Kneading Conference West


For several years this was the official website for the artisan baking confab held in Mount Vernon, Washington known as Kneading Conference West whose mission is to preserve and promote grain traditions, from earth to table.
Content is from the site's 2011-2013 archived pages.




Kneading Conference West is a three day event designed to inspire and educate novice and professional bakers, grain growers, millers, wheat breeders, wood-fired oven enthusiasts, food entrepreneurs, food writers, and anyone who loves to eat hand-crafted breads.  The purpose is to bring together people who, by exchanging skills, experiences, and ideas, will invigorate the rebuilding of regional grain systems.

Dr. Stephen Jones, renowned wheat breeder, and Jeffrey Hamelman, Master Baker and author, will headline the roster of agricultural and baking experts convening in Mount Vernon, Washington, September 15 – 17, 2011.  Workshops span topics from small-scale grain growing and milling to artisan bread and pastry baking to wood-fired oven construction. On the last afternoon a field trip will take participants to a farm that grows grain, a mill, and a bakery that will demonstrate using the local flour in bread.

The Kneading Conference West grows out of the very successful Kneading Conference held annually in Skowhegan, Maine, now in its fifth year (  Participants arrive primarily from the Eastern Seaboard and Canada.  We anticipate people will come to Mount Vernon from British Columbia and Los Angeles and all points in between.   Both Hamelman and Jones are regular presenters at the eastern conference. The Kneading Conference West ( will differ in details from the Maine Kneading Conference but the descriptions of the latter in the New York Times and Gastronomica articles, posted on the Kneading Conference West  website, provide an excellent overview of both events.

The more people know, the greater their interest in local grains.



The Bread Lab




The Bread Lab is a think tank and testing and demonstration laboratory for craft baking. Bakers can use the laboratory to test flours and techniques using local, regional, and nationally available commercial and experimental flours and wheats of all types. The goal is to combine science, art, curiosity, and innovation to explore ways of using local and unique grains in order to move the craft of bread baking forward.

Advisory Panel:

Director: Stephen Jones, Wheat breeder. Has been laboratory testing for end-use quality of wheat since 1985 and developed the most widely grown club wheat in the U.S.

Jeffrey Hamelman, Certified Master Baker and bakery director for King Arthur Flour in Vermont. He is the author of Bread: A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes, which is used as a definitive resource by professional and serious home bakers.

Dan Barber, Founder and executive chef of the Blue Hill restaurants in New York State. A James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, he also writes about food and agriculture policy and features the principles of good farming at the table.

Leslie Mackie, founder, owner and chef, Macrina Bakery and Café, Seattle, Washington. Leslie has appeared with Julia Child on “Baking with Julia”, is a James Beard Pastry Chef Award nominee and a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Scott Mangold, founder, owner and head baker of The Bread Farm, a small craft bakery in Edison, Washington. Scott is a leader in movements to bring local grains into our baking systems.

George de Pasquale, founder, owner and head baker of The Essential Baking Company, a major organic craft bakery in Seattle, Washington. George has been baking commercially for 35 years and is a leading force in the sustainability of baking, from field to table.

Tom Hunton, farmer and founder of Camas Country Mill, Eugene, Oregon. Tom is a leader in a drive to return grains to the Southern Willamette Valley.  His mill brings local commercial milling back to a region that has been without milling since the 1920s.

Thom Leonard, co-founder of WheatFields Bakery in Lawrence, Kansas and author of The Bread Book. Published in 1990, it captures the current movement that connects field to table as if it were written yesterday.

The Bread Lab is housed at Washington State University, Mount Vernon, in a recently renovated $8M lab wing. An hour north of Seattle, it is the first public laboratory designed solely for the testing and development of products and techniques for the craft baker.

Bakers come to the lab to interact with other bakers and scientists and to make contact with farmers and millers.  The environment allows bakers to learn, teach, and experiment in a functioning bake lab without having to shut down their own lines. The facility is equipped with a state of the art WP Kemper SP spiral mixer and Matador four-deck oven as well as a stone mill, a Country Living mill and Quadrumat experimental roller flour mill. The lab also houses sophisticated rheological testing equipment such as a Farinograph, Alveograph, Consistograph, falling number machine and micro-sedimentation.

Workshops, from one-day events to weeklong workshops, are scheduled each year. The Bread Lab also is a centerpiece for the annual Kneading Conference West, which brings together more than 200 professional and serious home bakers each September.



