Client Focus: Valley Malt and Ground Up

This could be local malt’s moment.

Craft brewers have always had a choice to make: Pay less for European malt or a bit more for domestic. However, increased costs for European malt—and for shipping it overseas—have Valley Malt co-founder Andrea Stanley and other domestic maltsters hoping for a tipping of the scale toward local product, and the sustainable impact this makes across its supply chain. Even as her costs rise, Stanley wants to be ready for any opportunities a changing market brings. 

Malting is the process of germinating and then drying grain with hot air. When Valley Malt opened in Hadley in 2009, the operation used a one-ton malt vessel and committed to sourcing grain from Northeast farms. A dozen years later, the company expanded to Holyoke, opening a nine-ton malt system (pictured). The new system can accommodate three additional nine-ton germination bins which would allow Valley Malt to produce 4.5 million pounds of malt annually. Her goal is to support 3,000 acres of Northeast farmland annually by 2028, providing a stable market for farms who grow barley, wheat, and rye. 

Valley Malt crowdfunded through Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp.’s two-to one matching Biz-M-Power program for $20,000 to add a second nine-ton germination bin in 2024. This will double the malthouse’s production and support an additional 700 acres of grains being planted annually. The campaign closed August 1 and, thanks to the support of family, friends, and customers, the goal was reached. 

Stanley and her partner Christian also run Ground Up, a granite-ground grain mill opened in the Holyoke space in 2019. She recently completed work with the Franklin County CDC’s Massachusetts Agriculture Innovation Center through a mini-grant and participated in the Western Mass Food Processing Center’s Wholesale Readiness Program to take this product to the next level.

To put it mildly, Stanley’s got a lot going on. We wondered how she’s been finding working with the Franklin County CDC.

“The technical assistance provided by the Franklin County CDC has been relevant and thought-provoking for our business as it grows, more staff are hired, and new distribution partnerships are considered,” Stanley said. “Their consultants have helped Ground Up and Valley Malt understand our costs better, in a time when costs were rising and our pricing needed to reflect that.”

Looking ahead, she’s hoping to continue to lean on the Franklin County CDC for technical assistance on upping their food safety plans.

“Running a food business that focuses on local sourcing, sustainability, and affordable prices can be challenging,” she added. “The staff and other participants we met through the Franklin County CDC programs have supported us in continuing to deliver on our company’s mission and plan ahead for the challenges and opportunities to come.”

We’ll toast to that!

See a Boston Globe video interview with Andrea Stanley.