UCCS to host Grain School one last time

click to enlarge Grain School students can take part in baking workshops. - COURTESY OF NANNA MEYER

  • Courtesy of Nanna Meyer
  • Grain School students can take part in baking workshops.

For the past three years, scholars, farmers, millers, sellers and lovers of grain have come together at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to forge connections and hone their expertise.

They’ll do so one more time this Jan. 17-19.

It’s the last Grain School ever, but it may just be the start of something even bigger.

In its traditional format, Grain School features lectures and workshops on the best way to plant, grow, harvest, mill, cook and brew heritage grains to improve society’s health and our relationship with the environment.

Through Grain School, Nanna Meyer and her colleagues aim to change the way Coloradans think about grain and help people who make up different parts of the “Grain Chain” — from farmer, to miller, to brewer or chef — connect with others who share the same goals.

Now, they want to translate the three-day class into action.

“We are launching into the field with Grain School in the Field, bringing even more hands-on, experiential learning to students,” explains Meyer, Grain School organizer and health sciences associate professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Meyer says Grain School in the Field will be organized as summer internships and on weekends during the growing and harvest season. The first one will take place in October of 2020, when students will learn about harvesting and processing corn.

After this year, Grain School will also become available as a paid online course open to students and community members, Meyer adds.

The final Grain School (in the traditional format) takes place Jan. 17 through Jan. 19 at UCCS. Registration for the entire three-day event costs $550, with discounts available for students, farmers and those wishing to attend only part of the weekend.

The event also features a forum the evening of Jan. 18 that’s free and open to the public. At 5 p.m. in Berger Hall, you can stop by a happy hour with local beer and spirits, and enjoy country/blues/folk/Americana tunes from the River Arkansas band.

The free evening also includes a preview of the film Grain Changers by Andrew Calabrese of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a keynote speech at 7 p.m. by Fred Kirschenmann of Iowa State University. He’ll speak on “The Staff of Life” (ancient corn and wheat) and “The Ethics of Eating.”

Several UCCS students will also speak about their personal journeys with grain, and Montana farmer Bob Quinn will read an excerpt from his book Grain by Grain.

“The beautiful piece of the experiential learning is always that nobody feels that everything is in dire straits,” Meyer says, “because it’s so beautiful and fun to be in the kitchen to bake, and, you know, work with your hands and be out in the field.

“So there’s a joy around it, a celebration around it, despite the fact that we’re all aware of what we need to do and how dire our food system is, and how sick we are as a nation, and all those things — but I think the dream is to bring more people into this grain space and get them excited about good food.”

To learn more about Meyer’s grain philosophy, check out our interview with her from 2019.