What to Expect at the 2012 Conference

Conference Schedule: Conference check-in begins at 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, 2012.  The first session begins promptly at 1:45 p.m.  The final workshop ends after lunch on Saturday, September 15th.

Weather: Mount Vernon weather mid-September can be warm during the day and cool during the evenings.  It can also be chilly, raining, and cold.  Best to bring a sun hat, rain jacket, warm sweater, fleece and a light parka, just in case.   We recommend casual, comfortable “work” clothes that won’t mind the possibility of a few mud and dough splatters, depending on the schedule you choose.

Sun Protection: Some workshops and demonstrations are staged outside under the sun.  Please bring hats and sun protection.

Water: Please bring your own water bottle to help reduce the use of throwaway cups.  Bottles can easily be refilled in the Research and Extension Center.

Food: All food will be provided beginning with a delicious dinner on Thursday, September 13, including breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday, breakfast on Saturday, and finishing with a scrumptious lunch on Saturday, September 15th.  Our caterer works with local farmers to provide Kneading Conference West with a daily choice of wholesome, beautiful, delicious regional foods.  Please let us know if you have food allergies or concerns.

Internet: Internet access is available.

Schedule: All workshops and lectures are open and you are free to make up  your own schedule.  We recommend that participants interested in attending the Professional Baking workshop should at least be at the level of advanced home baker.

Children: We are unable to accommodate children under the age of 16 at the Kneading Conference West.



2012 Sponsors


Kneading Conference West is proudly supported by King Arthur Flour and the generosity of many individuals, businesses, and organizations.  Our goal is to join with others whose fresh ideas and efforts highlight the pleasures and benefits of freshly milled  grains grown sustainably, as nearby as possible.




Dates: September 13 – 15, 2012


The 2011 Kneading Conference West drew a capacity crowd and a long waiting list. 

About the Conference: Kneading West is a gathering of home and professional bakers, farmers, millers, researchers, earth oven enthusiasts and anyone interested in handcrafted breads and pastries, locally grown grains, and the movement to restore regional food systems.  Beginning Thursday afternoon and ending


2012 Keynote Speakers


Internationally renowned speakers Naomi Duguid from Montreal and Andrew Whitley from Scotland will be the 2012 keynote speakers, strong evidence that the movement to re-localize grain networks strikes a chord in hearts and minds around the globe.   Naomi explores and writes about the foods and at-table customs
of distant cultures but she is equally observant of food as a lens through which we can understand human nature.  Andrew’s calling is to teach the craft of bread



Overview for 2013 Conference


Thursday, September 12 – Saturday, September 14, 2013

A farmer, miller, and baker in every village!  That’s the idea behind the Kneading Conference West. The annual eventbrings together professional bakers, home bakers, maltsters, millers, farmers, wheat breeders, food writers, wood-oven builders, and people who come to enjoy “summer camp for bread lovers”.  The three days are filled with workshops, panel discussions and demonstrations.  In addition to hands-on baking workshops for the home and professional baker, you will find workshops on planting a backyard grain garden, brewing beer, making bagels in a wood fired oven, building a wood-fired oven, comparing flavors in a variety of wheats and other grains, and much more.  Saturday culminates in an optional field trip to a local farm, mill, and bakery.  We are working on the 2013 schedule.



Wheat Breeder Surprised by Taste Test

By Steve Brown

Capital Press

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – For more than 30 years Steve Jones has been breeding wheat for yield and disease resistance. Now he has found a new characteristic: flavor.  Jones and his fellow researchers at Washington State University’s Mount Vernon Northwest Research and Extension Center have focused on finding a wheat that can meet the particular needs of growers on the wetter west side of Washington.  A nearby farmer grew out a crop, which was milled and delivered to a chef with 35 years’ baking experience. The baker said it was the best flour he had ever had, saying it had “chocolaty overtones with a hint of spice.”  ”I had always heard tons per acre, but never flavor,” Jones said. “We’re discovering terroir in something as exciting and as mundane as small grains.”  Terroir — a term usually used for wines — is the effect of locale and climate on flavor characteristics.

During a field walk through the sprawling research farm, members of the research team described how, for the first time ever, they are breeding varieties of grain specifically for Western Washington. Grain had previously been primarily a rotation crop, but with a growing demand for local food, “We’re looking for what type of values can we keep here for our farmers,” Jones said.  From the 40,000 wheat varieties grown at Mount Vernon, the focus has been on minimizing the impact of stripe rust and finding which management practices work best in the maritime climate.

