Mentee Blog #3 – Jim McComb
My mentor, Jim Grieshaber-Otto , specializes in growing grain on his farm near Agassiz. Although I have been an organic grower for some time and although I have had an interest in growing grain, until this oppportunity to mentor with Jim, I hadn’t taken action in this direction. So, this has been a breakthrough season for me. My goal is to learn how to grow a variety of grains that will fill the needs of the eco-village that my family is a part of and furthermore to build a seed bank of grain seed varieties that are especially suited to our bio-region.
We got a bit of a late start in the spring because the mentorship program wasn’t approved until late May but Jim(my mentor) chose 4 varieties of seed from his personal seed bank that have short maturity times. We were able to plant small plots of these and saw them all mature by mid-September. The weather was warm and good and so the mature grain was left standing in the field unharvested for a week while we were dealing with other urgent matters. This proved to be a bad decision, leaving the grain standing even for a week, as flocks of birds swept in and feasted and before we realized what was happening a significant portion of the grain was eaten. Certainly, next season we will make sure that we are at least one step ahead of the birds. I am not yet sure what my strategy will be but I am determined to not let those birds get the best of us. With these initial plots we definitely proved that we can grow nice grain and, in spite of the birds, we got enough seed to plant for next year.
Although this mentorship program officially ends this year, my mentor and I are already talking strategy for next year and beyond. Next spring we will be able to plant much earlier and be able to experiment with other varieties. Also, we will plant some larger plots that will hopefully produce enough not only for seed but also enough so that we can start incorporating our home grown grain into our diet. Ultimately, the idea is to identify varieties that are especially suited to our climate in the southern interior of BC and furthermore to build a seed bank of a diversity of grain seed. Also, we are discussing and researching various types of equipment for harvesting and processing
Earlier, in August, I spent a day with my mentor,on his farm. We put to use one of his old model combines and harvested a small field of oats and another smaller field of wheat. Also, we observed and saw all of his equipment used for cleaning and storage. This was an educational and exciting experience for me as it was my first opportunity to have hands-on experience on a grain operation. In farming and in life you can never stop learning. I understand that to have food sovereignty in our eco-village and in BC we must learn how to implement small-scale grain growing.