Bluebird customer June Fraser Thistle is no stranger to grains. Born and raised in Gibbons—a small rural community in central Alberta, Canada—June was raised on a grain farm. The tenth child in a family of eleven offspring, June used to take turns with her siblings accompanying their father, a grain buyer for United Grain Growers, to the office. “Our job” says June, “consisted of cleaning his grain dusty office and running the calculator tapes used to calculate the tonnage of grain brought into the elevator by each farmer. My dad did these calculations in his head and much to my amazement would look at my tape and tell me to go try again. He was pretty amazing.” But it is the smell of the grain elevator that sticks with June after all these years. “I can still recall the smell of the grain elevator,” she says. “Wheat, barley, rye, all with their own distinct smells, much like opening a sack of Bluebird Gain Farms flour.”
(Above: The United Grain Growers elevator, no longer in use, played a role in June’s upbringing and as a result helped to form the work ethics she lives by today at Western Washington University.)
June’s clan was a true farm family, growing their own vegetables, raising their own beef, pork, and poultry and keeping milk cows and laying hens. Huge berry patches provided ingredients for raspberry and gooseberry jam, and June’s mother, who hated to cook, cleverly trained her children to take over the cooking and baking duties. “I made my first pie at six,” says June, “and I’ll admit that I still love to bake.” Homesteading took up much of the family’s time and table conversation centered on discussions of picking rocks to prepare the soil for the year’s crop or planting, watching and harvesting wheat, rye, barley, or rapeseed.
Although June eventually left the farm and now lives in Bellingham, her nephew has turned his farm in Northern Alberta into a certified organic operation where he plants heritage and ancient grains, mills them onsite, and sells them to local farmer’s markets in Edmonton, Alberta. Much like Bluebird Grain Farms, Gold Forest Grains is family owned and operated and is committed to producing grain products in a sustainable manner. June has had difficulty sourcing her nephew’s products from across the border and was thus delighted to discover Bluebird Grain Farms in Washington.
Now the program support supervisor for campus residences at Western Washington University, June one day ran across Bluebird Grain Farms’ Old World Cereal Blend in Seattle. “I read the label and discovered to my amazement that it contained no fat,” she says. “I cooked it up and it brought me back to that farm in Alberta and my dad making breakfast for us every morning and we would first have to have a small bowl of ‘porridge’ before we ate eggs, bacon, pancakes or whatever else he had dreamed up for our morning meal. It was not an option to skip breakfast. I’ve been eating Bluebird’s Old World Cereal Blend every morning ever since!”
June has also made some low-fat banana applesauce muffins with Bluebird’s emmer flour and “loved how light and tasty they turned out.” She adds, “I have purchased the flour pack [a sample each of emmer, rye, hard white, and hard red flours] and will try to make homemade bread next.”
(Above: Grandma June and her grandson enjoying a sunny day in the great Pacific Northwest.)
June is delighted with her discovery of Bluebird products for herself, but also for the sake of her 4-year-old grandson who has sensory issues associated with food taste and texture due to 22q11 Syndrome (a disorder caused by the absence of a small piece of the 22nd chromosome). “When I finally convinced him to try a bite of Grandma June’s porridge,” she says, “he fell in love. He ate his entire bowl and then looked over at me, peeked in my bowl and asked if he could have another bite of mine. Needless to say, we now have Bluebird’s Old World Cereal Blend added to his short list of foods he loves.” They have changed the name to “Grandma June’s Porridge”; the name change plus the hearty goodness of cracked emmer, cracked Dark Northern Rye, and whole brown flax seed has proven irresistible to little Carter. “He gobbles it up happily,” June reports. She recently purchased Bluebird’s Emmer Pancake & Waffle Mix and hopes to get Carter hooked on that, too. She loves the fact that Bluebird “cares about the quality and integrity of the grains we put into our bodies.”
June has plans for a summer drive across the North Cascades National Highway this summer to take a peek at Bluebird Grain Farms and “stock up on my favorite grains, as well as just shutting my eyes and smelling the grain.” Ironically, if June’s father—who was a grain buyer in the 40s, 50s, and 60s—were alive today, he might be joining her on this buying trip, as part of his eternal quest to procure heirloom grains.
(Above: A trip down the driveway to get the mail can be a two hour event with June’s grandson, but it’s time well spent!)