Doctoral student Karen Hills described a survey of 73 bakers in the region who use from 80 pounds of flour a year to 1.5 million pounds. The response of “tentative enthusiasm” reflected bakers’ concern over the lack of an established supply chain.  Wheat grows quite well on the west side of the Cascades. Jones described a farm on Whidbey Island that grew 119 bushels per acre of the hard wheat “Red Russian.” He contrasted that with the 45-bushel average in Kansas.  ”We’re concentrating on hard reds,” he said. “Craft and artisan bakers need a lot of functionality going on.”

Barley also gets a lot of attention. Brook Brouwer, another doctoral student, said regional breweries are a willing market for malting barley.  ”That’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing,” he said. “Malting facilities won’t start up unless there’s a consistent supply.”  Livestock owners — particularly organic dairies — are hungry for sprouted barley as an alternative high-energy feed for their cows.  Pat Hayes, from the Oregon State University barley breeding program, works in collaboration with the WSU team. He said the goals are low-temperature tolerance, disease resistance and input use efficiency.  Some recent and upcoming varieties are for public release, and others will have exclusive licenses. An open-source seed initiative keeps research viable worldwide, but “royalty income supports our continued breeding efforts,” he said.


What to Expect at the 2013 Conference

Conference Schedule: Conference check-in begins at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 12, 2013.  The first keynote presentation begins at 1:00p.m.  The final workshop ends after lunch on Saturday, September 14th and the optional field trip to a farm, mill, and bakery begins after lunch on Saturday and ends later in the afternoon, about 4 p.m.

Choosing Workshops: All registrants are welcome to attend any workshop, panel discussion and/or lecture; no prior sign up is required, and you are free to make up  your own schedule.  The one exception is the Field Trip, and during the conference we will make announcements asking people to sign up to participate.  If your event finishes before others, you are invited to drop in on workshops still in progress.

Field Trip: A field trip to a local mill, a third-generation organic farm that includes grains in its rotation, and Breadfarm, an award-winning bakery that is working with local grains, will begin after lunch on Saturday.  Announcements will be made about signing up to participate.  Because of the large number of people that tour, we will ask for volunteers to drive and carpool, and we will divide into groups.  More information will be available during the conference.

Weather: Come prepared for Northwesty weather.  It can arrive in great variety!  Warm, cold, wet, sunny, windy, gorgeous, and that’s only Day One. Bring your sun hat, rain gear, warm sweater, down jacket, short sleeves, long pants, comfortable shoes and rolled up sleeves.  Plan on anything and everything – meals in a tent while the wind blows, workshops on the grass while the sun shines.  We recommend casual, comfortable “work” clothes that won’t mind the possibility of a few mud and dough splatters, depending on the schedule you choose.

Sun Protection: Some workshops and demonstrations are staged outside under the sun.  Please bring hats and sun protection.

Water: Please bring your own water bottle to help reduce the use of throwaway cups.  Bottles can easily be refilled in the Research and Extension Center.

Food: All food will be provided beginning with a delicious dinner on Thursday, September 12th, including breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday, breakfast on Saturday, and finishing with a scrumptious lunch on Saturday, September 14th.  Our chefs works with local farmers to provide Kneading Conference West with a daily choice of wholesome and delicious regional foods.  Please let us know if you have food allergies or concerns.

Internet: Internet access is available.

Children: We are unable to accommodate children under the age of 16 at the Kneading Conference West.



2013 Keynote Speakers

The 2013 Kneading Conference West is excited to announce our Keynote speakers for 2013. Thor Oechsner, the grandson of a German baker, grows a variety of grains on 600 acres of land in the Finger Lakes region of New York, and is co-owner of Farmer Ground Flour. Darra Goldstein is the founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture and the author of four cookbooks.


Kneading Conference West 2013

Grain is having its heyday. “It all comes down to grain,” says chef Dan Barber, quoted in Edible Manhattan. “Yes, because it’s delicious—a whole world of flavor that’s been ignored for the past 50 years—but also because it’s a critical missing link in any community’s ability to feed itself.”



