The wheat industry is suffering. Industrial farming has transformed a once nutritious and varied type of grain into something overly processed and flavorless. Follow that with a lack of transparency about how grain is farmed, plus way fewer varieties grown and heavy herbicide and glyphosate use, and what you get is less than ideal.
It’s from this broken, welled-off system that one of our favorite local initiatives began. Community Grains produces true whole grain pasta and polenta, grown with integrity and whole milled to preserve the essential nutrients and robust flavors lost to industrial milling. “When we started 12 years ago, we were looking at a very broken grain system and wanting to find a way to get good grain,” says Bob Klein, founder and president of Community Grains and co-owner of Oliveto restaurant in Oakland. “Since the industrial system offers very little access to something real, we built our own system where everything from the variety of the seeds to how the farmers are farming it is accessible to people.”
Paul Muller, left, of Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley, talking to Bob Klein, right, of Community Grains
Community Grains takes transparency to the next level. Every box of their pasta has a batch number on the back, which you can look up on their website for detailed information about the wheat variety and how it was grown, stored, and milled. You can read about a farm’s soil management practices, their water use, what certifications they have, when the wheat was milled, protein and moisture levels in the resulting flour, and more.
“We’ve done a lot with scientists in creating tests that measure the integrity of grains,” says Bob. “Take your average whole grain pasta that you buy in a grocery store, for example. It says 100% whole grains. So we worked with a lab to test that and we found that it’s usually more like 10%.”
The team at Community Grains is also focusing on flavor, which goes hand in hand with nutrition. “We think it’s pretty clear that whole grain tastes better. And it’s got better nutrients. There are probably now hundreds of studies about positive outcomes on age related diseases with whole grains. I’m even starting to see studies that talk about mortality and white flours. So people are showing an interest in that. And now the question is flavor. That’s the latest good reason that people are turning to whole grains. And it turns out, nutrients are flavor. Whole grains are not just better for you, they’re better tasting.”
Explore the Community Grain products we offer for delivery and enjoy that full flavor of real whole grains.