We have a winner!

March 2nd, 2010 by Admin

Congratulations to Sophia Baker-French, survey responder #63, who was randomly chosen as our prize winner. Sophia will receive a 2010 Farm Folk / City Folk membership, as well as a copy of our book.

We’d like to thank everyone who replied (all 113 of you!) for helping us to improve this labour of love.

Revving up for 2010…

February 26th, 2010 by Admin

Urban Grains has been sleeping away the winter, but things have recently started moving again. Plans are coming together for the 2010 season – we are building on what we learned in our first year and already looking forward (with watering mouths) to this year’s harvest. Right now, we are gathering feedback from last year’s members to help shape this year’s operations. We can’t tell you all the details yet, but here’s a bit of a teaser…

First, we are pleased announce that we will once again be working with the amazing Jim and Diane (plus the super-kids!) of Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz, B.C. Like last year, this year’s shares will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. 2009 members will be given priority for 2010, but we will also be expanding and opening up a number of new shares. We have already had many new sign-ups on our mailing list, but we encourage anyone who is interested to visit our About page and send us your information. We hope to be sending out the first share offers at the beginning of April, and will tell you more before that happens.

We look forward to passing on more information soon, so watch this space for news from Cedar Isle Farm, planning updates and more.

All the best from the team at Urban Grains!

Protected: Members only: share pick-up coordination

September 15th, 2009 by Admin

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Urban Grains Update, August 10

August 10th, 2009 by Admin

The following letter was recently sent to all subscribers to the Urban Grains mailing list.

Hello local eaters,

Although our blog posts have largely replaced the monthly e-mail updates sent to shareholders and mailing list subscribers, we thought that a number of recent developments with the CSA warranted another e-mail update. Before I begin with the newsletter, however, I’d like to make an announcement regarding the future administration of Urban Grains.

Back in May, Ayla and I wrote of our visit to Halifax on the Urban Grains blog. One of the reasons for our visit was to explore the possibility of relocating there. After many months of consideration, we are now in the process of doing just that. At the time we first conceived of Urban Grains, the prospect of moving to Halifax was already on our minds, so we’ve gone to great lengths from the outset of the program to ensure that it will continue on without us. Not only have we worked to lay as much of a foundation for Urban Grains as possible prior to our departure, our partnership with Farm Folk / City Folk means that the resources, experience and expertise of their organization (well beyond anything that we can bring to the table) guarantees a future for the CSA.

When Urban Grains was still in its infancy last year, we were presented with two choices, neither of which were very palatable: 1) work to address a need for local grain in Vancouver knowing that, if something came of our efforts, we may have to leave it all behind or 2) simply do nothing. Given our shared passion for food and a concern for its many attendant issues (of which access to locally grown foods is certainly one), the latter option seemed unacceptable. While we’re sad to distance ourselves from a project which is only now beginning to realize its potential, we can at least rest easy knowing that Urban Grains will be left in good hands.

Ayla and I will, of course, remain involved with the CSA, albeit from a distance. Chris Hergesheimer, one of the organizing members of Urban Grains and the grain expert for Farm Folk / City Folk, will be assuming the role of program coordinator. He’ll be responsible for most CSA correspondence and administration in the future, so you can expect to be receiving e-mail updates and notifications from him from now on. Chris will also be running the blog and has just posted a personal introduction which you can read here.

We’ve encountered many obstacles in starting this program, some of which seemed insurmountable at the time, but we’ve managed to make-do nonetheless. Thank you so much for your support. The Urban Grains CSA is, by its very nature, a community effort and we wouldn’t have made it this far if it wasn’t for your tremendous interest and enthusiasm for the project. Here’s to a future of local grain come September.

Martin + Ayla

Now, Back to Business…

The past six months have been truly amazing. What was only an idea in its early stages of conception late last year — creating the first CSA to provide local grain to people throughout Vancouver — is fast becoming a reality. If you’ve been following the updates on the Urban Grains blog, you’ll know that the grain at Cedar Isle has been progressing extremely well. While we have encountered some minor problems with rust on the winter wheat, it appears as though the great growing conditions we’ve experienced this season will more than make up for it. Of course, much work remains to be done (another month or so of growing, then harvesting, cleaning, shipping, milling and distribution) and many potential pitfalls abound (a poorly timed rain during harvest could be disastrous), but we’re finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Grain Cleaner

Each share this year came with a $10 equipment fee. Using this money, we were able to get a fantastic deal on a newly refurbished Kipp Kelly Dockage Tester from Manitoba. This small grain cleaner, while not entirely practical for cleaning enormous quantities of grain, cleans to a very high standard and helps us to overcome one of the main obstacles for local grain production in B.C. — a severe lack of infrastructure. If the grain harvested at Cedar Isle this summer is relatively free of weeds and other non-grain material, the cleaner may not actually be necessary in our first year of operation, but we can now rest easy knowing that cleaning quality will be less of a concern in the future. For pictures and video of the cleaner in action, go here.

