The Backyard Beans and Grains Project (BBGP) was started in 2008 as a response to the challenge of incorporating locally-grown staple foods into the diet. Whatcom County (and Western Washington in general) produces a large variety of vegetables, berries, dairy products, and to a lesser degree, fruits, fish and meat. The missing element, especially for vegetarians, those on low income, or those with dairy allergies, is a variety of storable, high-quality vegetable protein sources, i.e. dry legumes and grains.
WHAT WE DO
Our main activity at the BBGP is to research varieties of dry legumes, grains, and seed crops that may grow well in our bioregion and run trials to determine their suitability for the small-scale grower. The trials are conducted on Certified-Organic farmland near Everson, Washington. All BBGP research is aimed at the small-scale, low-tech grower, with a minimal use of fossil fuels and specialized equipment.
The BBGP is based on the premise that crop diversification is vital for the long-term sustainability of any local food system, and that staple foods such as beans and grains are a key component of a sustainable foodshed here in Whatcom County. We believe it is important to re-gain local knowledge that has been lost over the past century and to discover additional crops and varieties that are well-suited to our climate.
Our research is conducted for the benefit of all regional farmers and gardeners who wish to grow dry beans and grains. We record detailed information about varieties, plant spacing, dates, labor inputs, yields, harvesting and threshing techniques, seed-saving, and storage.
We have self-published an instruction manual, entitled "Growing Dry Beans & Grains in the Pacific Northwest", which contains information on growing, harvesting, and processing dry legumes and grains tailored specifically for Pacific Northwest growers.
The large majority of varieties that we have seen excel in productivity and early maturity are not easy to find from US seed companies. We multiply seed of our most promising varieties and make them available locally. Our seeds are modestly priced in an effort to encourage their spread around the region.
Unlike seed companies that sell hybrids (which need to be purchased every year), we hope that our customers will learn to save their own seed and share it with their friends and neighbors.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The Backyard Beans & Grains Project is primarily a labor of love. The Project relies on volunteer labor, donations, grants, and seed sales to offset project costs. If you wish to support our efforts, please consider purchasing seeds or an instruction manual, volunteering during the growing season, or making a donation.