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Winemaker's Journal — Bluebird Grain Farms, from plow to plate

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Any story about Bluebird Grain Farms is a love story. Owners Sam and Brooke Lucy met while walking their dogs on a Winthrop dirt road not far from where they grow the ancient heirloom grain that they handle with love from start to finish.Sam, who grew up on a farm in New Hampshire, was working on a wheat farm on Rendezvous Road, north of Winthrop. Brooke, from Wenatchee, was housesitting at a ranch nearby. Their dogs hit it off and so did they.Both were interested in living a healthy lifestyle and finding a way to live in the beautiful Methow Valley. Sam had started a farm restoration business. But when an opportunity came up to buy land in the area where the couple met, they jumped at it. Sam saw it as a chance to return to his farming rootsThey wanted to produce a crop but not get involved in the commodity wheat market that requires farming thousands of acres. They wanted to have full control over a product that appealed to people like themselves and were fussy about health and the food they ate.After long research, they formed Bluebird Grain Farms in 2005 and planted an heirloom grain called emmer farro, along with small tracts of hard wheat, rye and other specialty grains. 

Evidence has been found of wild emmer used as food nearly 20,000 years ago. Domesticated use goes back to 9000 B.C. It grows well in mountainous areas and poor soils and is resistant to diseases prevalent in wet areas. It's still widely grown in some parts of Eastern Europe, but only as a specialty grain in the U.S.Sam Lucy said emmer farro is a simple grain with only half the chromosomes of modern wheat. It's a hulled grain that is high in protein and low in sugar and gluten, pretty much the opposite of what flour has become today, he said. It makes great gourmet breads and cereals with unique textures and taste."All wheat as we know it comes from this grain," he said. "It's full of the natural vitamins and minerals that have been taken out of modern flour and then replaced with synthetic vitamins and minerals." Bluebird Grain Farms is a complete farm, flour and grain mill in miniature, the only one of its kind in the state. The Lucy's grow the grain using certified organic methods on 250 acres and then harvest, cure and mill it to order themselves with a small staff of employees and their two young daughters. The grain separator and grader, huller and mill are just like machinery used at large commercial flour mills, only smaller. They were adapted from lab models. The smaller equipment allows the company to mill wheat in many styles in small batches to order, for maximum freshness and flavor.The grain and flour is then packaged right at the plant in several styles of whole grains, specialty flours, cereals, pancake and biscuit mixes and grain blends for commercial, wholesale and retail sales."We do everything right here from beginning to end. It's as good of quality control as you can get," he said.

This is one of a series of stories Rick Steigmeyer found while traveling the Cascade Loop this summer for a story in Foothills magazine. For more information about the Loop and its many offerings, check out the website