Networking required for grain growing in the Cariboo

Our daughter in-law, Shannon, who stays with the children on the ranch in the summers, did some grain growing “trials.”

In my piece on Thanksgiving, I mentioned that our daughter in-law, Shannon,  who stays with the children on the ranch in the summers, did some grain growing “trials.”

She will document the experience, but where would she share it if she did?

Quick internet research doesn’t yield very much locally relevant information. I am not aware of instruction guides for the Cariboo.

So my advice to her was to call a few local people who were known to have researched this topic.

These contacts led to others and she got sufficient advice to get started.

First you have to prepare a seedbed and try to suppress the weeds somehow.

And you have to destroy the old crop usually old hayfield to make way for a sufficiently clean crop of grain which can be harvested, cleaned and then used.

That is not as easy as it sounds. We all have grown grains as cover crops or nurse crops, usually with another final, perennial crop in mind like alfalfa, or a combination of forages (orchard grass, clover, brome, timothy etc. etc.) for winter animal feed i.e. haylage or hay. But grain for human consumption is something else. It needs to be free of the former plants that were on the growing site

The latest Crop Production Guides posted by the BC Ministry of Agriculture don’t list a grain growing guide.

Maybe in the boxes of documents from years gone by there are some, but Shannon didn’t find any in her personal and internet research.

Now B.C. is small agricultural producer compared to the prairie provinces, and there aren’t a lot of people in the ministry and not a lot of research going on, that I know.

The Harper government shut down the Agriculture Research Station in Kamloops a year or so ago and now there are fewer trials going on.

We have to change this. Maybe farmers have to take charge.

The Agriculture Enterprise Centre in the South Cariboo has been trying to do this but core funding for this kind of work doesn’t exist.

BC Cattlemen’s Association has government funding to advance work in “Technology Transfer” which is about testing the best ways to get information out to farmers and ranchers about the beef livestock industry.

My main point here is that individuals trying to become informed about older proven practices and explore new practices or apply latest research will spend a lot of time and may even give up, because it is so daunting.

The solution: producers need to take charge and develop the capacity to design and launch demonstrations and trials, share the results, rework the trials as needed.

Fortunately, in the face of climate change, government and local people have come up with a Climate Adaptation Strategy.

One of the top four priorities is to build our local capacity to oversee and lead applied research on matters of importance to food growing here in the Cariboo.

Then those who want to try growing grain, for example, would  have more practical knowledge to run with.

In the meantime people like Shannon will carry on hopefully with increased and effective focus.


David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which is starting at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.