Explore the Harvests
Fritz Durst Farming
To put it simply: The farmer is the one that feeds you. We want you to know where and how your food is being grown. It just tastes better that way, doesn't it?
|About the Farm|
Fritz Durst is a sixth generation grain farmer in the Sacramento Valley. He grows dryland crops, organic vegetables, safflower, rice, wine grapes, and sunflowers for seed at Tule Farms, his 6,000 acre family farm outside of Woodland, CA. On his certified organic plot, Fritz grows organic wheat and rye for Community Grains.
In the mid-eighties, Fritz and his father began planting wheat and barley directly into the residue of the previous crop without tilling, in order to prevent erosion gullies from forming during winter rains. This no-till method helped reduce soil loss from 6 tons to 2 tons in just one year.
Without enough water from his irrigation district for all of his property, Fritz has come to understand that dry-farming a large part of his property simply makes economic sense. By following a special rotation of crops to help retain water, 4,000 acres of wheat, garbanzo beans, and safflower are able to rely solely on rain.
Fritz's work has earned him a Resource Conservation District “Cooperator of the Year Award” in 1986, and the Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator Award from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2011.
Certified Organic by CCOF
Certifications set a minimum standard for good farming practices and food production, including land stewardship and conservation, chemical use, ecological diversity, labor practices, and food safety. We aim to go above and beyond these standards.
"We operate a diversified farming operation in Yolo and Colusa Counties. We employ 8 people year round and can add an additional 15 individuals for pruning, weeding and harvesting. My employees are the corner stone of the farm and we operate as a team, tending to crops, machinery and to each other. They are very observant of my crops and animals and often provide insight into new alternatives to my farming practices. One employee has been with me over 14 years and three others with 8 years each. I am very proud of all of them and their honesty, integrity, and productivity.
I am committed to providing a safe work environment and providing living wages for my people. My farm could not operate without the team that I currently employ." - Fritz Durst/Tule Farms, Inc.
Labor is a complex issue, and we've found that Organic Certification doesn't address it very well. Grain farming is done primarily by a few skilled workers operating machines, requiring far less labor than other crops.
Hard Red Winter Wheat
Class (hard red, etc.) is primarily applicable to wheat. Designated by color, hardness and growing season (e.g., Hard Red Spring Wheat), there are a range of quality characteristics within classes, giving customers some indication of how to use a given flour. We like to challenge common assumptions about how to use each grain!
|Seed Source||Farmers Grain Elevator|
Seed source and supply is a complicated, and somewhat political, issue. We are actively engaged in developing a steady source of publicly available seed in farmer quantities. The source of a seed can signal the intent of breeding, as some modern breeds were developed for high yield and to withstand modern chemical fertilizers.
|Yield||5870 lbs/acre ; 49 acres total|
Yield is important before and after planting - from selecting seed for a particular field to the ultimate price of the grain. The yield of a particular variety does have to work for the farmer economically, wherein low yielding grains - primarily heirlooms - can signal a higher priced product.
As a dry good, grains maintain freshness for several years in their whole kernel form. We harvest yearly, and store in a chemical-free environment. If the grains were held for several years in a fumigated environment, you'd really want to know about it.
Grown in Sacramento Valley between the small rural towns of Knights Landing and Grimes, this is really beautiful high fertility soil. It is part of an alluvial fan of the Sacramento River, rich deposits of sediments provide excellent conditions for growing. It has been leveled to a perfect slope for irrigation and continues to be very fertile due to natural capacities and years of good farming practices.
Land quality, categorized by the USDA, is the jumping off point - it helps farmers determine what can be grown and how best to manage the soil. Characteristics, like depth, slope, uniformity, and organic matter, impact the soil's ability to retain nutrients and water. Most of our grains are grown on Class 1 or 2 soils.
Organic matter, soil carbon accumulation and active microbial communities are primary indicators of soil quality. Regenerative soil management practices, such as conservation tillage, cover cropping, crop rotations, etc., can enhance the soil while simultaneously restoring the environment, generating resilience, and improving human health.
Wheat is following organic processing tomatoes.
