some mechanization with simple machines would be helpful at all stages, but especially at the harvest part; most of the crop was not brought in. Animal- and bicycle-driven methods would likely be best for projects of this scale (i.e., an acre or two). How are folks like the Amish doing it? That's about the technological style we can expect to be finding ourselves using in the coming years, what with Peak Oil, socio-economic breakdown, etc.

Feel free to contact me regarding the upcoming quinoa harvesting and processing: kollibri (AT) riseup (dot) net, or at the phone number on this website: [ Staple Foods Project ]


Linvin' Large with the local wheat 27.Sep.2008 20:21

Farmer K

This is what we're enjoying this evening. Pictured clockwise, starting with the large jar farthest to the left, Wheat Berries; The same, Stone-ground; Rolls just out of oven; the jar of Sourdough Starter used to raise them; and, on the bottom, Focaccia with slivered garlic and fresh thyme. There's the ingredients and the results: good food.
Fruits of labor
Fruits of labor

Looks lovely 27.Sep.2008 20:59

,,,

I wish I could eat wheat. That looks so good.