The grains that have sustained people for hundreds of thousands of years are still in demand. Ancient grains like einkorn, emmer (farro) and khorasan, as well as better-known grains like oats and barley are more popular than ever.
And people don’t have to go far to find locally grown, non-GMO and certified organic versions.
“A lot of people are looking for local produce of all kinds, for health reasons and to support the local farmers and economy,” said Tony Van Den Tillart, co-owner with Willem Roell, of Fieldstone Organics.
Fieldstone is based on an original Spallumcheen farm on Schubert Road that many people might remember as the old Mitchell Farm. The main house is 110 years old.
Van Den Tillart was born and grew up in the area and had a dairy in Deep Creek. About eight years ago, he was approached about taking over a spelt-growing co-op. He kept the spelt, which is still the biggest seller, and started to add ancient grains as he was able to find sources for the seeds.
Many of the crops are grown locally, with Roell as one of the growers and Van Den Tillart farming about 400 acres himself. Local growers work plots from five to hundreds of acres with a total of more than 2,000 acres in the North Okanagan. He has more than 20 growers in B.C. and some in Alberta and Saskatchewan. If he can’t get the grains and other products in Western Canada, he doesn’t stock them.
All of the growers must be independently certified which is a complicated process that is done to Federal Government standards.
“The guidelines are very strict, well policed and inspected,” said Van Den Tillart, adding that Fieldstone Organics products carry the NON-GMO, BCK, Canada Organic and Pro-Cert Organic seals.
“We work with the farmers. Many of them have never grown organically before but they are willing to learn and like having this option. We are supplying an excellent product and taking care of the environment,” said Van Den Tillart, who likes the products for cooking and baking and starts each day with Fieldstone cereal.
Paula Siddons, general manager, sees the interest in organic, non-GMO products growing.
“More and more people are looking to ancient grains because of wheat intolerance or as a healthy and tasty addition to their diet,” she said, adding that she likes working in a converted farm building and when necessary she can bring her goats to graze in the pasture outside her office window.
Fieldstone produces a variety of wheat products, as well as corn, lentils, peas, buckwheat, flax and cereal mixes. The on-site facility de-hulls and cleans the grain. The old grains usually have a tougher hull than modern grains, which helps protect them from air-borne diseases. Cracked grain is sold as animal feed and chicken scratch.
The whole grains are sold to retailers for people to use as they are or to grind at home in small mills (some retailers have in-store mills) to use fresh. Other whole grains go to customers like specialty bakeries, wholesalers and bulk customers in quantities up to several tons.
Van Den Tillart was interested to hear that a restaurant in Calgary is using the corn and a wholesaler is supplying emmer used in a salad that is sold at IKEA in Japan.
“People want to connect with where their foods are grown and be in touch with their food sources. I think Armstrong has always been known as a place that produces good food and that’s still true,” said Siddons.
Van Den Tillart said he is going to keep the business running according to its motto: We’re making a difference for the environment and for people’s health.
“I don’t know of too many businesses where people drive into the yard and thank you for what you’re doing,” he said.
There is a store at the home farm which also sells home mills and there is a web store at www.fieldstoneorganics.ca. Local retailers are Askews, Chocoliro and Grassroots Health Hut in Armstrong and IGA and The Stocking Up Shop in Enderby. In Vernon look for the products at Nature’s Fare, Quality Greens, Save On Foods, Simply Delicious and Swan Lake Nurseryland. They are also available at Lumby Health Foods and Monashee Co-op in Lumby.
For more information, visit the store at 4851 Schubert Rd., Armstrong, or see www.fieldstoneorganics.ca.