Farming, malt, advocacy, and education are among the topics covered on this episode of the Brewer to Brewer Podcast where Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing interviews Andrea Stanley of Valley Malt in Massachusetts.

About Andrea Stanley

Andrea Stanley is the co-owner of Valley Malt, a Craft Malthouse in Western Mass supplying Craft Brewers, Distillers, and Bakers with locally grown malts and grain. In 2009 Andrea read an article about local farms and bakeries in the fertile CT River Valley reviving the lost art of growing and processing local grains.

As an avid supporter of local food, Andrea saw an opportunity to connect this emerging local grain growing with craft brewing. She reached out to a local vegetable grower in her hometown of Hadley and convinced him to plant 25 acres of barley as a crop rotation. Initially her goal was to prove that malt barley could be successfully cultivated in Massachusetts and malted into an ingredient that local breweries would want to use.

In October 2010, Andrea shoveled the first 1-Ton batch of locally grown malt and has since worked with her husband, malting team, and the local farming community to build a supply chain in the Northeast that continues to grow, despite many challenges to overcome. In 2022 Valley Malt underwent a major expansion, adding 1 million pounds of grain cleaning and storage and the capacity to malt 1.5 millions pounds annually.  Valley Malt now supports over 700 acres of grains annually in NY, VT, NH, MA, ME and CT with the plan to keep growing in the coming years by installing additional germination bins.  

Prior to becoming a Maltster, Andrea worked in Vocational Rehabilitation for 15 years. She earned a BA in Education and Psychology and a Masters in Rehabilitation. Her career in the social services provided her a skill set that has served the craft beer community in ways that go beyond making malt. In 2013, she was a founding member of the Craft Malt Guild and served as their first Board Chair.

From 2017-2021, she served on the BA Diversity Committee and in 2019 she helped to create the Northeast Grainshed Alliance where she currently serves on the Steering Committee. She lives in Hadley with her partner Christian and their 3 teenagers and enjoys researching the history of barley, malting, and brewing whenever she can.

The Conversation

Jason Perkins: I wanted to talk about the Northeast Grainshed Alliance, which you were a huge part of getting started and are still today involved with the steering committee. I think it’s an amazing organization. For those aren’t aware of it, what is the mission of the group?

Andrea Stanley: The mission of the group is to support the grain economy in the Northeast, and to not necessarily look at it state by state, but to try to look at ourselves as a region.

We can sometimes lose sight of the fact that state lines are kind of arbitrary when it comes to certain things. So the Northeast Grainshed Alliance covers all of the New England states, New York, and New Jersey. Basically, the idea is that we’re a region where we’re trying to revive grain growing, and support all of the different links in the supply chain.

We have members that are on the side of research. So people at Cornell and University of Vermont, that are doing all of the variety trials and all of the testing, so that we can find varieties that are well adapted for the region.

Then you have your farmers that are part of the Alliance. And they’re obviously playing a critical role in growing the crops. And then there’s the processors, the malt houses, and the mills and even animal feed makers. And then there are the end users like the bakeries, the breweries, the distilleries, and then we’re also trying to do some awareness for the consumer.

One of the things that the Northeast Grainshed Alliance has done is come up with the square foot campaign, which basically creates a calculator where a bakery can input how much local flour they use to create a croissant. And they can say to the consumer: this croissant that you just enjoyed supported three square feet of farmland in the Northeast. The Alliance is trying to bring that awareness to the consumer.

But also trying to help the all the different links in the supply chain to talk to each other and understand what’s going on.

So. if a new farmer comes into the Northeast Grainshed Alliance and comes to our symposium in November that we’re going to have, they’re going to be able to learn about the land, they’re thinking of growing grain, what are the different things that they need to know about the market? Who’s there to buy it? How much are they paying? What is the quality? Where do I send the grain to get tested.

We’re trying to make those resources available so that somebody that is a farmer that wants to start growing grains, or is thinking about it, they would have all those resources there for them.

And they would be able to interact with and see that there are processors and even consumers that are interested in them growing this grain. So, it’s really just an organization that’s trying to amplify the messaging around grains, but also value chain coordination.

We’re doing it at a very grassroots level.

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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.

This episode is sponsored by:

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