Farm Visit

On July 19th, Urban Grains shareholders were given the opportunity to visit Cedar Isle Farm to see first-hand how their grain was progressing and picnic with their fellow CSA members. The weather was beautiful, there were hay-rides (always popular with both the young and old), a grain cleaning demonstration, lots of ice cream, and delectable blueberry tarts courtesy of Mary Mackay from Terra Breads. With nearly a hundred people in attendance, I’d say the event was a big success. Some pictures from the visit are available on the blog. I’d like to thank Jim, Diane, Hannah and Simon for making the event possible and for being such gracious hosts.

Distribution Date and Location

A number of you have contacted us to inquire when the grain will be ready for pickup. I realize that schedules are busy for many of us during the summer and a lack of certainty surrounding the grain pickup can be a major inconvenience. While I still can’t give you an exact date, I can say with relative certainty that the pickup time will be sometime in September, most likely in the first or second week. I just spoke with Jim today and he said that he is in the process of harvesting the winter wheat now and expects the rest of the grain to be ready in mid to late August, depending on the weather and the status of the grain.

As for the location, we’ve been speaking with the UBC Farm (located on campus at the University of British Columbia) and are trying to work out an arrangement whereby CSA members can drop by on certain dates to pickup their shares. Everything still remains to be finalized, but I’ll let you know as soon as more information becomes available.

Introducing Chris Hergesheimer

As I mentioned earlier, Chris will be taking over the operational and administrative side of things as program coordinator for the CSA. If you have any questions, or would simply like to say hi, you can contact him at the new Urban Grains administrative address, urbangrains@gmail.com.

That’s it for now. Make sure to check out the blog (https://www.urbangrains.ca/) for more up-to-date developments.


Martin + Ayla
Urban Grains

Time to introduce myself…

July 31st, 2009 by Admin


Hello Urban Grains!

After a wonderful and engaging farm visit, where we got a chance to mingle with our golden grains, as well as each other, I thought it was time I officially introduced myself. In the months to come, I am going to have a more upfront presence with Urban Grains both here on the blog and in the field.

My name is Chris Hergesheimer and I am one of the members of the Urban Grains organizing team. Last winter, I had the pleasure of meeting with Martin and Ayla while working on my MA thesis. When they first shared their vision for Urban Grains, I was immediately struck by their incredible energy and commitment to the project. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked with them during the formative months of the CSA and I am excited to be transitioning to a more visible role.

Who am I? Well, I am a sociologist and a micro farmer, a father of two children and the owner/operator of a small grain milling business known as “The Flour Peddler” (www.theflourpeddler.com). I live in the forested foothills of Roberts Creek, a small village on the sunshine coast, just a forty-minute ferry ride away from West Vancouver. I currently assist with the coordination of our local fruit tree project here on the sunshine coast, write music, work as a research assistant for a social economy research group based in BC and Alberta and help represent and organize Farm Folk/City Folk’s Grain Chain Project, a recent initiative of which this inspiring CSA is a key component.

As harvest time approaches, I am going to be stepping into a more central role, helping to keep you updated with the happenings of our local grain. My hope is to share some of the things I have learned over the years studying grain in south western BC, as well as learn from all of you valuable lessons about community, collaboration and engagement when it comes to re-creating food systems on our own terms. Grain activist and author Sharon Rempel told me that in western society, grain is a powerful symbol of regeneration and that if we are looking for a common thread in the movement, it is that we are a changing society. Urban grains is part of that change and the symbolic power of grain, flour and bread cannot be overlooked.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to the next couple months when we’ll be harvesting, milling and (hopefully) eating our local grain.

2009 Shares are SOLD OUT

June 7th, 2009 by Admin

We’ve sold out, folks! All 200 shares in the pilot year of the Urban Grains CSA have now been claimed by eager grain-eaters. We are maintaining a waiting list, so if you are still hoping to nab a share please sign up for our mailing list by visiting our  ‘About’ page.

Thanks so much to everyone who has purchased a share this year, and to all of you who are watching the process unfold. We are so excited to have you all involved in this project. Be sure to stay tuned to this website for updates throughout the season. Upcoming things on our agenda include organizing a visit for CSA members to Cedar Isle Farm where we’ll visit our grains, bringing you more information about storing and using your share and coordinating the milling of the flour once it’s been harvested. We’ll keep you up to date on all of it, so keep reading!

