Spelt Farming on the Western Slope of Colorado, Part II | TheFencePost.com

Spelt Farming on the Western Slope of Colorado, Part II

Carolyn White,
Olathe, Colo.

Bryan DistelLarry Distel on the combine going through the fields harvesting spelt.

* Editor’s Note: Part I of this story appeared in the January 10, 2011 issue of the Fence Post, Rocky Mountain Edition.

Once a spelt crop is ready to combine, there’s little time to waste. For the Distel family of Olathe, Colo., – Bryan, his father, Larry, and uncles Melvin and Allen – this meant stopping in the middle of putting up their hay during the weekend of July 30. “The moisture content in the spelt grain has to be low and the protein levels must be just so,” explained Larry. “First, coffee-can size samples have to be gathered and taken to the Producer’s Co-op (also in Olathe) for testing. When it’s dry enough, it’s harvested.” Luckily, the weather was in their favor this season. “We didn’t get hailed out like last year,” he continued. “It knocked the heads right off the stems, and we lost 50 percent of them.” Also, as a result of the high humidity, that crop had a low “falling” number, and what was collected had to be blended with that of other farmers.

The falling number, according to Don Stinchcomb, the President of Purity Foods, refers to “the amount of measurable starch damage off the crop that’s in the field, resulting from moisture.” Why does his Okemos, Michigan-based company hire farmers on the Western Slope of Colorado to grow spelt? And spend extra money to have it shipped that far? “Olathe is like a laboratory due to the limited rainfall and your irrigation system, which allows more control over the weather variable,” Mr. Stinchcomb told me over the phone. “It’s a greenhouse-type of environment and the crop thrives in that area. You also get the heat, which is needed to build protein and the result, most often, is the delivery of a great crop.”

The spelt stalk grows in sections that look like heavy wheat grass, with the tiny seeds hidden under several layers of hulls. Because those hulls grow tight, two seeds to a pod, the seeds must be left inside since the buyers at Purity don’t want it to be removed. (This could damage the germ, plus the grain keeps better in the hull.) The crop is transferred directly into storage bins, and then “Producer’s Co-op gets ahold of the trucks that come out to fetch it,” Larry concludes. Once at Purity, the spelt is tested for baking quality; stored according to test results; dehulled as needed; and then milled into whole grain or white flour which is used in everything from bread to pasta to pretzels.

For the Distels, spelt is proving to be a good way to make use of their land. Cattle will be turned out onto the newly-planted shoots that will begin sprouting in October, and meantime about two dozen, giant bales of straw from the most recent harvest stand ready to be used as winter bedding for the corralled animals. And come January and February – for those of us who happen to drive by them – once again those rich, green spelt fields will stand out in pleasant contrast to the surrounding brown landscape.

* Editor’s Note: Part I of this story appeared in the January 10, 2011 issue of the Fence Post, Rocky Mountain Edition.

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Once a spelt crop is ready to combine, there’s little time to waste. For the Distel family of Olathe, Colo., – Bryan, his father, Larry, and uncles Melvin and Allen – this meant stopping in the middle of putting up their hay during the weekend of July 30. “The moisture content in the spelt grain has to be low and the protein levels must be just so,” explained Larry. “First, coffee-can size samples have to be gathered and taken to the Producer’s Co-op (also in Olathe) for testing. When it’s dry enough, it’s harvested.” Luckily, the weather was in their favor this season. “We didn’t get hailed out like last year,” he continued. “It knocked the heads right off the stems, and we lost 50 percent of them.” Also, as a result of the high humidity, that crop had a low “falling” number, and what was collected had to be blended with that of other farmers.

The falling number, according to Don Stinchcomb, the President of Purity Foods, refers to “the amount of measurable starch damage off the crop that’s in the field, resulting from moisture.” Why does his Okemos, Michigan-based company hire farmers on the Western Slope of Colorado to grow spelt? And spend extra money to have it shipped that far? “Olathe is like a laboratory due to the limited rainfall and your irrigation system, which allows more control over the weather variable,” Mr. Stinchcomb told me over the phone. “It’s a greenhouse-type of environment and the crop thrives in that area. You also get the heat, which is needed to build protein and the result, most often, is the delivery of a great crop.”

The spelt stalk grows in sections that look like heavy wheat grass, with the tiny seeds hidden under several layers of hulls. Because those hulls grow tight, two seeds to a pod, the seeds must be left inside since the buyers at Purity don’t want it to be removed. (This could damage the germ, plus the grain keeps better in the hull.) The crop is transferred directly into storage bins, and then “Producer’s Co-op gets ahold of the trucks that come out to fetch it,” Larry concludes. Once at Purity, the spelt is tested for baking quality; stored according to test results; dehulled as needed; and then milled into whole grain or white flour which is used in everything from bread to pasta to pretzels.

For the Distels, spelt is proving to be a good way to make use of their land. Cattle will be turned out onto the newly-planted shoots that will begin sprouting in October, and meantime about two dozen, giant bales of straw from the most recent harvest stand ready to be used as winter bedding for the corralled animals. And come January and February – for those of us who happen to drive by them – once again those rich, green spelt fields will stand out in pleasant contrast to the surrounding brown landscape.