Area Accommodations

Mount Vernon is a favorite destinationfor Washington’s in-state and out-of-state visitors.  Lots of reasons for this: the climate of Skagit County is similar to that of northern France, millions of tulips are grown in the Skagit Valley, and variety is the norm in recreation, vistas, paths that diverge, and one-of-a-kind shops and cafes.  In 1998, Mount Vernon was rated the #1 “Best Small City in America” by the New Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities.

Airports Servicing Mount Vernon Area

• SeaTac Airport, Seattle, WA, an hour and a half south of Mount Vernon

Hotels and Motels near Mount Vernon

• Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott – 9384 Old Highway 99 North, Burlington, (360) 757-2717.
• Hotel Planter, 715 S. First Street, La Conner, (800)488-5409 / (360) 466-471
• Hampton Inn & Suites – 1860 S. Burlington Blvd., Burlington, (800) 488-5409 / (360) 466-4710
• Holiday Inn Express – 900 Andis Road, Burlington, (360) 755-7338 / (888) 682-3121
• Best Western Plus Cotton Tree Inn – 2300 Market Street, Mount Vernon, (360) 428-5678.

Bed & Breakfasts

• Katy’s Inn Bed & Breakfast – 503 S. Third Street, La Conner, (360) 466-9909 / (866) 528-9746
• Wild Iris Bed & Breakfast - 121 Maple Avenue, La Conner, (360) 466-1400
• Queen of the Valley Inn – 12757 Chilberg Road, La Conner, (360) 466-4578 / (888) 999-1404
• Highland Garden House – 501 E. Highland Ave., Mount Vernon, (360) 419-7292
• Swiss Family Farm House – Mount Vernon.  


• Islands Inn, 3401 Commercial Avenue, Anacortes, (360)-293-4644 / (866) 331-3328
• La Conner Channel Lodge & Country Inn, 205 N. First Street, La Conner, (360) 466-1500 / (888) 466-4113
• The Heron Inn and Day Spa, 117 Maple Avenue, La Conner, (360) 399-1074

Farm Stay

• Samish Bay Cheese Farm Stay, Bow, Washington, (360) 766-6707

Campsites & Cabins

• Thousand Trails La Conner, 16362 Snee Oosh Road, La Conner, (360) 466-3112 / (800) 884-1113
• Potlatch RV Resort & Campsites, 420 Pearle Jensen Way, La Conner, (360) 466-4468, ext. 108



Artisanal Wheat On the Rise

Giving factory flour the heave-ho, small farmers from New England to the Northwest are growing long-forgotten varieties of wheat

  • By Jerry Adler
  • Photographs by Amy Toensing and Brian Smale

Tevis Robertson Goldberg

“Man does not live by salad alone,” says farmer Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Massachusetts. “He needs croutons.”

Under the warm August sun, the wiry, lushly bearded farmer moves at a slow walk through the field, swinging his scythe in a steady rhythm, the tawny stalks of wheat falling to one side in neat rows. From time to time he pauses to hone his curved steel blade on the stone he keeps in a belt pouch. He is followed by three or four young women, who gather the felled stalks by the armload, picking out the stems of mayweed and ragweed, tying the wheat into sheaves, and standing up the sheaves into shocks that will dry and ripen in the sun until they in turn are assembled into circular head-high ricks that will resist the autumn rains until the time to bring the harvest indoors for threshing.

Civilization began like this, as acknowledged in Genesis with the Lord’s decree that “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” and thus it was until the invention of the mechanical harvester and the combine. Then a vast monoculture of wheat spread across much of the land, abetted by railroads and chain supermarkets, bequeathing unto the nation bread untouched by human hands from the moment the seed goes into the ground until the loaf is unwrapped and the slice anointed with peanut butter. That the scythe-wielding farmer is seeking to reverse 150 years of industrial history is an act of, at the very least, hubris. That he is attempting to do it in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains on an acre of heavy, cold soil containing a limitless supply of stones to menace his blade seems to border on madness.

But there’s something about wheat. It speaks to the American soul like no other crop, even much more valuable ones, which is most of them. Find a penny from before 1959, and what you see on the reverse are two iconic stems of wheat, not a bunch of arugula. “Man does not live by salad alone,” says the Berkshire farmer, Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Chesterfield, Massachusetts. “He needs croutons, too.” In growing grain where it has not been grown in living memory, Robertson-Goldberg is pushing the boundaries of locavorism, the national movement that obsessively tracks the miles covered in every calorie’s journey from earth to mouth, combining elements of environmentalism, survivalism, nutritional fanaticism, common sense and food snobbery.