Martin + Ayla

More CSA membership offers on the way

April 24th, 2009 by Martin

We sent out our first round of CSA share offers yesterday and the response has been terrific! Thank you everyone for your enthusiastic support — it’s great to know that there are so many people who share our vision of bringing local grain to Vancouver.

For anyone on our mailing list who hasn’t yet received an offer to purchase a share, don’t despair, more spots will be opening up next week. Not only have we yet to receive a confirmation from some people, but a number of others have decided to forgo their offer and split a share with someone else on the list, meaning more Urban Grains membership opportunities are on their way!

It’s also not too late to sign up if you haven’t already. Simply fill out the form to join our mailing list on our About page and you’ll be added to the CSA wait list.

Urban Grains is officially open for business!

April 22nd, 2009 by Martin


After many months of hard work, planning and coordination, I’m delighted to announce that Urban Grains, Vancouver’s first community supported agriculture program for grain, is now underway. (Edit: The timing of this announcement feels rather serendipitous. Shortly after writing this post we were contacted by Jim, our grain farmer, to let us know that he had just today finished planting the last of the wheat.)


There will be exactly 200 shares, each consisting of approximately 20 kg of whole wheat flour, milled from three types of wheat: winter wheat, Triticale and hard red spring. All of the grain will be grown locally by one farmer, Jim Grieshaber-Otto, and his family at Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz, B.C. Roughly 100 acres in size, the farm has been organically managed for years, but Jim is currently in the process of seeking organic certification, meaning the official status of the grain will technically be “transitional organic.” (While we believe the CSA model, which fosters a direct relationship between producers and consumers, renders the issue of certification moot, Jim said that this year’s program gave him the “kick in the pants” that he needed to finally seek certification.)


After the grain has been harvested in the late summer/early fall, it will be cleaned on-site at Jim’s farm and then shipped to Anita’s Mill in Chilliwack for milling and bagging. It will then continue on to Vancouver where it will be dropped off at a central, convenient location (still to be determined) for pick-up by CSA members.


Each share will cost $80 ($1.80/lb), plus an additional $10 to raise money for purchasing cleaning equipment for the CSA, bringing the total to $90 per share. A full $1/lb of every purchase will be paid directly to Jim, the grower. A per-pound rate like that is practically unheard of in the grain industry. Given that this program is a pilot project supplying a product that is nearly impossible to find in Vancouver at the retail level, we think that this price is quite fair.

We’ve even done some comparison shopping: bulk, organic, non-local whole wheat is currently selling for roughly $1.99 per lb or $88.44 for 20 kg. If you’re purchasing different kinds of wheat in smaller, bagged sizes like we are providing, you can easily pay more than $120. That means that for the price of a share in Urban Grains members get organic, local flour, for about $1.50 more than you would pay at the store for bulk, AND they are supporting regional grain growing by the inclusion of the equipment fee. We are very proud to be offering such competitive prices.

For anyone who cannot afford the $90 or is unsure of their ability to fully use 20 kg of milled flour (remember, 10 kg is typically the largest size one finds in a grocery store), we highly recommend they split the share with another friend or family.

Also Included

Included in the CSA package will be a certificate indicating the member’s involvement in Vancouver’s first grain CSA, the opportunity to visit Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz during the summer to meet Jim and see the grain in person (additional, reasonable costs will apply for transportation), as well as on-going updates from us at Urban Grains regarding the progress of the CSA throughout the year on this blog.


CSA stands for community supported agriculture. We selected this model because we believe it is ideal for fostering a strong consumer/producer relationship — something severely lacking in conventional agricultural systems — and for supporting local agriculture. This is especially true in regards to local grain – production in B.C. has fallen dramatically in the past half-century and our support is needed to make grain farming a viable option.

It is important to be aware that the CSA model has a degree of risk built into it. As a customer paying the share cost before a finished product is delivered, an investment is being made in the entire process. It is quite possible that because of uncooperative weather shares will not measure a full 20 kg following a sub-par harvest. For example, in Creston, BC’s 2008 grain CSA the recipients expected to receive 100 lbs of grain, but ended up receiving 81 lbs. This risk is inherent to the model – by accepting this condition you are sharing in the uncertainty that farmers face every day as they watch the skies.


NOTE: As we made clear at the outset, CSA shares are being offered to mailing list subscribers on a first come first serve basis according to the order in which they signed up. Sales are not open to the public at this time, so please do not contact us to sign up if you have not received an email with a specific offer to buy.

It’s been a great deal of work to make this all happen, so we are obviously very proud to finally announce the launch of the program. Thank you for your interest in the CSA and local grain — your tremendous support has been truly inspiring.

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