Weatherbury’s Story of How a Grain Seed Becomes Flour
The equipment & processes behind Weatherbury’s flours and milled products
The equipment & processes behind Weatherbury’s flours and milled products
At Weatherbury Farm we plant the seed, we nurture it, we harvest it and we grind it into wholesome flour for you.
The farmers spend many hours in the field from preparing seed beds to planting to harvesting. And then it is off to cleaning seed and milling the grain.
Below you will see the equipment, with explanations, which we use to accomplish these tasks.
The fields we plow are either grain fields from the previous year or hay fields. Both have an understory of clover. The clover provides nitrogen for the next crop.
Pack manure, which will be tilled into the earth, provides fertilizer for the plants’ roots. As organic farmers, we do not use chemical fertilizers.
Manure is an excellent source of the plant nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. In addition, manure returns organic matter, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and many other micronutrients to the soil, building soil fertility and quality.
Plowing turns the sod over to prepare a seed bed. The Kvernland plow is a roll-over plow. Thus, when Farmer Nigel comes to the end of a field, he simply flips over the plow and returns across the field. Before roll-over plows, farmers could only plow the field in one direction.
Plowing incorporates green manures (i.e. cover crops) and aged stacked manure into the soil. Thus providing nutrients to the next crop and also boosting the organic matter.
Harrowing smooths the field after plowing. Actually plowing and harrowing occur simultaneously. Farm Nigel is plowing and Farmer Dale is harrowing.
The Strautmann spreader is back in the field to spread chicken litter on plowed ground. This will be on the surface of the field when it is planted to act as a starter fertilizer to the crop.
The Strautmann spreader spreads evenly in 40’ widths.
The soil in southwestern Pennsylvania is very acidic. Using soil tests as a guide, lime is spread on the field to increase alkalinity. This is, of course, weather permitting. In 2018, we did not have enough dry days to spread lime.
Most of our planting is done in the fall. This allows the crop to get a head start on weeds in the spring. With the wet weather in our area, this is a must.
Our planter is a Kvernland air drill planter, which is preceded by (on the same piece of equipment) a power harrow which smooths the field.
With the exception of corn, all of our fall grains (wheat, rye &, spelt) and our spring grains (oats, buckwheat and beans) are planted using this drill.
The grains start growing after they are planted in the fall and continue to grow under the snow cover. A field of spelt is pictured above in the spring.
In the spring, the farmers walk the grain fields and spin on clover. The clover will suppress weeds, aid in holding up the grain and, eventually provide nitrogen to the next crop.
The farmers walk about 40 miles to frost seed all our grain fields!
Some crops can only be planted in the spring -- corn, oats and beans. In addition to our winter planted wheats, we plant Glenn wheat (a hard red spring wheat) in the spring.
Oats, beans and the Glenn wheat are planted using our Kvernland air drill planter shown above "planting the grain". Corn is planted with the pictured corn planter.
Our spring crop of corn needs to be cultivated to reduce weed pressure. As Weatherbury is a certified organic farm we don’t use chemical sprays (like 2-4-D) that conventional farms use.
Nor do we use any organic pesticides or herbicides.
The rototiller is used after wheat and before planting buckwheat. It works similarly to a garden rototiller -- it is just much larger.
Following crops make great use of the land allowing two harvests from the same field in one year.
Travel the backroads in the spring and summer and you will find wildlife grazing on crops. Interestingly, there are always more deer, turkeys and birds grazing on Weatherbury’s organic crops than on our neighbors conventional crops.
Maybe we all should take a lesson from the wildlife.
Traditionally, swathing, which is cutting small grain crops into windrows, was used to let grains dry. At Weatherbury Farm, we utilize a swather to cut buckwheat, beans and sometimes oats to stop deer and bird pressure on the crop.
Usually it works well. Unfortunately in 2018, we swathed our oats based on a weather forecast of 5 sunny days. It was instead 5 rainy days and we lost the crop.
A combine (Gleaner F2) is used to harvest Weatherbury‘s grains and beans (including those that have been swathed). The machine’s name derives from the fact that it combines four separate harvesting operations -- reaping, threshing, gathering and winnowing -- into a single process.
Combine harvesters are one of the most economically important labor-saving inventions, significantly reducing the fraction of the population engaged in agriculture. (If you discount maintenance time.)
Small combines like ours are no longer for sale new in the United States. But to harvest grains on our hilly fields, it is what we need.
The harvested grains are loaded into a gravity box wagon. The wagon returns to the farm. An aerator is placed in the wagon to bring down the moisture of the grain. The grain is stored in the wagon until it is cleaned.
The first step in grain/bean cleaning is to move the grain/beans from the gravity box to Clipper Seed Cleaner. The cleaner uses a combination of perforated screens and air to clean the grain or beans.
Grain: The good grain goes through the scalp screen (top screen) to remove the large impurities like unthreshed heads and pieces of straw. Then the good grain goes over the sieve screen (bottom screen) which removes small shriveled grains, weed seeds and dust. Then the grain falls through an air column which removes lighter grain and debris that is the same size but lighter than the grain.
Beans: The good beans go through the scalp screen (top screen) which removes large impurities like clods of dirt. Then the beans go over the sieve screen (bottom screen) which removes broken beans, weed seeds and dust. Then the beans fall through an air column which removes debris that is the same size but lighter than the beans.
The Carter Day Disc Mill (a circa 1920 machine) is used to separate grain based on its length. It has discs with pockets that lift individual grains based on their length. The disc pockets are sized so that the desired kernel size will stay in the pocket as it is lifted up around and discharged on the opposite side. We use our disc mill to clean oats and remove vetch from small grain. The top mill will lift the hull-less oats but reject the oats that still have their hulls intact. The lower mill will reject the cracked oats, weed seeds and vetch but the good hull-less oats will pass through.
Unlike other grains grown at Weatherbury Farm, spelt, einkorn and emmer do not thresh free from its hull when it is combined. Farmer Nigel built this spelt dehuller to remove the spelt from the grain and separate the hulls from the dehulled grain.
Nigel built this dehuller with a SARE grant.
A gravity table sorts grains and, in this case, beans based on density. In the photo above, it is being used to sort black beans.
At last! The grains are ready to be milled.
Our East Tyrolean Mill can mill grains into whole flour. Or using the sifters, into sifted flours (~85% extraction).
The final product -- from seed to flour
After we harvest our oats, they are triple-cleaned and rolled live, with none of the processing used in producing commercial rolled oats. Thus, Weatherbury Rolled Oats have their natural vitality, nutrients and flavor.
Our oats, spelt and einkorn are milled on a Peerless Roller which was rebuilt by Farmer Nigel
The final product -- from seed to rolled oats
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