As many of you may know I farmed in eastern Washington for 30 years before taking on the project now known as Shepherd’s Grain. My father farmed this land for 28 years before me. Within those years we participated in USDA programs that were begun with excellent intentions and were soon weakened from persistent concern by producers. Many times the standard changed so much to actually encourage the practice it was intended to stop. This phenomenon shaped one of the key principles adopted early on within Shepherd’s Grain. No matter the standard, a continuum of improvement was necessary to ensure we did not fall into the scenario of my past.
Food Alliance was the first outside component where we constantly expressed the desire to and certainly their intent was to see continuum of improvement. They exhibited this improvement through their responsibilities to the producers of each year showing an improvement to an identified weakness. They sought continuous improvement in their overall standards and the individual direct seed standards. They achieved this with a standards committee who reviewed new technology and listened to industry desires.
Shepherd’s Grain has adhered to the same concept of each year finding ways to improve our product, our message, and meeting society’s desire for safe sustainable food. In previous newsletters I have outlined our multiple research fronts including agronomics, pricing options, product improvement, messaging techniques, and the latest, individual variety and regionality testing involving baking parameters. Agronomic research is agonizingly slow as it takes multiple years at multiple locations to gain accountable evidence of change. We just harvested plots of grain involving cover crops and soil improvement techniques and hope to have some anecdotal evidence to encourage continuum of improvement. We are midway in our research of the SG pricing program versus the commodity market and the relative time necessary to perceive a “win” in the commodity arena. Within product improvement we are proud to announce a new flour line of a Soft White Whole Wheat flour for improving fiber in pastries. Our management team will be meeting early October to reshape our marketing materials working within the parameters of the book Value Added Selling by Tom Reilly. And lastly, our producer/logistics manager Jeremy Bunch will begin working with the lab manager at ADM on evaluation of our varieties of grain used and how the protein makeup and region they came from affect their baking qualities. This may be the first such undertaking in a commercial setting. This continuum of improvement is all in the effort to earn the trust of our customers.
As always, thank you for your support of our Shepherd’s Grain Food Producers