We're drawing attention to this particular soil management practice as an area ripe for experimentation. Here we learn how farmers may use no till or conservation tillage in combination with soil-enhancing rotations to increase biological activity and diversity.
Fritz' rice fields, among others in California Reclamation District 108, of which he is the President, are becoming prime habitat for birds on the Pacific Flyway. After harvest, farmers are reflooding their fields and mashing the straw down into the mud with rollers so that it will decompose, a process termed rice water decomposition. This process provides bird habitat from November to February, and farmers are working with the Audubon Society to make this season start even earlier to benefit shorebirds. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, RD 108’s state of the art fish screen project benefits the Chinook salmon and other anadromous fish.
Fritz says, "I would rather have a park than a parking lot. I try to encourage habitat and food for all of God’s creatures and try to live in harmony with them."
Organic Certification underscores a number of ways to increase biodiversity (or wildlife) on farms. Here we look at how farms are going beyond that standard to include avian, insect and pollinator ecology.
9.24 inches rainfall, 10.58 inches of applied irrigation water
A major goal of regenerative soil management is to help soil hold onto water longer, thereby needing less. The decision to irrigate depends on a number of factors, including land quality, rain, and wheat variety. Tall, lanky heirloom wheats, for example, do not hold up well when irrigated.
Unfumigated farm storage.
Storage is an overlooked aspect of grain farming, where the kernels may be held for years. Methods to keep bugs and mold at bay can involve fumigation. Organic grains are stores without the use of chemicals.
Bay State Milling | http://www.baystatemilling.com
There is so much unseen in a flour mill. Who they are and what they stand for is immensely important.
|Type of Mill|
Our innovative mill is central to the high functionality of our grains. It’s an air-classifier mill that creates exceptionally fine, uniformly granulated 100% whole grain flour that works just as well for baked goods as it does for our pastas, and produces wonderfully creamy polentas.
Nothing is sifted out in the process of milling — whole kernels enter the mill, and 100% whole grain flour comes out. The mill agitates whole grain kernels at extremely high speeds so that the grains shatter against each other and the rotating grinder surfaces, until all the particles of the grain, whether they be from the germ, bran, or endosperm, are all the same size — this is why our flour’s texture is so special.
The surface texture created by our mill, called “damaged” or “activated” starch, allows it to absorb water extremely well. In the case of wheat, this high absorption of water benefits the baking properties and flavor of breads and pastries. Moreover, because the process requires very low heat, the grains’ proteins and other nutrients don’t break down in the process — they’re kept fresh and wholesome.
The milling method is the key determinant of flour's functionality, flavor, and nutrient density. The invention of the steel roller mill was a major turning point in history, enabling the mass production of refined white flour. High-speed mills can generate enough heat to destroy vital nutrients (like protein and vitamin E) and create rancidity. Air-classifier mills have more control over their drying and grinding elements.
Milling date can impact flavor and shelf-life. Our flour is, with rare exception, shelf-stable for over a year in cool, dry storage - and best refrigerated. That said, we can't deny that freshly milled flour has a wonderful, enhanced fragrance.
|Flour Extraction||100% Whole Grain|
Extraction describes the amount of wheat that is retained after milling. Whole Wheat Flour, for example, is described as having 100% extraction, while white flours typically have extraction rates of between 67% and 78% (predominantly the bran and germ are sifted out). The FDA doesn't require food manufacturers to disclose the exact quantity of whole grain. When we say 100% Whole Grain, we mean the whole thing.
The protein content of wheat can vary from as low as 6% to as high as 20%. Protein in bread dough traps gases formed in the dough, allowing it to lighten and rise. The protein's elasticity, stability, tenacity, and plasticity are also extremely important in determining the flour’s baking characteristics.
This figure indicates the percentage of natural moisture, by weight, in relation to the overall weight of a given sample. Beyond a certain point—sometimes pegged at around 15%— content of the flour can compromise its storability.
Ash is the mineral content in the wheat (primarily from the bran), so high ash content produces darker hued flour that may ferments more quickly. Small kernels have a higher proportion of bran and therefore more crude fiber than large, plump kernels.
Industry analyses are the standard tests that help determine the best and/or baking qualities of flour. Principal tests include protein, ash, moisture, farinograph, falling number, and alveogram.