The endowment, which includes $850,000 from lead funder Clif Bar and $500,000 from King Arthur Flour, was awarded to Dr Stephen Jones, director of the WSU's Bread Lab (part of CAHNRS).
“Organic research helps farmers and farming communities thrive,” said Matthew Dillon, senior director of agricultural policy and programs for Clif Bar. “The Bread Lab serves as a model for other regions of rural America to replicate.”
Karen Colberg, CEO of King Arthur Flour, added: “Innovation in wheat breeding and organic farming practices is critical to improving the long-term health of our soil and our planet.
“We believe investing in this research is an investment in the next generation of farmers. If we can help to evolve the agriculture landscape through improved organic farming, we help farmers and we help meet growing consumer demand for more organic food.”
In 2016, King Arthur Flour built a baking school at the Bread Lab to teach professionals and home bakers to bake with a variety of flours and grains.
Developing new crops
The Bread Lab is working with farmers in the Skagit Valley region to develop new varieties of wheat and barley, providing them with “hardy, nutritionally-dense rotation crops,” said CAHNRS.
“These new varieties not only enrich the soil, but also produce grains favored by local millers and maltsters who sell to regional bakers and brewers.
“For the region’s consumers, that means greater access to more nutritious and flavorful breads, craft beers and a host of other grain-based products,” it added.
This is Clif Bar’s second university endowment to develop crop varieties adapted to organic farming practices.
Its first endowment went to agronomy professor William Tracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his work on organic corn breeding.
“Clif Bar believes in supporting organic agriculture and that it plays a critical role in feeding America. Organic research is sorely underfunded, yet the demand for organic continually increases year over year," the company told BakeryandSnacks.
According to the 2014 US Farm Bill, the organic sector received less than 1% of funding from public tax dollars spent on agricultural research.
"We are committed to creating a healthy, just and sustainable food system, and it is our belief that this type of funding and work is critically important to meeting that goal," saidd Clif Bar