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About Us

 

Hello. Well, the first thing you need to know about us is that we are not a bakery. We are WSU researchers working outside of the commodity system on wheat and other grains. And, yeah, we bake. One of our goals is to introduce the concept of affordability into our regional food systems—specifically to develop better tasting, healthier, affordable bread and keep the value where it is produced while not pricing people out of staple foods.

Afterall, it’s just bread.

We create and breed different wheat, barley and rye varieties that are better for the soil and farming, way better tasting, and best of all, healthier for you. Then we share that knowledge with the rest of the world. We work with bakers, farmers, flour mills and basically anyone that wants to create healthier food through whole grains. Our goal is to change the way the world views and eats wheat.

We live and work out of Skagit Valley, Washington but our hope is that our philosophy and the actual idea of eating the whole grain becomes a world-wide habit.

Thanks,

Stephen Jones, Director WSU Breadlab

joness@wsu.edu

Our Faculty and Staff

Dr. Stephen Jones

Director

joness@wsu.edu

Stephen Jones has a PhD in Molecular Cytogenetics from UC Davis. He is a professor at Washington State University and holds the Clif Bar and King Arthur Flour Endowed Chair in Organic Grain Breeding and Innovation. Stephen founded and directs WSU Breadlab in Skagit Valley Washington. Together with his PhD students, Stephen works globally with farmers, millers and bakers to develop decentralized equitable and affordable non-commodity grain systems. At WSU Breadlab they work with whole grain wheat, rye, barley and buckwheat and focus on yield for the farmer and flavor and nutrition for all of us.
WSU Breadlab director Dr. Stephen Jones shapes bread dough.
Kim Binczewski

Managing Director

kim.binczewski@wsu.edu

Kim grew up on a small farm in western New York and received a B.S. in Environmental Science from SUNY Buffalo. She spent several years in western Washington working in horticulture before returning to New York to work on the family farm and achieve a real sense of local food systems. For four years Kim helped run the farm where they raised over 20 different crops that were sold at their roadside stand and local farmers markets. She and her family eventually returned to Washington and she began working for Dr. Jones in 2012. Kim’s work includes assisting in the breeding program’s field research, wheat and flour analysis, organizing community outreach events, and connecting farmers with bakers, chefs, and businesses to establish profitable and sustainable partnerships that will support the growing regional grain economy. She is co-author of Bread Lab!, a children’s book about the science and fun of sourdough bread baking.
WSU Breadlab managing director Kim Binczewski signs a Bread Lab! children's book.
Steve Lyon

Plant Breeder

slyon@wsu.edu

Steve leads the greenhouse and field research portion of WSU Breadlab. Steve (B.S. Animal Nutrition ’79, M.S. Crop Science ’02, WSU) was a commercial grain and livestock producer in eastern Washington for 13 years and has worked the past 23 years developing wheat varieties for Washington State University. In 2007 he was awarded the O.A. Vogel/Washington State Crop Improvement Award and in 2013 earned one of the highest honors in his profession by having a new grain named in his honor—‘Lyon’ barley. Steve works closely with the Plant Breeding Program’s Ph.D. students and, to date, has been instrumental in the public release of 12 wheat and two barley cultivars as well as nine germplasm breeding lines.
Wheat breeder Steve Lyon standing in front of wheat field leaning on a scythe.
Janine Johnson

Special Projects 

janine.johnson@wsu.edu

Janine Johnson was raised on a Christmas tree farm in New York State’s northern tier where she learned to appreciate old tractors, hard work and the beauty of an agricultural community. Following a career as a camera operator and TV producer in Southern California, Janine relocated to the Skagit Valley. Janine is the Special Projects Lead for WSU Breadlab, which includes running The Breadlab Collective, developing web and social media content and helping to turn a WWII submarine net buoy into a wood-fired oven.
Special Projects lead Janine Johnson insulates a WW II submarine net buoy oven.

Our PhD Students

 

Merri Metcalfe

The Fiber Gap

merri.metcalfe@wsu.edu

PhD student Merri Metcalfe threshes single wheat heads in a room full of wheat.
 

Merri Metcalfe is a doctoral student at WSU Breadlab working under the mentorship of Dr. Stephen Jones. Her research focuses on the accessibility, quality, and affordability of grain-based products from Western Washington and on breeding for increased fiber content in wheat along with subsequent health and cropping/food system benefits of doing so. She completed a Master of Sciences in Sport Nutrition at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) in May 2018. Prior to pursuing doctoral studies at the Breadlab, Merri worked as a registered dietitian specializing in eating disorder treatment and sport nutrition, but most recently has been moved by the need to cultivate a more positive and resilient food system. If she isn’t thinking about whole grains, fiber, or farming, her brain is most likely occupied by some sort of climbing goal or contemplating one of life’s mysteries that probably or perhaps hopefully can never be answered by science.

Robin Morgan

Colored and Perennial Wheats

robin.morgan@wsu.edu

PhD student Robin Morgan inspects a wheat plant in the greenhouse.
Robin grew up in the North of Italy being exposed to the natural beauty of the west and the agricultural activities of the east. After working as a cook he decided to develop his passion about food by earning a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences and a M.S. in Organic Agriculture at Pisa University. During those years Robin kept developing his bread-making skills, leading him to start growing small plots of grain crops and getting involved in several participatory research projects of the Italian rural network (Rete semi rurali). Robin is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in crop science at WSU Breadlab under the mentoring of professor Dr. Stephen S. Jones, exploring the intersections between breeding and baking.Robin is working on the development of a new species of grain that chooses not to die and provides a way to further diversify contemporary farming systems. At the same time, he is breeding and selecting wheat varieties with purple or blue seeds to expand wheat’s flavor range and assess American food sovereignty.
 

Laura Valli

All Things Rye

laura.valli@wsu.edu

PhD student Laura Valli stands at a chalkboard.
 

Laura comes to WSU Breadlab with a B.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and more than two years’ experience of managing a small organic coffee roastery and porridge café in her hometown in Estonia. She is working towards her Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. Stephen S. Jones. Born and raised in Estonia on rye bread, it seemed only natural to focus her research on rye, a much-underappreciated grain here in the US. Inspired by Paul Gaugin, she asks, ‘Where does rye come from? What is rye good for? What is the place of rye in the future?’ Underpinning her projects is the quest for diversity (in agriculture, in baking) and the plea for reconsidering our expectations (as farmers, millers, bakers and eaters). She is investigating the role rye could have in our food system to ensure sustainability, improve human health, and ensure culinary enjoyment.

 

Louie Prager

Malting Barley

louie.prager@wsu.edu

PhD student Louie Prager mixes dough in a commercial kitchen.
 

Louie Prager moved to Skagit Valley from Carlsbad, California. Louie earned a B.S. in Biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he focused on botany and plant ecology. After graduating he started a craft bakery with his brother making organic artisan breads. Prager Brothers Artisan Breads began collaborations with the Bread Lab in 2013, this eventually led to the opportunity for Louie to join WSU Breadlab full time. Under the guidance of Dr. Stephen S. Jones, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Crop Science working on breeding colored barley for malting purposes with a focus on varieties intended for organic agriculture. He is funded by Westland Distillery. Besides his love for food and helping communities improve their food system, Louie loves to backpack, surf, and ride his unicycle.