* Editor’s Note: Part I of this story appeared in the January 10, 2011 issue of the Fence Post, Rocky Mountain Edition.

Once a spelt crop is ready to combine, there’s little time to waste. For the Distel family of Olathe, Colo., – Bryan, his father, Larry, and uncles Melvin and Allen – this meant stopping in the middle of putting up their hay during the weekend of July 30. “The moisture content in the spelt grain has to be low and the protein levels must be just so,” explained Larry. “First, coffee-can size samples have to be gathered and taken to the Producer’s Co-op (also in Olathe) for testing. When it’s dry enough, it’s harvested.” Luckily, the weather was in their favor this season. “We didn’t get hailed out like last year,” he continued. “It knocked the heads right off the stems, and we lost 50 percent of them.” Also, as a result of the high humidity, that crop had a low “falling” number, and what was collected had to be blended with that of other farmers.

The falling number, according to Don Stinchcomb, the President of Purity Foods, refers to “the amount of measurable starch damage off the crop that’s in the field, resulting from moisture.” Why does his Okemos, Michigan-based company hire farmers on the Western Slope of Colorado to grow spelt? And spend extra money to have it shipped that far? “Olathe is like a laboratory due to the limited rainfall and your irrigation system, which allows more control over the weather variable,” Mr. Stinchcomb told me over the phone. “It’s a greenhouse-type of environment and the crop thrives in that area. You also get the heat, which is needed to build protein and the result, most often, is the delivery of a great crop.”

The spelt stalk grows in sections that look like heavy wheat grass, with the tiny seeds hidden under several layers of hulls. Because those hulls grow tight, two seeds to a pod, the seeds must be left inside since the buyers at Purity don’t want it to be removed. (This could damage the germ, plus the grain keeps better in the hull.) The crop is transferred directly into storage bins, and then “Producer’s Co-op gets ahold of the trucks that come out to fetch it,” Larry concludes. Once at Purity, the spelt is tested for baking quality; stored according to test results; dehulled as needed; and then milled into whole grain or white flour which is used in everything from bread to pasta to pretzels.

For the Distels, spelt is proving to be a good way to make use of their land. Cattle will be turned out onto the newly-planted shoots that will begin sprouting in October, and meantime about two dozen, giant bales of straw from the most recent harvest stand ready to be used as winter bedding for the corralled animals. And come January and February – for those of us who happen to drive by them – once again those rich, green spelt fields will stand out in pleasant contrast to the surrounding brown landscape.

* Editor’s Note: Part I of this story appeared in the January 10, 2011 issue of the Fence Post, Rocky Mountain Edition.

Once a spelt crop is ready to combine, there’s little time to waste. For the Distel family of Olathe, Colo., – Bryan, his father, Larry, and uncles Melvin and Allen – this meant stopping in the middle of putting up their hay during the weekend of July 30. “The moisture content in the spelt grain has to be low and the protein levels must be just so,” explained Larry. “First, coffee-can size samples have to be gathered and taken to the Producer’s Co-op (also in Olathe) for testing. When it’s dry enough, it’s harvested.” Luckily, the weather was in their favor this season. “We didn’t get hailed out like last year,” he continued. “It knocked the heads right off the stems, and we lost 50 percent of them.” Also, as a result of the high humidity, that crop had a low “falling” number, and what was collected had to be blended with that of other farmers.

The falling number, according to Don Stinchcomb, the President of Purity Foods, refers to “the amount of measurable starch damage off the crop that’s in the field, resulting from moisture.” Why does his Okemos, Michigan-based company hire farmers on the Western Slope of Colorado to grow spelt? And spend extra money to have it shipped that far? “Olathe is like a laboratory due to the limited rainfall and your irrigation system, which allows more control over the weather variable,” Mr. Stinchcomb told me over the phone. “It’s a greenhouse-type of environment and the crop thrives in that area. You also get the heat, which is needed to build protein and the result, most often, is the delivery of a great crop.”

The spelt stalk grows in sections that look like heavy wheat grass, with the tiny seeds hidden under several layers of hulls. Because those hulls grow tight, two seeds to a pod, the seeds must be left inside since the buyers at Purity don’t want it to be removed. (This could damage the germ, plus the grain keeps better in the hull.) The crop is transferred directly into storage bins, and then “Producer’s Co-op gets ahold of the trucks that come out to fetch it,” Larry concludes. Once at Purity, the spelt is tested for baking quality; stored according to test results; dehulled as needed; and then milled into whole grain or white flour which is used in everything from bread to pasta to pretzels.

For the Distels, spelt is proving to be a good way to make use of their land. Cattle will be turned out onto the newly-planted shoots that will begin sprouting in October, and meantime about two dozen, giant bales of straw from the most recent harvest stand ready to be used as winter bedding for the corralled animals. And come January and February – for those of us who happen to drive by them – once again those rich, green spelt fields will stand out in pleasant contrast to the surrounding brown landscape.